Pope Francis has created the largest Syro-Malabar diocese--the Eparchy of Shamshabad in Hyderabad--with jurisdiction over all the Syro-Malabar Christians, excluding those in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and in the jurisdictions of the Kalyan and Faridabad dioceses.
The announcement came this evening from the Pope who also appointed Raphael Thattil as the first bishop of the new diocese. The new diocese will serve the Syro-Malabar Catholics spread around 100 cities.
A statement issued by Fr Francis Eluvathingal, coordinator general of Syro-Malabar mission in Hyderabad, said, the Pope had on January 11, 2014, appointed Thattil as the apostolic visitor for the Syro-Malabar faithfuls residing outside the jurisdictions of the existing 29 Syro-Malabar dioceses in the country.
Though there are more Syro-Malabar dioceses in the country such as Ujjain, Gorakhpur, Chambal and Satna among others they are considered mission eparchies managed by Syro- Malabar priests and nuns.
Syro-Malabar Catholics hail from Kerala and are the first Christians in India whose origins date back to 52 AD when St Thomas, one of the disciples of Christ,came to Kerala.
Today, outside Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Mumbai-Kalyan and Delhi-Faridabad, the Syro-Malabar Christians are spread across 24 states, three Union territories and two islands of Lakshadweep and the Andamans.
"We hope that all other 28 entities are part of the Sahmshabad Eparchy. If it is so, Shamshabad would be the biggest Eparchy of India," the statement said.
There are 1.3 lakh Catholics in the Shamshabad diocese with 11 functional churches and seven under construction.
Bishop Thattil was born in 1956 in Thrissur in Kerala and studied in St. Thomas Apostolic Seminary, Vadavathoor in Kottayam and then in Rome. He was appointed auxiliary bishop of Thrissur and as the titular bishop of Buruni in January 2010.
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