Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Verapoly

Archdiocese of Verapoly
Archidioecesis Verapolitana
Country India
Ecclesiastical province Verapoly
Area 1,500 km2 (580 sq mi)
- Total
- Catholics
(as of 2010)
315,767 (9.9%)
Sui iuris church Latin Church
Rite Roman Rite
Cathedral St Francis of Assisi Cathedral in Ernakulam
Patron saint Saint Joseph
Current leadership
Pope Francis
Metropolitan Archbishop Francis Kallarakal
Vicar General Joseph Padiyaramparambil
Website of the Archdiocese

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Verapoly (Verapolitana) is a Roman Catholic archdiocese belonging to the Latin rite, headquartred at Ernakulam district of the south Indian state of Kerala.[1] The archdiocese has administrative control over the suffragan dioceses viz. Calicut, Cochin, Kannur, Kottapuram and Vijayapuram. The headquarters is located in Kochi along the Malabar Coast in India. It was originally formed as the Vicariate of Malabar in 1657 and became a metropolitan see in 1886.[2] Verapoly is now officially named Varapuzha.


The Archdiocese of Verapoly was originally known as the Vicariate of Malabar. It 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.[3] 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 15 December 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.

The conquest of Portuguese territories in Malabar and especially of Cochin in 1663 by the Dutch[4] 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 1 September 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. However, a large percentage of the lay people in Archdiocese of Verapoly identifies themselves as the descendants of the St. Thomas Christians who were latinized by the European missionaries.

Succession of Vicars Apostolic of Verapoly and Archbishops of Verapoly

Affiliated Bishops, living

Suffragan dioceses

See also


  1. "Short History of Verapoly Diocese". Ucan India. 2016. Retrieved July 12, 2016.
  2. "Archdiocese of Verapoly". Catholic Online. 2016. Retrieved July 12, 2016.
  3. L. M. Pylee, "The Latin Rite in Kerala" in George Menachery Ed., The St.Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, Vol.2,Trichur, 1973, pp.58 - 61; Matthew Vattakuzhy, "The Three Rites in Malabar" in George Menachery, Ed., Thomapedia, Ollur, 2000 pp.52-58.
  4. T. I. Punnen, "Christians in Malabar in Dutch Times" p.43 and "The Dutch Period" p.44 in George menachery, Ed. The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, Trichur, 1973
  5. "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Verapoly". Retrieved 16 January 2015.
  6. "RINUNCE E NOMINE". Retrieved 16 January 2015.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Archdiocese of Verapoly". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton. 

Coordinates: 9°59′02″N 76°16′30″E / 9.9838°N 76.2751°E / 9.9838; 76.2751

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