The Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly (formerly known as Archdiocese of Ernakulam) occupies a prominent position in the history of the Syro-Malabar Church. It was established as a Vicariate by the Bull “Quae Rei Sacrae” of Pope Leo XIII on 28th July, 1896. Mar Aloysius Pazheparambil was appointed as the first Vicar Apostolic, who assumed charge on 5th November, 1896.
Under the able guidance of Mar Aloysius Pazheparambil, the Vicariate began to flourish. City of Ernakulam was chosen to be the location for the Bishop’s House which was completed and blessed on 24th April, 1900. Although he had to begin from the scratches, his indefatigable labours, coupled with the hearty cooperation of the clergy and laity brought the Vicariate within a few years, to a position of eminence. He continued to govern the Vicariate ably and successfully till his death on 9th December, 1919.
The progress of the Vicariate both spiritually and materially was accelerated ever since Mar Augustine Kandathil assumed the charge of it on 18 December 1919. Archbishop Augustine Kandathil guided the life and work of the archdiocese and of the Syro-Malabar Hierarchy for well over three decades. He not only followed the progressive policies of his illustrious predecessor, but also opened new avenues of apostolate in keeping with the changing times. His accent on charity and piety led to the foundation of many churches, schools, hospitals, homes for the poor and asylums for the aged as well as several Orders of Religious and pious associations.
As the Syro-Malabar Hierarchy was established on 21st December, 1923, by the Bull “Romani Pontifices” of Pope Pius XI, Ernakulam was raised to the status of an Archdiocese and was made the centre of the Syro-Malabar Church. Its Vicar Apostolic Mar Augustine Kandathil was appointed as the first Archbishop.
On 20th July, 1956, Mar Joseph Parecattil became the Archbishop of Ernakulam. By the Bull, “Qui in Beati Petri Cathedrae” of Pope Pius XII, Ernakulam was bifurcated and the diocese of Kothamangalam was erected on 29th July, 1956. The dioceses of Thrissur, Thalassery and Kothamangalam became suffragan dioceses of Ernakulam Archdiocese. Mar Joseph Parecattil was made Cardinal on 28th March, 1969 and Mar Sebastian Mankuzhikary was appointed as his auxiliary on 15th November, 1969.
The number of churches, monasteries, convents, seminaries, schools, colleges, technical institutions, printing presses, hospitals, homes for retired priests, social centres and various associations and institutes dedicated to intellectual and vocational apostolates that have come into being in this archdiocese during Cardinal Parecattil’s tenure of office is truly impressive.
When Cardinal Parecattil retired from his office on 1st April, 1984, his auxiliary, Mar Sebastian Mankuzhikary was appointed Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese. Mar Mankuzhikary had already played a significant role in the all-round progress of the archdiocese from the year 1970 in his capacity as Auxiliary Bishop and as the Vicar General.
Mar Antony Padiyara was appointed as the Archbishop of Ernakulam on 18th May, 1985 and he took charge on 3rd July, 1985. His term of office as Archbishop is also marked by a steady development in all spheres of life and activities of the archdiocese.
His Holiness Pope John Paul II, during his Pastoral Visit in India, presided over a Eucharistic Celebration at H.M.T. Grounds, Kalamassery, where after he paid a visit to the St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica, Ernakulam, and spent the night at the Archbishop’s House, Ernakulam.
Mar Antony Padiyara was made Cardinal on 29th May, 1988. Fr. Jacob Manathodath was nominated as his auxiliary on 6th September, 1992. Mar Jacob Manathodath, who was also the Vicar General, assisted the Cardinal in the administration of the archdiocese from 1992 to 1997.
A greater landmark in the history of the St. Thomas Christians and especially in the history of the Archdiocese of Ernakulam was on 16th December, 1992 when the Syro-Malabar Church was declared a Major Archiepiscopal Church ‘Sui Iuris’ with the title of Major Archiepiscopal Church of Ernakulam-Angamaly, by Pope John Paul II. The Holy See thus recognized the legitimate right of the Syro-Malabar Church. It also took into account the pre-eminence of the Archdiocese of Ernakulam by making it the See of the Major Archbishop of the Major Archiepiscopal Church of Ernakulam-Angamaly (Syro-Malabar Church). Thereby the Major Archbishop of the Major Archiepiscopal Church of Ernakulam-Angamaly (Syro-Malabar Church) is also the Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly. The above mentioned document of the Holy Father also prescribes that the residential See of the Major Archbishop is to be at Ernakulam. By this document the name of the Archdiocese was changed from Ernakulam to Ernakulam-Angamaly. Thus Angamaly, an ancient residential See of the Bishop of St. Thomas Christians and now a municipal town in the Archdiocese of Ernakulam, also got associated with the title of the Major Archbishop. It is also worthy of special mention that it was an illustrious son of the Archdiocese of Ernakulam- Angamaly in the person of Archbishop Abraham Kattumana, who was appointed by Pope John Paul II as the Pontifical Delegate to the Major Archiepiscopal Church of Ernakulam-Angamaly (Syro-Malabar Church). The Curia of the Major Archiepiscopal Church started functioning in the Archbishop’s House which was shifted to Mount St. Thomas, Kakkanad on 27th May, 1995.
