(MELBOURNE, ACBC) Hundreds of people gathered on May 31 in Melbourne to celebrate the ordination of Bishop John Panamthottathil, CMI, as the second shepherd of the Syro-Malabar Eparchy of St Thomas the Apostle in Melbourne.
The Eparchy covers all of Australia, as well as New Zealand and the countries of Oceania.
Bishops from India, Europe and the United States, as well as 20 members of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, were among those who attended the ordination and installation ceremony.
Cardinal George Alencherry, the Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, served as Bishop Panamthottathil’s principal consecrator. Bishop Bosco Puthur, the first Syro-Malabar Bishop in Australia, and Bishop Remigius Inchananiyil of Thamarasserry, India, were the co-consecrators.
“The Eparchy of Melbourne is getting today a new pastor in the person of Msgr John Panamthottathil,” Cardinal Alencherry said, noting that the new bishop’s May 31 birthday coincided with his “birth as a bishop”.
Cardinal Alencherry said that the role of a bishop is “to create unity and peace in the Christian community by preaching the Word of God”, and by teaching.
“At the present time of the Church,” he said, a bishop has to function “keeping in mind the principle of synodality for communion, participation and mission”.
“May the Lord grant Msgr John Panamthottathil all the graces needed to exercise this important office in the Church.”
Cardinal Alencherry thanked the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference for advocating for the establishment of the Syro-Malabar Eparchy almost a decade ago, and for their ongoing assistance.
“The presence of a good number of bishops here from the ACBC for this liturgical celebration manifests the continued support and collegiality” of the Australian bishops for the eparchy, he said.
Bishop Panamthottathil now joins those bishops as a member of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.
Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, who invited Bishop Panamthottathil to serve in the Archdiocese of Brisbane from 2015 to 2020, preached the homily.
“Trying to chart a course for the Syro-Malabar Church in a culture so very different from anything in India has its own dangers and difficulties,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
“Failing to engage local culture in an effort to preserve Syro-Malabar identity is one danger; losing the distinctiveness of Syro-Malabar identity in an effort to engage local culture is another.
“The Syro-Malabar bishop in the Antipodes has to tread a wise and sensitive middle path, and that can be difficult.”
Bishop Panamthottathil said that he will address that and other tasks in his ministry with the help of God.
At the conclusion of the celebration, Bishop Panamthottathil joined Cardinal Alencherry, Bishops Conference president Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB and members of the Syro-Malabar community, in paying tribute to Bishop Puthur, who led the Eparchy since 2014.