At the direction of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, a new Catholic diocese in Australia will be formally established and its first Eparch installed on Tuesday 25 March at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne.
The new diocese will be called The Eparchy of St Thomas the Apostle in Melbourne. It will provide a permanent presence and pastoral care for the 40,000 Syro-Malabar Indian Catholics living throughout Australia, who worship according to the Eastern tradition in full communion with Rome.
One thousand people are expected to attend the Mass and installation of the new Eparch, Bishop Bosco Puthur, along with Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church Cardinal George Alencherry, Apostolic Nuncio to Australia Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Archbishop of Melbourne and President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Denis Hart and other bishops from around Australia.
Archbishop Hart said the establishment of the new Eparchy is a clear indication of the care of the Holy See for the thousands of Syro-Malabar Catholics who have settled in Australia.
“I welcome Bishop Bosco Puthur as the first Bishop of the St Thomas Catholics in Australia, and I look forward to working with him as a colleague in Melbourne, while he has care of his brothers and sisters through the whole country,” Archbishop Hart said.
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Fr Francis Kolencherry is a Syro-Malabar priest residing in the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn. He has been appointed Vicar General of the new Eparchy.
“The Catholic Church considers that the advent of new cultures, and new rites of liturgy can only add to the richness of the Church in Australia,” Fr Kolencherry said.
“Bishop Bosco Puthur’s appointment is a source of joy among the Syro-Malabar faithful in Australia.”
Bishop Puthur, who was born in 1946 in Parappur, India, was consecrated bishop in February 2010. He has served as a rector and lecturer in Indian seminaries, directed liturgical research, worked as vicar general of the Archeparchy of Trichur, Kerala, and has extensive parish and pastoral experience. He has also served in the curial office of the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly.
While the majority of Roman Catholics belong to the Latin Rite, the Eastern Rite churches provide unique dimensions to Catholic heritage and spirituality.
Each of these communities profess the same beliefs and they are all united as one Church, yet differences in culture, language and geographical location over time have influenced the expression of their faith.
The Syro-Malabar Church worships according to the Eastern tradition in full communion with Rome.
The widespread diaspora of the Indian community outside the sub-continent has seen the Syro-Malabar faithful spread to regions outside Kerala, including over a period of 10 years, Australia.
Fr Kolencherry estimates that the total number in Australia is about 40,000, spread across 18 active communities.
With a shortage of priests in many dioceses, many Australian bishops have brought Syro-Malabar priests to this country. These priests are working in dioceses as diverse as Sale, Canberra and Goulburn, Parramatta, Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.
Known for its deep-rooted spirituality and high rate of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, the Syro-Malabar Church has more than 4 million believers and a rich history.
Syro-Malabar Catholics, also called St Thomas Christians, trace their origins and faith to the missionary efforts of St Thomas the Apostle, who landed at Kodungallur in Kerala, India, in 52 AD.
After 230 years of Latin governance, the Syro-Malabar Church hierarchy was established in India, in 1923.
Since then it has grown rapidly, and in 1992 Pope John Paul II elevated it to the status of a Major Archiepiscopal Church with the title of Ernakulam-Angamaly. It is one of the three Major Archiepiscopal Churches, the other two being the Syro-Malankara Church and the Ukrainian Church.
“We are thrilled that the Holy Father has established the new Eparchy in Australia,” said Fr Kolencherry.
“I really feel that the need for pastoral care in one’s own ritual traditions is very important. It is essential that migrants from the Syro-Malabar tradition feel welcome and receive pastoral care consonant with their ecclesial tradition, and it would seem that the Holy Father feels the same.”
- In Australia, there are currently four Eparchs: the Melkite Church, the Maronite Church, the Ukrainian Church and the Chaldean Church.
- The Syro-Malabar church will become the fifth Eparch on 25 March in St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne.
- The Syro-Malabar Church is the second largest of the 22 Oriental (Eastern Rite) Catholic Churches in full communion with the Church of Rome, and one of four having in common the East Syrian liturgical tradition.
- It is a sui iuris (i.e. autonomous) Church governed by a Synod of Bishops headed by a Major Archbishop.
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