Syro-Malabar Catholic Major Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly

Major Archeparchy of Ernakulam–Angamaly
Syriac inscription at Syro-Malabar Catholic Major Archbishop's House Ernakulam.jpg
Syriac inscription at Syro-Malabar Catholic Major Archbishop's House, Ernakulam.
Ecclesiastical province Eranakulam - Angamaly
Area 1,500 km2 (580 sq mi)
- Total
- Catholics
(as of 2009)
513,000 (11%)
Denomination Syro-Malabar Catholic Church
Rite East Syrian Rite
Established 28 July 1896
Cathedral St. Mary's Cathedral Basilica, Ernakulam
Patron saint Sacred Heart of Jesus
Current leadership
Pope Francis
Major Archbishop Mar George Alencherry
Auxiliary Bishops Mar Sebastian Adayantharath
Mar Jose Puthenveetil
Vicar General Sebastian Adayanthrath
Emeritus Bishops Thomas Chakiath Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus (1998-2012)
Website of the Archdiocese

Syro-Malabar Catholic Archeparchy of Ernakulam–Angamaly is a Syro-Malabar Archeparchy in Ernakulam, Kerala, India. It is the See of the Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. Mar George Alencherry is the present Major Archbishop. The archdiocese has three auxiliary bishops, Mar Sebastian Adayantharath, Mar Jose Puthenveetil and Mar Bosco Puthur. The archdiocese has two suffragan dioceses, namely Kothamangalam and Idukki. Mar Varghese Payyappilly Palakkappilly,[1] Mgr. Joseph C. Panjikaran[2][3] and Rani Maria from the archdiocese have been declared Servants of God. Beatification of Mar Varghese Payyappilly was initiated by the archdiocese itself.


Mar George Alenchery, the first elected Major Arch Bishop of Syro Malabar Church.
Former Major Archbishop Mar Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil

In 1896, Pope Leo XIII established the Vicariate of Ernakulam by the Papal Bull Quae Rei Sacrae, which was then the third Vicariate of Syro Malabar Church, in addition to the previous two Apostolic Vicariates, Kottayam and Trichur. Mar Aloysius Pazheparambil was appointed as the first Apostolic Vicar, who assumed charge on 5 November 1896. The third vicariate was first envisaged by Rev. Fr. Varghese Valiaveettil of Vazhakkulam, who was a professor of Syriac and Latin of Varapuzha Puthenpally Seminary. Mar Pazheparampil governed the Vicariate till he died in 1919, and Mar Augustine Kandathil was appointed the Bishop the same year.

Archbishop Kandathil guided the life and work of the archdiocese and of the Syro-Malabar Hierarchy for well over three decades. The Syro-Malabar Hierarchy was established in 1923, and Ernakulam was raised to the Metropolitan status or Archdiocesan status, and Mar Augustine Kandathil was made the first Archbishop and Head of Syro-Malabar Church. Ernakulam was the See of Syro-Malabar Church in 1923, a title which was abrogated after the death of Mar Augustine Kandathil, but reinstituted in 1992. Mar Augustine Kandathil served the Archdiocese till his death in January 1956.

On 20 July 1956, Mar Joseph Parecattil became the Archbishop of Ernakulam. On 29 July 1956, Ernakulam was bifurcated and the Diocese of Kothamangalam was erected. The dioceses of Thrissur, Thalassery and Kothamangalam became suffragan dioceses of Ernakulam archdiocese. Mar Parecattil became Cardinal on 28 March 1969 and Mar Sebastian Mankuzhikary was appointed as his auxiliary on 15 November 1969. A large number of churches, monasteries, convents, seminaries, schools, colleges, technical institutions, printing presses, hospitals, homes for retired priests, social centres and various associations and institutes dedicated to intellectual and vocational apostolates came into being in this archdiocese during Cardinal Parecattil's tenure of office.

