A brief History

Bishop Joseph Maria Sebastiani

The Archdiocese of Verapoly is the ‘mother diocese’ of all the dioceses in Kerala. The Archdiocese of Verapoly has an ancient and a long tradition.  According to the history St. Thomas, the Apostle of Jesus arrived at Maliankara, Kodungalloor in 52 AD. The Archdiocese of Verapoly was originally known as the Vicariate of Malabar. The Vicariate of Malabar has its origin in 1657, with the arrival of Carmelite Missionaries, most prominent among whom was Father Joseph of St. Mary, better known as Joseph Sebastiani. They had been deputed under Father Hyacinth as Apostolic Commissar, by Pope Alexander VII to effect a reconciliation of St. Thomas Christians of the Syro-Chaldaic Rite, who had seceded from their Archbishop Francis Garcia S.J. The majority of them had  in 1653 revolted against the Archbishop and forsaking his authority by taking an oath for the purpose at the foot of a cross-thereafter called the “Coonen Cross” situated in Mattancherry, had made their own Archdeacon the Archbishop. By the efforts of Sebastiani a large number of seceders were brought back to the true fold. Nevertheless, they refused to be under the authority of their lawful Archbishop or under any prelate of the Jesuit Order known as the “Paulists”.

Rome, being informed of the situation by Sebastiani in person, decided to entrust the Carmelites with the spiritual care of the Syro-Chaldaic Rite. For this purpose the Vicariate of Malabar was erected by Pope Alexander VII on 3 December 1659. Sebastiani was consecrated Titular Bishop of Hierapolis on December 15, 1659 and sent back to Malabar, with the title of Vicar Apostolic and Administrator of the Archbishopric of
Cranganore. The new Vicariate eventually established its headquarters in the island of Verapoly.

Archbishop Leonardo Mellano

The conquest of Portuguese territories in Malabar and especially of Cochin in 1663 by the Dutch and the consequent expulsion of al Catholic Missionaries from the territories occupied by the Dutch and elsewhere, threatened the very existence of the Malabar Vicariate. Nevertheless, it survived under the Indian Prelate Parambil Chandy (Alexander de Campo) whom Sebastiani had consecrated as his successor before he left Malabar in 1663. Before long Carmelites were allowed to resume their ministration which was by then extended also to the Catholics of the Latin Church who were under Portuguese protection. On 13 March 1709 by a Brief of Pope Clement XI Malabar Vicariate was suppressed and the Vicariate of Verapoly took its place with Bishop Angelo Francisco as its first Vicar Apostolic. By the Brief “Multa Praeclara” of Pope Gregory XVI, dated 24 April 1838, the Sees of Cranganore and Cochin which at that time included also Quilon, were annexed to the Vicariate of Verapoly which thus came to comprise the whole of Malabar. However in 1845,Quilon was severed from Verapoly as a Suffragan Vicariate.

When by the famous Apostolic Letter “Humanae Salutis Auctor” of Leo XIII dated September 1, 1886, the Hierarchy of India was established, the Vicariate of Verapoly was raised to the status of an Archdiocese with the Most Rev. Dr. Leonard Mellano of St. Louis O.C.D. as its first Archbishop who was the 17th in the line of the Vicars Apostolic.

Along with this in 1886 the diocese of Cochin was resuscitated and reconstituted with 34 Latin Churches taken from the Archdiocese of Verapoly and the “Diocese of Quilon.” On 19 March 1887 the Catholics of the Syrian Rite were separated from those of the Latin Church and placed under an Administrator Dr. Marcelino Bernard of St. Teresa OCD, who was consecrated Co-adjutor to Archbishop Mellano. By brief “Quod Jam Pridem” of Pope Leo XIII dated 20 May 1887, the Syrians were exempted from the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Verapoly and the two Vicariates of Trichur and Kottayam were erected with Dr.Adolpus E. Medlycott and Dr.Charles Lavigne as their Vicars Apostolic. Thus the Archdiocese of Verapoly came to consist exclusively of Latin Catholics.

Succession of Vicars Apostolic of Verapoly and Archbishops of Verapoly till indigenous Archbishops of Verapoly

  • Joseph a Sta. Maria de Sebastiani 1656 (1661), retired before the Dutch in 1663;
  • Alexander de Campo (Parambil Chandy), 1663–1678;
  • Thomas de Castro, 1675–1684;
  • Raphael de Figuredo Salgado, 1681, retired on account of quarrels in 1694;
  • Angelus Francis of St. Teresa, 1700, was in 1709 entitled “Vicar Apostolic of Cranganore and Cochin” on account of long vacancy of those sees, died 1712;
  • John Baptist Multedo of St. Teresa, 1714–1750;
  • Florence of Jesus of Nazareth, 1750–1773;
  • Francis de Sales a Matre Dolorosa, 1774–1787;
  • John Mary of St. Thomas, 1780 (died before consecration);
  • John Mary of Jesus, 1784 (death not marked);
  • Raymond of St. Joseph, 1803–1816;
  • Miles Prendergast, 1819, resigned 1831;
  • Francis Xavier Pescetto of St. Anne, 1831–1844;
  • Ludovico Nartini of St. Teresa, 1839, resigned 1859;
  • Bernardino Baccinelli of St. Teresa, 1847 (1859), 1868, received archiepiscopal rank.
  • Leonardo Mellano of St. Louis, 1868, received archiepiscopal rank 1860, became first Archbishop of Verapoly in 1887, died 1897.
  • Bernard of Jesus (Felipe Arginzonis y Astobiza), from 1897, resigned 1918.
  • Ángel María Pérez y Cecilia, from 1918, resigned 1934.

 

Indigenous Archbishops of Verapoly

 

  • Joseph Attipetty, from 1934 to 1970 died.
  • Joseph Kelanthara, from 1971 to 1986 died, he was assisted by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Thannikott from 1979 till 1984: in which Bishop Thannikott passed away.
  • Cornelius Elanjikal, from 1987, resigned 1996, died in 2011.
  • Daniel Acharuparambil, appointed 1996 to October 26, 2009, 11:30 AM IST died.
  • Francis Kallarakal, appointed on Feb 20,2010; he was assisted by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Karikkassery until the Auxiliary Bishop’s appointment as Bishop of the Latin Catholic Diocese of Kottapuram, on Saturday, December 18, 2010.
  • Joseph Kalathiparambil, appointed on October 30,2016 as the sixth Indigenous Archbishop of Verapoly .

Affiliated Bishops (Living)

  • His Grace Most. Rev. Dr. Francis Assisi Chullikatt (appointed on April 30, 2016 by Pope Francis as the Apostolic Nuncio to Kazakhstan and Tajikistan).
  • Joseph Karikkassery (Auxiliary Bishop of Verapoly: 25 Nov 2006 to 18 Dec 2010 and was appointed as Bishop of the Diocese of Kottapuram).