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HISTORY OF THE DIOCESE OF KALyAN
Migration of the Syro-Malabar Catholics to Mumbai and other major cities of Maharashtra like Pune, Nasik, etc and other parts of our country, started in nineteen fifties and sixties after Indian Independence, seeking employment and better prospects of life. Hundreds of thousands of Christians of the Syro-Malabar Church who thus migrated were in a totally alien atmosphere with regard to their religious and spiritual life. They depended on the local Latin Church for their spiritual needs in the absence of Syro-Malabar jurisdiction. The priests of the Latin Dioceses were taking care of their spiritual needs. Yet they preferred to preserve their ecclesial traditions and heritage intact and to transmit them to their children. A formation in keeping with the spiritual, liturgical and ecclesial traditions of the Mother Church was obviously lacking. In order to preserve their faith and cultural heritage intact, the Syro-Malabar Catholics organized several spiritual exercises like the Lenten retreats and confessions, prayer meetings, Holy Mass Celebrations, etc.

In the light of the teachings of the II Vatican council, the problems related to the migration as well as the theology and ecclesiology of individual Churches were taken for discussions in CBCI meetings especially by Mar Joseph Powathil. Articles and memorandum prepared and published by Fr. Placid Podippara, Msgr. Mathew Vellanickal, Fr. Xavier Koodapuzha have caused warmth for discussions. In fact an all India seminar “The Church in India Today” paved the way to seriously discuss on this matter. The conclusions, suggestions, recommendations of the seminar were adopted by the CBCI and Committee for Rites was formed to deepen the matter.

It was Pope John Paul I, who appointed an Apostolic Visitor, Mar Antony Padiyara, on 8th September 1978 to study the situation of the migrant Syro-Malabar Catholics. Fr. Xavier Koodapuzha was the secretary of the Apostolic Visitor. On 3rd February 1979 to study the life situation and problems of Syro-Malabar Catholics Mar Antony Padiyara reached Mumbai and Kerala Catholic Association gave him all the necessary helps to study the situations especially the problems of Nurses. Eighteen meetings were held in different parts of Mumbai from 4th February 1979 to 18th February 1979.

A report was submitted in 1980. The matter was discussed in the CBCI from 1982 to 1985. At last, in the Synod held at Rome in 1985, the Bishops from the Oriental Churches spoke strongly on the rights of the Oriental Churches in India. On 1st Feb. 1986 when Pope John Paul II addressed the Bishops of India in Delhi, he assured them of an earlier settlement of the problem and elicited the co-operation of all concerned. This was followed by the appointment of a high level Pontifical Commission. On the basis of this Commission’s report, came the all-important letter of Pope John Paul II to the Bishops of India on 28th May 1987.

The people of Mumbai, Poona and Nashik are very much indebted to the services and pastoral care rendered to them prior to the erection of the diocese by priests belonging to different religious communities and dioceses. In 1959, Malayalee Catholic brethren were brought together under the umbrella of Kerala Catholic Union (KCU) by Fr. Urban OFM Cap keeping Kirol as centre and later conducted liturgy as well as administered the Holy Sacraments in Malayalam. This association was meant for all the Catholics of Kerala including the Syro-Malabar, Syro-Malankara and Latin churches. Kerala Catholic Association had a great role in organizing the Catholics from Kerala. The Capuchin fathers continued their ministry among the Kerala Catholics for many more years. After Fr. Urban the other capuchin fathers who served the Kerala Catholics are Fr. Maximos, Fr. Gerald, Fr. Mathew, Fr. Thomas, Fr. Gilbert, Fr. Abraham, Fr. Jose Kollannoor and Fr. Paul Mathew. At the request of the Archbishop of Bombay the Syro-Malabar Bishop’s Conference sent four priests for the pastoral care activities to Mumbai on 21st August 1976. They were Fr. Primus Alapat Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI), Fr. Joseph Pulickan from the dioceses of Trichur, Fr. Joseph Nagaroor from the Archdiocese of Changanacherry, Fr. Sebastian Thuruthel from Missionary Society of St. Thomas (MST). Later the mother Syro-Malabar Church had entrusted this ministry to CMI fathers from Trichur province in 1984. CMI priests worked in this mission were Fr. Celsus Kanjirathingal, Fr. Pastor Joseph Neelanakavil, Fr. Paul Kadicheeni, Fr. James Orumpakatt, Fr. Peter Thomas Kandavanathil, Fr. Mani Kuzhikandathil, Fr. Job Vallipalam, Fr. L. F. Jose Padinjarepeedika, Fr. Sebastian Kallarackal, Fr. Mathew Panthiruvelil, Fr. Raphal Perincherry, Fr. Andrews Athapilly.

SMBC discussed about entrusting this mission in a stable manner as there were also discussions about an eventual creation of an eparchy. As many migrants were from Trichur district area Bishop Joseph Kundukulam volunteered to send priests from the diocese of Trichur and on the 14th May 1987 a team of four priests from the diocese of Trichur headed by Msgr. Paul Chittilapilly took up the ministry among the Syro-Malabar Catholics in Mumbai along with Fr. Jacob Porathur, Fr. George Vadakkethala and Fr. George Edakulathoor.