In 1 April 1984, Mar Joseph Parecattil retired from the office, and Mar Sebastian Mankuzhikary was designated as the apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese. In the year 1985, Mar Antony Padiyara was appointed as Archbishop of Ernakulam archdiocese. Mar Antony Padiyara was made Cardinal in 1988 and Mar Jacob Mananthodath became the auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese in 1992. On 16 December 1992 the Syro-Malabar Church was declared a Major Archiepiscopal Church Sui Iuris with the title of Ernakulam-Angamaly, by Pope John Paul II. This was a landmark in the history of the Syro Malabar Church and especially in the history of the Archdiocese of Ernakulam. The Archdiocese of Ernakulam was re-established as the See of Syro Malabar Church. Thereby the Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly is also the Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church. By this, the name of the Archdiocese was changed from Ernakulam to Ernakulam-Angamaly. Angamaly, an ancient residential See of the Bishop of St Thomas Christians and now a municipal town in the Archdiocese of Ernakulam, also got associated with the title of the Major Archbishop. During this period, the powers of Major Archbishop were vested in the Pontifical Delegate Mar Abraham Kattumana (1992-1995). Major Archbishop Antony Padiyara retired from his office on 18 December 1996.

On 6 January 1997, Mar Varkey Vithayathil C.Ss.R. was nominated titular Bishop of Antinoe and the Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese. Mar Thomas Chakiath was made auxiliary bishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly in February 1998. On 23 December 1999, the Vatican appointed archbishop Mar Varkey Vithayathil as Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church. Mar Sebastian Adayantharath was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly by Pope John Paul II on 3 January 2002. Mar Bosco Puthur was appointed as Curia Bishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly on 15 January 2010.

On 1 April 2011 Mar Varkey Vithayathil died. Mar Bosco Puthur was apostolic administrator until installation of new Major Archbishop. On 24 May 2011 Mar George Alencherry was elected as new Major Archbishop and installed following 29 May.

Carmelite missionaries and the Suriani Vicariates

The concordat between the Holy See and Portugal was signed on 23 June 1886, to settle the Padroado problem. According to the concordat, Varapuzha had to leave some of her churches under the re-established Padroado diocese of Kochi. In 1887, 180,000 Syrians were also separated from Varapuzha. Before the concordat and the separation of the Suriani Catholics, Varapuzha had 90,000 Latins and 180,000 Syrians. Now Varapuzha would remain with 29,081 faithful. In Leonardo Mellano’s own words, "… this archdiocese of Varapuzha would be in such a miserable state, not to say ridiculous, that it would be better for it to be changed into only an apostolic prefecture." Mellano tried to get some more faithful under him some way or other. The first attempt was to get Alappuzha and Poongavu Latin parishes, telling that the Christians of those two parishes belonged to a different caste from those of the other surrounding churches. The Ezhunooticar who had been assigned to the diocese of Kochi wrote petitions to Rome requesting that they again be placed under Varapuzha. As the decree for the division of the Suriani Catholics from the Latins reached the apostolic delegate Aiuti, he invited Fr. Mani Nidiry to Ootty. Remaining there for some days Nidiry prepared the translation of the decree. Aiuti’s act of publishing the new disposition of the Holy see regarding the Syrians through the priors of the Syrian Carmelites of Elthuruth and Mannanam instead of through their local superior to whom they belonged till then was unbearable for Mellano. The reaction of the Carmelites had started manifesting itself in different ways. Wherever they found it possible to make use of the division among the Syrians, they turned it around to suit their purpose and the different factions of Suriani Christians, knowingly or unknowingly, started pleading for Carmelites and for a separate vicariate under them. When the separation of the Syrians from the Latins became a reality, the Suddists began to send petitions to Rome in favour of the Carmelites. Congregation informed Mellano through Aiuti, the impossibility to erect a third vicariate exclusively for the Suddists. Mellano did not favour a separate administration for the 200,000 faithful with 172 parishes and 360 priests, insisted for separate administration for 15-20,000 people with 12 parishes and 21 priests, on condition that it would be entrusted to a Carmelite bishop. When this attempt failed, a new endeavour began. Medlycott seems to have had some information regarding the scheming pro-Carmelite priests, as stated in a petition for the third vicariate. He asked Lavigne to take action with their leader Fr. Varghese Valiaveettil (Fr. George Valiaveettil) who was then professor of Puthenpally seminary and whose local ordinary was Lavigne. Lavigne decided to remove him from the seminary, gave him the order to leave and to reside in the Arakuzha church as assistant. He sent the petitions in the name of more than thirty priests from the central part of the Malabar coast who formed Nadumissam kakshi. They requested that a third vicariate be formed in the centre of the Kottayam and Thrissur vicariates, with the possibility of entrusting it to bishop Marcelline OCD who remained without assignment. They envisaged the restoration of the ancient see of Ankamaly to form the third vicariate in the centre. Propaganda requested them to be obedient to the dispositions taken by the Holy Father. Later Zaleski, the delegate apostolic reproached Valiaveetil declaring that an attempt for a third vicariate would be considered as an act of insubordination to the Holy See and that the first time he would cause an upheaval, he would certainly be suspended. By this admonition the attempt for the third vicariate came to an end. Fr. Candid OCD, the vicar general of Varapuzha presented a special project to reunite the schismatics and the rebellious of the apostolic vicariate of Kottayam, but this project did not meet with the approval of Zaleski. Fr. Boniface OCD, rector of the inter-ritual seminary of Puthenpally, suggested to form a Syrian hierarchy creating an archbishop and two bishops, of course all Europeans but would have adopted the Suriani rite. Zaleski presented this project before the Congregation and suggested to make Boniface himself the Metropolitan archbishop. The Congregation believed that this proposal would be insufficient to suppress the movement to have autochthonous bishops.

