Sunday, March 30, 2014

New Syro-Malabar Diocese established in Australia

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
28 Mar 2014
At the Installation Mass in Melbourne
On 25 March 2014, the Eparchy of St Thomas the Apostle in Melbourne was formally established as an Australian diocese, and the first Eparch of the diocese, Bishop Bosco Puthur, was installed at a ceremony in St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne.
Priests and bishops from the Latin and Syro-Malabar rites participated in the Mass and installation, including Major Archbishop Cardinal George Alencherry, Archbishop Paul Gallagher (Apostolic Nuncio to Australia), Archdeacon Fr Francis Kolencherry (Vicar General, St Thomas the Apostle Eparchy), Archbishop Denis Hart (Archbishop of Melbourne and Australian Catholic Bishops Conference) and Mgr Greg Bennet (Vicar General, Archdiocese of Melbourne).
The homily was given by Cardinal Alencherry, the current Major Archbishop of Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, who flew straight from Rome where he was attending meetings with Pope Francis in order to celebrate the Mass. The Cardinal stated that the installation of Bishop Puthur was a "great blessing" for the Church in Australia.
"Let us be thankful to God for this gift of the new eparchy and also for the first bishop of this eparchy, Mar Bosco Puthur. The enthusiasm of the Syro-Malabar communities in Melbourne and in Australia deserve special mention," Cardinal Alencherry said.
Cardinal Alencherry also passed on a message from the Holy Father Pope Francis, who "was happy to give this new diocese to Australia, because he knew there were so many Syro-Malabar faithful living in Australia, and it is important for them to have the support of their Church."
Bishop Bosco Puthur, Eparch of the St Thomas the Apostle Eparchy in Melbourne
The Mass ended with words of thanks from Bishop Puthur, especially for Pope Francis and Archbishop Gallagher.
The Eparchy of St Thomas the Apostle is part of the Syro-Malabar Church, and this new Melbourne-based Eparchy is one of only two dioceses of the Syro-Malabar Church outside India, the other being based in Chicago.
Fr Francis Kolencherry, who was appointed by the Holy Father as the Vicar General of the new Eparchy in January 2014, said the 25 March installation Mass was "fabulous", and that is was very moving to see over 100 priests and 33 bishops from all over Australia, New Zealand, and India, participate in the Mass.
"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, adding that installation of Bishop Bosco Puthur as the first Eparch in Australia is a "source of joy" among the Syro-Malabar faithful.
Bishop Puthur was born in 1946 in Parappur, in the state of Kerala, Southern India. After graduating from St Thomas' College, in Kerala he travelled to Rome where he studied at the Pontifical College, Propaganda Fide, gaining a Licentiate and Doctorate in philosophy. Multi-lingual, Bishop Puthur is fluent in English, Malayalam and Italian and has served as rector and lecturer at a number of Indian seminaries as well as directing a Liturgical Research Centre in Kakkanad.
The Most Rev Puthur has also had extensive parish and pastoral experience and has worked as Vicar General of the Archeparchy of Trichur. 
Ordained on 27 March 1971, he was consecrated Bishop on 13 February 2010. Prior to his appointment as Eparch of St Thomas the Apostle of Melbourne, which was first announced by Pope Francis on 11 January 2014, and since his consecration as Bishop, the new Eparch has served in the curial office of the Archdciocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly.
"I welcome Bishop Puthur as the first Bishop of the St Thomas Catholics in Australia, and look forward to working with him as a colleague in Melbourne while he has care of his brothers and sisters throughout the whole country," says Archbishop Denis Hart, President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC).
The Archbishop adds that 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."
Bishop Bosco Puthur with Pope Francis earlier this year
The Syro-Malabar faithful now number about 40,000 across Australia and New Zealand, and more than 4 million around the world. 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. 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.
In Australia, there are currently five Eparchs that form part of the Catholic Church: the Melkite Church, the Maronite Church, the Ukrainian Church, the Chaldean Church, and now the Syro-Malabar church.
As Fr Francis Kolencherry explains, these Eparchs add to the richness of the Australian Church.
"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."

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