Catholics of the Syro-Malabar rite will gain a new kind of leadership structure in Britain, with the creation by the Pope of a new eparchy based in Preston. St Ignatius church, which was closed in 2014 only to reopen to serve the Syro-Malabar community, will become a cathedral.
An eparchy is a territory governed by the Eastern churches, usually by a bishop. similar to a diocese. The first eparch will be Fr Joseph Srampickal, at present Vice-Rector of Propaganda Fide College in Rome.
The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, whose origins are said to date back to the arrival of St Thomas the Apostle in 52 AD, is one of the is one of the 22 Eastern (Oriental) Catholic Churches in full communion with Rome. With 4.6 million Catholics belonging to this rite, it is the second largest of the Eastern Churches.
Nearly 40,000 Syro-Malabar rite Catholics live in England, Scotland and Wales, served by 23 priests. Numbers have increased in recent years, and large-scale catechetical programs have recently been organised by Fr Thomas Parayadiyil, national co-ordinator for Syro-Malabar Catholics in Britain.
Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, president of the Scottish bishops’ conference, welcomed the news in a statement.
He said: “The Catholic Church in Scotland shares the joy of our Syro-Malabar communities which are notable for their religious devotion and for the seriousness with which they regard Catholic family life and the transmission of the faith to their young people and children.”
Bishop Michael Campbell of Lancaster diocese said the news was a “clear indication of the care of the Holy See for the thousands of Syro-Malabar Catholics who have settled in Great Britain”.