Kottayam Vicariate

The Suriani Catholics south of the river Aluva were placed under the vicariate of Kottayam, one of the important cities in the kingdom of Thiruvithamcoor. There were 12,000 inhabitants according to the 1881 census; Catholics numbered around 300. Kottayam was the centre of the Syrian Orthodox Christians and this was one of the main reasons to select Kottayam as the residence of the apostolic vicar. Charles Louis Lavigne, was born on 6 January 1840 in France. He was ordained priest in 1864 and later he became a Jesuit. He received episcopal consecration on 13 November 1887 at Marvejols, his native place. When he reached Mannanam, there were 25 to 30 thousand people with two elephants to receive him. The schism was almost extinct in the Kottayam vicariate except for Elamthottam, where Antony Thondanatt stayed. Lavigne planned a systematic development of the vicariate, building a college, a seminary, bishop’s residence and schools and orphanages all of which required an enormous amount of money. Though the Suriani Carmelites of Mannanam treated him well, he naturally wanted to have a residence for the apostolic vicar. A college to prepare the students for the public examination was an urgent need. Lavigne was interested in the reunion movements. In April 1888, Lavigne went to Ootty at the apostolic delegation with Mar Dionysius, the Jacobite metropolitan and Fr. Nidiry. The Suriani Christians both Catholic and non-Catholics, were divided from time immemorial into two sections: Nordists and Suddists [Vadakkumbhagar & Thekkumbhagar] As the separation of the Suriani Catholics from Latins was effected, the question of this division came into serious discussion for the first time. Most of the Suddist priests wanted to remain under Varapuzha. Mathew Makil, along with Nordist Varghese Valiaveettil (Vazhakulam, Muvattupuzha) went to Ootty to meet Aiuti as representatives of the apostolic vicar of Varapuzha. In Ootty, Makil submitted a petition of the Suddists as their representative to Aiuti. There were 15 to 20, 000 Suddists with 12 parishes and 21 priests and 100-109,000 Nordists with 133 parishes and 256 priests. The general picture of the vicariate in 1888 was as follows: Suriani Catholics 107,000; Priests 271; Seminarians 190; churches 96; chapels 49; seminary: besides the common seminary at Puthenpally there was one exclusively for the Syrians at Mannanam; religious men: 69; religious houses 5; Religious women: 25; religious houses 1, secondary schools 5 & primary schools 200. A petition of ten parish priests of the Suddist community dated 21 November 1887, requested the Holy Father to place them under Mellano or his coadjutor Marcellinos. Even before the arrival of Lavigne, the division was clear in Malabar, and from Lavigne’s very reception he had to face the division. During the reception the Suddists requested him for an occasion to read a special address after the official one. Lavigne agreed to do this on the following day. Aiuti and Lavigne found the only solution to resolve the problem forever was to give a separate administration for the Suddists. Aiuti had already informed Propaganda that the project for a separate vicariate for the Suddists was designed by archbishop Mellano and Carmelites of Varapuzha. Following Aiuti's proposals, the general assembly of Propaganda Fide decided to give a separate administration granting them a vicar general and two councilors. Thus though Mellano could not attain his objective, i.e., a special vicariate for the Suddists, his strategy proved to have a bad effect, the growth of a division among the Suriani Catholics. Mellano was vehemently opposed to the separate administration of the 200,000 Suriani Catholics, including 360 priests, 213 seminarians and 59 religious priests, in 172 parishes. He wanted to erect a third vicariate for the Suddists who numbered 15-20,000, with 21 priests and 12 parishes.