The centenary of the archdiocese and the Sacerdotal Golden Jubilee of Cardinal Padiyara were celebrated with great solemnity from 3rd to 10th February 1996. His Eminence Achille Cardinal Silvestrini, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, His Beatitude Raphael I Bidawid, the Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon and various other dignitaries including ninety bishops of India participated in the celebrations.
His Eminence Cardinal and Major Archbishop Antony Padiyara retired from his office on 18th December, 1996; and Rev. Dr. Varkey Vithayathil C.Ss.R. was nominated titular Bishop of ‘Antinoe’ and the Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese. He was Consecrated Archbishop by Holy Father Pope John Paul II on 6th January, 1997. His Grace Archbishop Varkey Vithayathil assumed charge of the archdiocese as the Apostolic Administrator. The Auxiliary Bishop Mar Jacob Manathodath was appointed Bishop of the Diocese of Palakkad and took charge there on 1st February, 1997. Msgr. Thomas Chakiath was nominated Auxiliary Bishop to the Apostolic Administrator Archbishop Varkey Vithayathil on 17th February, 1998. On 23rd December, 1999 Holy Father Pope John Paul II appointed Mar Varkey Vithayathil as the Major Archbishop of the Major Archiepiscopal Church of Ernakulam-Angamaly and as the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly. His enthronement as the Major Archbishop took place at St. Mary’s Basilica, Ernakulam on 26th January, 2000. He was made Cardinal on 21st February, 2001. Fr. Sebastian Adayanthrath was nominated Auxiliary Bishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly by Pope John Paul II on 3rd January, 2002.
His Beatitude Mar Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil was called to eternal rest on 1st April, 2011. On 26th May, 2011 the Syro-Malabar Major Archiepiscopal Synod elected Mar George Alencherry as the father and head of the Syro-Malabar Church. His enthronement as the Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church and as the Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly took place at St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica, Ernakulam on 29th May, 2011. His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI nominated Mar George Alencherry a member of the College of Cardinals on 6th January, 2012. At the consistory on 18th February, 2012 he was raised to the dignity of a Cardinal.
Mar Thomas Chakiath, the Auxiliary Bishop and Protosyncellus, retired from his office on 10th September 2012. Mar Sebastian Adayanthrath, the Syncellus took charge of the office of the Protosyncellus on the same day. Mar Jose Puthenveettil was ordained Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese on 21st September 2013.
In 2018 June 22nd Rome appointed Mar Jacob Manathodath as the administrator Sede Plena for the Archeparchy. On August 30th 2019, Archbishop Antony Kariyil was appointed as the Vicar of the Major Archbishop and Metropolitan Vicar of the Major Archeparchy. Mar Sebastian Adayanthrath was elevated as the Bishop of Mandya Diocese on September 8th 2019, and Mar Jose Puthenveettil was moved to Faridabad Diocese as Auxiliary Bishop on November 10th 2019.
It may be pointed out that the Generalates of the four major religious congregations for men of the Syro-Malabar Church, namely the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (C.M.I.), the Vincentian Congregation (V.C.), the Little Flower Congregation (C.S.T.), and the Missionary Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament (M.C.B.S.) and the sole Syro-Malabar Provincialate of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchins, and the two Syro-Malabar Vice-Provincialates of Franciscan Conventual and of the Redemptorist Fathers and of the Claretians are situated in the Archdiocese of Ernakulam. A total of thirteen religious congregations for women of the Syro-Malabar Rite have their Generalates in this archdiocese. It is worthy of special mention that nine of these congregations were founded in the archdiocese itself.
The Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly with its headquarters in the Corporation of Kochi comprises of almost the whole of the district of Ernakulam, parts of the districts of Thrissur, Kottayam and Alappuzha.