In the diocese of Poona, the Malayalee Catholics organized themselves into various Associations in those parishes where there were a good number of Catholics such as Kirkee, Dehu Road and Nashik. These people were attended to in their pastoral and spiritual needs by Fr. Eugene Mangooran CMI (1943-51), Fr. Theophilus Njaliyal CMI (1956-60), Fr. Eustace Thottan CMI (1972-1974) and other Carmelites (CMI) and Order of the Imitation of Christ (OIC) who have study houses in Ramwadi and the priests who came to do their studies in the Papal Athenaeum. The Pastoral ministry in Poona took a new orientation since 1983. ‘St. Thomas Catholics of India’ (STCI) was formed under the guidance of Rev. Fr. Gabinus Petta CMI. The memoranda sent by the association to the Bishop of Poona and SMBC and the discussions in CBCI at Trichinopoly and at Goregaon enabled Bishop Valerian D’Souza of Poona to ask the Syro-Malabar Hierarchy (SMBC) for priests for the pastoral care of Syro-Malabar Catholics in his diocese. At the request of Bishop Valerian, the SMBC entrusted the Missionary Society of St. Thomas to send sufficient number of priests for service in Poona region. As a result, in 1984, Rev. Frs. George Kavukatt and Lonappan Arangassery belonging to the society took charge as chaplains of Syro-Malabar Catholics in Poona, Nashik and Ahmednagar region. Later on, more members were added to the team to intensify the pastoral activities in different centres.

On 1st Feb. 1986 when Pope John Paul II addressed the Bishops of India in Delhi, he assured them of an earlier settlement of the problem and elicited the co-operation of all concerned. This was followed by the appointment of a high level Pontifical Commission. In order to solve the inter-rituals problems he appointed a Pontifical Commission under the Presidency of the Cardinal Secretary of State, including the Cardinal Prefects of the two Roman Congregations directly related to the matter, the apostolic Pro-Nuncio in India, Archbishops representing the three Rites in India, and others. This Commission met more than once in order to exchange, in an atmosphere of frank and fraternal dialogue, various viewpoints concerning issues which have been brought forward both in the various inter-ritual meetings that had taken place in India and in correspondence sent to the Holy See.

On the basis of this Commission’s report, Pope John Paul II wrote the famous letter to the Bishops of India on 28th May 1987. In this historical document the Holy Father said that the situation was mature enough for the establishment of a Syro-Malabar diocese in Mumbai-Poona region. As a follow up to his letter, the Pope created the diocese of Kalyan on 30 April 1988. Thus the establishment of the diocese and the appointment of the first Bishop came into effect from April 30, 1988. The new eparchy has its territory co-extensive with the territories of 5 Latin dioceses such as the Archdiocese of Bombay, the diocese of Vasai, Poona, Nashik and Sindhudurg. The Episcopal Ordination of Mar Paul Chittilapilly and the official inauguration of the eparchy took place on August 24, 1988 at the Don Bosco Grounds, Matunga, Bombay.

Immediately after the inauguration of the Eparchy, to cater to the spiritual needs of the faithful, priests were appointed who came from various dioceses of the mother Church as well as the religious congregations. The new eparchy tried to pave strong foundations for its pastoral development. Keeping the same territory of the Latin parishes, the Eparchy of Kalyan also tried to organize pastoral activities for the Syro-Malabar faithful with the help of the existing Latin Churches and dioceses. Some priests and seminarians ascribed to the new eparchy in the early years. For having sufficient personnel for the pastoral activities in the future, seminarians were accepted in some minor seminaries. Meantime, the eparchy is blessed with own priests and seminarians.

In order to make sure of the Christians presence and service in all 15 districts of the Eparchy, 10 of them were entrusted to MST, VC, MCBS and CMI religious congregations. On May 1st, 1990 Sangli, Kolhapur, Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri districts were given to M.S.T. Congregation. On 11th September 1991, Ahmednagar district was given to Vincentian congregation. On 4th October 1992, Satara and Solapur districts were given to M.C.B.S Congregation. On 2nd February 1993, Jalgaon, Dhule districts were given to C.M.I. priests. Many religious women came forward to start educational and other social charitable institutions and to assist in the pastoral work.

The faithful wholeheartedly accepted the new set up with lots of enthusiasm though there were a few incidents of initial troubles. The lay persons, who were thirsty for spiritual nourishments, accepted all the initial sufferings joyfully with a great hope of having the ultimate joy and reward.

After nine years of dedicated pioneering work in the newly born diocese, Bishop Paul Chittilapilly was transferred to the diocese of Thamarassery in Kerala on December 18, 1996 and took charge on February 13, 1997.

Mar Thomas Elavanal, the second bishop of Kalyan was consecrated on February 8, 1997 at Vikhroli, Mumbai. Under his leadership the Diocese is progressing to its heights with clarity of vision, keeping its spiritual and ecclesial identity together with its involvement in social and charitable activities. The eparchy, as it prepares to celebrate its silver Jubilee, thankfully remembers the efforts of all who contributed in pastoring it in right direction and for its structural developments especially in the construction of the numerous Churches and the integral development of the people of Maharashtra.

Majority of the Syro-Malabar faithful thank God for the existence of this eparchy and rejoice on its steady growth. Now the growth is not only with strong ecclesial identity in their spiritual life but also in solid unity in their social life. Witnessing Jesus in these mega cities of Maharashtra through their genuine and disciplined ecclesial living is a matter of pride as well as a joy.

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