In the last decade thousand of Indian Catholics of a large eastern rite know as the Syro-Malabars have moved to Australian.
The Syro-Malabar church worship according to the Eastern tradition in full communion with Rome. In recent years, they have brought their unique and vibrant faith to the church in Australia.
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.
With a shortage of priests in many dioceses, many Australian bishops have also pioneered bringing to Australia Syro-Malabar priests.
These priests are working in dioceses as diverse as Sale, Canberra and Goulburn, Parramatta, Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.
With a view to provide a permanent presence and pastoral care to Syro-Malabar Catholics, Pope Francis established the new Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle of Melbourne (Australia), and appointed Bishop Bosco Puthur as its first “Eparch”.
The formal establishment of the new diocese for Australia and the installation of the first Eparchwill take place on 25 March, 2014 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne, in the presence of Major Archbishop George Cardinal Alencherry, Apostolic Nuncio to Australia Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Archbishop Denis Hart (President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference), together with many bishops and people of God.
Archbishop Hart said, “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.”
Fr Francis Kolencherry is a Syro-Malabar priest residing in the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn. He has been appointed Vicar Generalof 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 Australiam,” said Fr. Francis.
“Today the total number of Syro-Malabar Catholic faithful in Australia is approximately 40,000, spread across 18 active communities.
“Preparations are well underway to receive and install Bishop Bosco Puthur, and his appointment is a source of joy among the Syro-Malabar faithful in Australia.”
Bishop Puthur was born on 28 May 1946 in Parappur,India.
He has a Licentiate in philosophy and studied at the Pontifical College Propaganda Fide in Rome, where he gained a Licentiate and Doctorate. He speaks English, Malayalam and Italian.
Bishop Puthur has served as a Rector and Lecturer at a number of Indian Seminaries as well as directing a Liturgical Research Centre in Kakkanad.
He has worked as Vicar General of theArcheparchy of Trichur, Kerala, and has extensive parish and pastoral experience.
Bishop Puthur was consecrated Bishop on 13 February 2010, and has served in the curial office of the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly.
The Syro-Malabar Church is the second largest of the 22 Oriental (Eastern Rite) Catholic Churches in full communion with the Church in 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.
While the majority of Roman Catholics belong to the Latin Rite, the Eastern Rite provides a unique dimension 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.
Known for its deep-rooted spirituality and high rate of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, the Syro-Malabar Church has over four-million believers and a rich history.
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. 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”, said Fr. Francis.
Published in The Indian Sun (Indian Magazine in Australia)