History of the Diocese
History of the Eparchy of Shamshabad
The Syro-Malabar Church is one among the Catholic Sui Iuris Churches. This is the most ancient among the Catholic Churches in India founded by Apostle Thomas, one of the disciples of Jesus, who arrived in India (Kerala) in 52 AD and died at Mylapore (Madras) in 72 AD. This Church is in full communion with the Pope but has the authority for self-governance under the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. In India we have three Churches in Catholic communion such as Syro-Malabar, Syro-Malankara and Latin. It is the third-largest particular church (sui iuris) in the Catholic Church after the Latin and Ukrainian Catholic Churches.
St. Thomas the Apostle, following the command of Jesus, started his mission from Kodungallur and Palayur, founding 7 churches/communities in Kerala before his martyrdom. According to the tradition he appointed Kepha as the head of the Church in India at Kodungallur and Paul as bishop at Mylapore. The Christians in India had relations with the Church of Persia and later began to receive bishops from there. The head of the Church in India was called as Metrapolita d’Hendo having jurisdiction over the whole of India and its confines. The See of the head of the Indian Church was at Kodungallur. From the 16th century onwards, western missionaries came to India and slowly the Thomas Christians came under the Latin Padroado and Propaganda jurisdictions.
The See of Kodungallur, which was then under Padroado, was suppressed in the year 1886. On 20th May 1887 Vicariates of Trichur and Kottayam were erected by Holy See for the care of the Catholic Thomas Christians who were then called as “Syro Malabar Church”. The name Syro-Malabar is coined from the words Syriac, referring to the East Syriac liturgy and Malabar, the historical name for Kerala. In the year 1896, the proper territory of the Syro Malabar Church was limited to a small area in the present state of Kerala. In the year 1955 the territory of the Church was extended to the whole of Kerala State and some neighboring districts in the States of Karnataka and Tamilnadu.
Migration and Pastoral Care
After independence of India in the year 1947, many Syro Malabar faithful began to migrate from Kerala to different parts of India and abroad. Imbibing the spirit of Second Vatican Council documents, especially Orientalium Ecclesiarum, they started requesting the Apostolic See to restore their earlier jurisdiction and get areas in India for pastoral care of migrants and for evangelization. Some moves in this regard were already made in the year 1962. From 1968 onwards a few exarchates and later eparchies were erected in North India for evangelization. But the vast majority of the Syro Malabar migrants were without due pastoral care all throughout these years.
In order to study the possibilities of the pastoral care of migrants and evangelization, the Apostolic See had appointed Apostolic Visitators. On 8th Sept 1978, Pope John Paul I appointed Mar Antony Padiyara as an Apostolic Visitor to study the situation of migrant Syro-Malabar Catholics in India who continued till 23rd April 1985. In 1980, Mar Padiyara Submitted the report to Pope John Paul II. In 1986 Pope John Paul II visited India and studied the matter personally. Pope John Paul II of happy memory sent a letter on 28th May 1987 to all the bishops in India regarding the pastoral care and mission of the Eastern Catholics in India after which the eparchy of Kalyan was erected in the year 1988 for the Syro Malabar Migrants in Mumbai-Pune region. After a gap, Bishop Gratian Mundadan was appointed Apostolic Visitor in India on 15th July 2006.
From 2008 onwards, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) through the working of its Special Commission and different bodies (Standing Committee and General Body) came to a consensus that the Syro Malabar Church could be given jurisdiction over its faithful with eparchies centered at the important cities of India and one eparchy or exarchy for the rest of India. In 2012 the eparchy of Faridabad for Delhi region was erected.
From Apostolic Visitation to Eparchy of Shamshabad
On 11th January 2014 Bishop Raphael Thattil, Auxiliary Bishop of Trichur, was appointed as the new Apostolic Visitator. Bishop Thattil worked hard to study the situation, travelling through the length and breadth of India meeting the migrants and local authorities including bishops and submitted reports to the Apostolic See. As a result, in 2015, the territory of Mandya was extended to include Bangalore region. And later, on 09th October 2017, Pope Francis wrote a letter to all the Bishops of India (Varietas Ecclesiarum) and established the Eparchy of Hosur covering the Chennai and other five states of Tamilnadu and the Eparchy of Shamshabad basing in Hyderabad city having ‘the rest of India’.
We are very proud to note that, Bishop Raphael Thattil, as Apostolic Visitator, has done great things for the growth of the Church in India, especially of the Syro Malabar Church. During the three years, he proved that he is a great organizer and missionary for the cause of the Church. He could instil missionary spirit among the faithful in the mother Church. He started many centers for Syro Malabar mission, bought land and constructed churches. He could collect data of Syro Malabar migrants and organize the mission centres under different regions and coordinators. The report he presented to the Apostolic See helped Holy Father to take a speedy decision. This is clear from the historical letter dated 9th October 2017 of Pope Francis in which we read: “... he has provided detailed reports to the Apostolic See. This issue has been examined in meetings at the highest levels of the Church. Following these steps, I believe the time is now right to complete this process”. (L’Osservatore Romano, English Edition, no. 41, 13 Oct 2017, p.5).
Global Presence of the Syro-Malabar Church
The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church is based in Kerala which is headed by Major Archbishop Cardinal Mar George Alencherry. Being the largest of St. Thomas Christians with around 5 million believers, this Church is described as "Catholic by faith, Indian by culture, and Oriental in liturgy”. Due to world-wide emigration of its members, presently the Syro-Malabar Church is globally present. In order to care for these migrants, the Catholic Church has taken measures by providing with Dioceses, Bishops and Priests. Syro-Malabar Church is having 31 dioceses in India and 4 are in the United States, Canada, Australia and Great Briton. Two apostolic visitators are studying the possibilities in Europe and Oceania.
