Pope Francis had announced the new diocese in October to provide pastoral care to India’s SMC ‎faithful outside their dioceses.‎
 

By Robin Gomes

India-based Syro-Malabar Catholic Church (SMC) on Sunday inaugurated a new diocese that Pope Francis had announced last year to provide pastoral care to India’s SMC faithful living outside their existing dioceses.  Shamshabad Eparchy in Telengana state, became the 31st diocese of the eastern rite Church on 7 January with a Holy Mass and ceremony that included the installation of  its first head, Bishop Raphael Thattil.

The event was attended by 55 bishops from across India, including Cardinal George Alencherry, the head of the Syro-Malabar Church, Cardinal Baselios Clemis, the head of the Syro-Malankara Church, Vatican officials and hundreds of priests, nuns and lay people from across ‎the country.‎  

Bishop Thattil the Auxiliary bishop of Trichur Archdiocese from 2010, has been serving as ‎Apostolic Visitor since 2014 to SMC faithful outside existing dioceses.   He told the gathering, “my ministry is to spread the gospel and it ‎shall be done in communion with all.” ‎

At Sunday’s inauguration ‘Premmarg’, a charitable trust was also launched. 

Pope’s measures

In a letter to all the bishops of India dated 9 October 2017, the Pope ‎had announced the creation of Shamshabad Diocese and appointed Bishop Thattil as its first bishop, restoring the ‘all ‎India jurisdiction’ of the Syro Malabar Church. ‎

The Holy Father also created the Diocese of Hosur and appointed as its bishop Fr. Sebastian ‎‎(Jobby) ‎Pozholiparampil, and extended the jurisdiction of the existing dioceses of Ramanathapuram and Thuckalay.

The territory of Shamshabad Diocese comprises 23 states excluding of the 30 already existing ‎SMC dioceses out of which 14 dioceses are outside Kerala, covering two thirds of the ‎country. Bishop Thattil will serve about 1,20,000 faithful spread across 100 cities in the ‎country and has 11 functional churches and seven under construction with around 88 ‎priests and a few hundred nuns.‎

Church in India

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) is the apex body of the Catholic Church of ‎India, ‎that comprises three ritual  Churches:  the Latin rite and two ‎eastern rites – the ‎Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara ‎Churches, which claim their origin from St. Thomas the Apostle.  Of ‎the 172 dioceses in India, 132 belong to the Latin rite.  ‎The SMC also has four dioceses outside India in Australia, Britain, Canada and the US.‎

Fruitful harmonious cooperation among rites

In his letter to the Indian bishops, Pope Francis urged for “a fruitful and harmonious cooperation” among the bishops of the ‎three ritual Churches of India, as they reach out to provide pastoral care to their respective faithful ‎spread out in various parts of the country. 

The Pope noted problems and tensions among the ritual dioceses due to overlapping jurisdiction.   “In a world where large numbers of Christians are forced to migrate,” he said, “‎overlapping jurisdictions have become customary and are increasingly effective tools for ensuring the ‎pastoral care of the faithful while also ensuring full respect for their ecclesial traditions.”  “In India itself, overlapping jurisdictions should no longer be ‎problematic, for the Church has experienced them for some time, such as in Kerala,” the Pope wrote.

The smaller Syro-Malankara Church already has the provision to provide pastoral ‎care to its faithful throughout India.  Pope Francis has now extended the provision ‎also to the Syro-Malabar Church‎. 


Teachings of Christ

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God." (John 3:16-18 ESV)

Theophany

When You were baptized in the Jordan, O Lord, * worship of the Trinity was revealed, * for the Father's voice bore witness to You, calling You His “beloved Son”, * and the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the certainty of these words. * O Christ God, * Who appeared and enlightened the world, glory to You! (Troparion, Tone 1)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

You have appeared to the whole world today, * and Your light, O Lord, is signed upon us, * who with knowledge praise You in song: * "You have come, and You have appeared, O Unapproachable Light." (Kontakion, Tone 4)

Theophany is a Greek word meaning "manifestation or appearence of God".

Random Proverb

For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. (Proverbs 2:6 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

The work of prayer belongs to the angels, and is, therefore, the special concern of the Church. Every other work, i.e., charity, nursing the brethren, visiting the sick, caring for prisoners, releasing captives, and other similar things, is done by the brethren in love and offered by them to God. Similarly, poverty, fasting, sleeping on the ground, prostrations, vigils, etc., are good and like a sacrifice to God, because they aim to subdue and humble the body so that we may be purified and approach God and become friends of God -- yet these things do not present us directly to God, whereas prayer does so and unites us with Him. A person praying acts towards God like a friend -- conversing, confiding, requesting -- and through this becomes one with our Maker Himself.

St. Symeon of Thessalonica