The Syro-Malabar Catholic community in New Zealand was thrilled to be visited last month by Cardinal Mar George Alencherry, the major archbishop of their church.

The church is an Eastern Catholic Major Archiepiscopal Church based in Kerala, India. It is a sui iuris particular church in full communion with the Pope and the worldwide Catholic Church.

There are about 4500 Syro-Malabar Catholics in New Zealand and about 10 priests of that rite are ministering in this country, often in Latin rite parishes.

Ellerslie parish priest Fr Joy Thottamkara, CSsR, told NZ Catholic, that the visit of Cardinal Alencherry was the first time a major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church had visited New Zealand.

The cardinal visited Auckland, Hamilton and Christchurch. He was accompanied by Bishop Bosco Puthur from Australia. On September 24, at the Malaeola Centre in Mangere, 25 Sunday school students received their first Holy Communion and the sacrament of Confirmation from Cardinal Alencherry.

“For the community, it was a time of joy and an occasion to rejuvenate the energies of those engaged in spiritual activities,” Fr Thottamkara said.

The cardinal instructed the children that “the call of our life is to become [a] saint”, quoting the words of St Therese of Lisieux and the Syro Malabar saint St Alphonsa.

A key message given by Cardinal Alencherry during his pastoral visit was that “the Church by its very nature is missionary” and the faithful are missionaries.

Fr Thottamkara said the cardinal’s “fervent appeal to all the faithful” is to strive hard to proclaim the faith as well as to engage in missionary efforts, depending on one’s time, talents and vocation.

St Thomas the Apostle, the father of the SyroMalabar faith was also quoted: “We shall also go and die with him”, expressing missionary zeal.

Fr Thottamkara said Cardinal Alencherry gained a positive impression of New Zealand during his visit.

The cardinal noted that New Zealand is one of the most socially progressive and peaceful nations in the world.

“He paid his tribute to all bishops in this country, the priests, and the laity of the dioceses, for their unending support and care.”

Cardinal Alencherry was made a cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012.

He is a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and of the Congregation for the Oriental Catholic Churches.

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