Shamshabad in Hyderabad
“Shamshabad” is a small town where the Hyderabad International Airport is situated. The meaning of the word shamsha is “sunshine”. It is 25 Km away from Hyderabad city and 35 Km from Secunderabad. This new diocese has the faithful, spread all over India in 23 states, 4 union territories including 2 islands of India. Hence the Diocese of Shamshabad is the biggest among the Catholic Dioceses of India. The new diocese has a total of 120,000 Catholics, spread in almost 100 Cities of India and 88 priests serve them.
In the last two years we have registered 8 common trusts and 14 nodal (parish) trusts for the religious, social and charitable Activities. Thomamarg Religious Trust and Premmarg Charitable Trust are the two trusts were formed in 2015, under the aegis of Santhom Mission India and now continue to be part of the Eparchy of Shamshabad.
The Person of Bishop Raphael Thattil
Bishop Mar Raphael Thattil was born on 21-4-1956 at Trichur, Kerala. He has the educational qualifications B.Th. and DOCL from Rome. He had his priestly formation at St. Thomas Apostolic Seminary, Vadavathoor. After his ordination on 21-12-1980, in the Archdiocese of Trichur, he served as Asst. Vicar, Aranattukara (1981), Fr. Prefect, Minor Seminary (1982), Vice Chancellor (1988), Vice Rector of Minor Seminary (1991), Director of DBCLC and Catechism (1992-1995), Chancellor and Eparchial Judge (1995-2000), First Rector of Mary Matha Major Seminary (1998-2007); Syncellus and Protosyncellus (2007-2017). He has been instrumental in developing the Mary Matha Major Seminary. He was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Trichur on 18-01-2010 and was ordained bishop on 10-4-2010.
Inauguration of the Eparchy and Enthronement of the First Bishop
The 31st Eparchy of the Syro Malabar Church, the Eparchy of Shamshabad was inaugurated on Sunday, 7 January 2018, at Santhom Nagar, CKR & KTR Convention Hall, Balaji Nagar, Badangpet, in between Hyderabad and Secunderabad. 55 Bishops from across the country attended the enthronement of Mar Raphael Thattil as its first bishop.
Major Archbishop Cardinal George Alencherry, head of the Syro Malabar Church, enthroned Mar Thattil as the bishop of Shamshabad at a solemn ceremony attended by officials from the Vatican and hundreds of priests and nuns and thousands of lay people from across the country.
Eparchy of Shamshabad has 11 functional churches and seven under construction ones with around 88 priests and a few hundred nuns. To plant and build would be motto of the new Eparchy.
“This new diocese was established with the understanding and cooperation of all the three Catholic rites in India,” said Cardinal Alencherry. “With mutual respect and collaboration we need to carry on our activities, witnessing the Gospel in the Church,” Cardinal exhorted.
Baselios Cardinal Cleemis, Catholicos of the Syro Malankara Church and the president of Catholic Bishops Conference (CBCI) of India emphasized “the importance of spreading the fragrance of God’s love throughout the country.” “The country belongs to all,” added the Cardinal.
Felicitating the new bishop and the diocese, Archbishop Thumma Bala of Hyderabad expressed optimism that it will lead to “different rites supporting and promoting one another.” “The fact and the reality of the existence of different rites but of the same Church is to be humbly accepted,” pointed out Archbishop Bala.
Justice Kurian Joseph of the Supreme Court in his address at the public meeting that followed the installation and solemn Mass led by bishop Thattil along with Archbishop Andrews Thazhath of Thrissur and others noted that “India being a secular country, anyone can freely choose his / her religions.”
Reading out the message of the Cardinal Prefect Leonardro Cardinal Sandri of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Vatican representative Archbishop Cyril Vasil’, stated that the new eparchy is erected to ensure that “no Syro-Malabar faithful living anywhere in the country of India is deprived of an ordinary of his own rite”.
Bishop Raphael Thattil told the gathering that “my ministry is to spread the gospel and it shall be done in communion with all.”
On the same occasion ‘Premmarg’, a charitable trust was also inaugurated.
THE DIVISION OF THE MISSION INTO REGIONS
Experiencing the vastness of the areas outside the Proper Territory, it was found opportune to divide the whole area into ten regions on the basis of language, culture, geographical considerations. The following is the division of 23 States, 4 Union Territories including 2 islands.
I. Southern Region
1. 1. Andhra Pradesh
2. 2. Telangana (Excluding Adhilabad)
II. South-Central Region
3. 1. Goa
4. 2. Maharashtra (Excluding Chandha and Kalyan)
5. 3. Karnataka (Excluding Belthangady, Bathravathi, Mandya)
III. Central Region
6. 1. Madhya Pradesh (Excluding Sagar, Satna and Ujjain)
7. 2. Chhattisgarh (Excluding Jagdalpur)
8. 3. Odisha
IV. Western Region
9. 1. Gujarat (Excluding Rajkot)
10. 2. Rajasthan
11. 3. Daman and Diu
12. 4. Dadra Nagar Haveli
V. Eastern Region
13. 1. West Bengal
14. 2. Bihar
15. 3. Jharkhand
VI. North-Eastern Region
16. 1. Meghalaya
17. 2. Mizoram
18. 3. Manipur
19. 4. Nagaland
20. 5. Tripura
21. 6. Sikkim
22. 7. Assam
23. 8. Arunachal Pradesh
VII. Northern Region
24. 1. Uttarakhand (Excluding Bijnor)
25. 2. Uttar Pradesh (Excluding Bijnor, Gorakhpur and Faridabad)
VIII. Island Region
26. 1. Lakshadweep
27. 2. Andaman and Nicobar Islands