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Syro-Malabar Catholic Bishop resides in Birmingham
Approximately 18% of the population of the South Indian state of Kerala is Christian. Many have emigrated and now live in the Middle East, the USA, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Africa. During the 1960s and 1970s, small numbers of Keralan professionals migrated to the UK, finding work in the NHS and other arenas. Over the last 20 years, more have arrived. There are currently around 40,000 Keralan Christians in the country. They were welcomed by the Latin Rite parish priests and given pastoral care and support.
Noting the migration of Eastern Rite Catholics to Western countries, Pope John Paul II said, ‘Eastern Rite Catholic migrants, whose numbers are steadily increasing, deserve particular pastoral attention. In their regard we should first of all remember the juridical obligation of the faithful to observe their own rite everywhere insofar as possible, rite being understood as their liturgical, theological, spiritual and disciplinary heritage.’
On 16 July 2016, Pope Francis established the Syro-Malabar Eparchy of Great Britain, the third of the 32 Eparchies of the Syro-Malabar Church to be located outside India. The Eparchy’s centre is St Alphonsa Cathedral in Preston. Mar Joseph Srampickal was appointed the first Bishop, being consecrated at Preston North End’s football stadium on 9 October that year in front of 12,000 people. His Eparchy (or territory) covers England, Scotland and Wales. The Syro-Malabar Church is one of the 23 Eastern Rite Catholic Churches which are in full communion with Rome. The Church has four million members worldwide. It uses the ancient East Syrian Rite and the vernacular language of its liturgy is Malayalam. The Eparchy has around 50 priests working across this country.
Syro-Malabar Catholics are notably successful at passing on the faith to the younger generation. While teens are sometimes scarce at Masses in Britain, it’s common to see Syro-Malabar youngsters attending church with their families. ‘The most important reason is the central role of faith in our families, with a strong emphasis on catechesis,’ Bishop Joseph explains. ‘The Syro-Malabar Church has a very systematic catechetical program, based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the General Directories.’ He said that the whole Eparchy is involved in guiding children and young adults to become mature Catholics.
Mar Joseph Srampickal resides at Our Lady of the Rosary and St Therese of Lisieux in Saltley. Read more about the Syro-Malabar Eparchy of Great Britain at its website HERE.