Elevation into the College of Cardinals

On 6 January 2012, Pope Benedict XVI announced that Mar George Alencherry will be created a cardinal at the consistory of the Church held on 18 February 2012. On 18 February 2012, Mar George Alencherry was ordained as a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church.

Past and present ordinaries

Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, the Apostolic Nuncio to India read the message of Pope Benedict XVI during the installation of Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church at St Marys Basilica, Ernakulam and presenting the first elected Major Archbishop, Mar George Alencherry with the papal gift
Ordinary Year of appointment Last year of service
Mar Aloysius Pazheparambil 1896 1919
Mar Augustine Kandathil 1919 1956
Mar Joseph Parecattil 1956 1984
Mar Sebastian Mankuzhikary (Administrator-Apostolic) 1984 1985
Mar Antony Padiyara 1985 1996
Mar Abraham Kattumana (Pontifical Delegate) 1992 1995
Mar Varkey Vithayathil 1996 2011
Mar George Alencherry 2011

Congregations and institutions

Mar Varghese Payyappilly Palakkappilly, A Servant of God from the archdiocese

Generalates of the four major religious congregations for men of the Syro-Malabar Church, namely the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (C.M.I.), the Vincentian Congregation (V.C.), the Congregation of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (C. S. T.), and the Missionary Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament (M.C.B.S.) and the only Syro-Malabar Provincialate of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchins, and the two Syro-Malabar Vice Provincialates of Franciscan Conventuals and of the Redemptorist Fathers and of the Claretians are situated in the Archdiocese of Ernakulam.

There are 11 college centers, 12 parallel colleges, 7 nursing schools and near to two hundred schools under the Archdiocese. The Archdiocese also manages near to 31 hospitals and 170 orphanages. The biggest Pontifical Seminary in the world, the Pontifical Institute of Theology and Philosophy, is in Alwaye, and run by the Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council.

Historical places

The archdiocese has several places of historical significance to the Syro Malabar Church and the St.Thomas Christian community.

The ancient port of Muziris, the earlier gateway to India for traders from Middle East is in the borders of Ernakulam and Thrissur districts. Diamper (Udayamperoor), where the famous Synod convoked by Dom Menezes, Archbishop of Goa (1599) took place is in Ernakulam Archdiocese. According to tradition, a session of the Synod of Diamper was conducted in Edapally. Chendamangalam known for the ancient Vaippincotta Seminary of the Jesuits, Puthenpally where the Spanish Carmelites conducted a seminary for the Syro-Malabar clergy are within the boundaries of Ernakulam Archdiocese.

Many places which are believed to be associated with the coming of St. Thomas are in this diocese. Kottekkavu (N. Parur) and Kokkamangalam / Pallippuram (Cherthala) are two places where St Thomas established churches in the first century. It's believed that St.Thomas used to frequently come for meditation and prayers in the hills of Malayattoor.

Notable churches

Interior of Malayattoor church

Kottakkavu Mar Thoma Syro-Malabar Pilgrim Church, North Paravur

St. Thomas who reached Kerala in AD 52 brought Christianity to India. The Kottakavu Church is said to be one of the seven churches founded by him. In the 19th century, due to the lack of space in the old church for conducting Holy Mass and community functions, the new church was built.

St. George Syro-Malabar Catholic Basilica, Angamaly

It is recorded that the first church of Angamally, dedicated to St. George (AD 450), was the St. George Forane Church (Basilica), Angamaly. In this church there was a chapel, which was dedicated to St. George, where both the Syro-Malabar Catholics and the Jacobites conducted their services in a cordial manner.

St. George Syro-Malabar Catholic Forane Church, Edappally

St George Forane Church, popularly known as Edappally church, is situated in Edappally, which is about 10 km from Cochin. This Syro-Malabar Catholic Church is one of the oldest churches in Kerala built in 594 AD. The deity of this church is said to have the power of getting rid of snakes. Every year, a grand nine-day festival is celebrated here in the month of April - May. The church is also quite popular amongst the non-Christians, who also come here for veneration.

Mar Hormiz Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Angamaly

It is the former cathedral of Angamaly- Kodungalloor Archeparchy of Saint Thomas Christians.

See also


Further reading