03 December 2012
Hundreds of members of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church turned out in a colourful display to greet the Church's Major Archbishop Cardinal George Alencherry when he visited Canberra.
After he presided over Holy Qurbana (Mass) at St Christopher’s Cathedral, he went on to Melbourne and other centres as part of an Australian tour.
Earlier he presided at St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, and addressed the Australian Catholic bishops at their November meeting.
Cardinal Alencherry received a traditional welcome with an Aboriginal smoking ceremony on his arrival in procession at St Christopher's. He was accompanied by Archdiocesan Administrator Mgr John Woods, counsellor at the Apostolic Nunciature Mgr Luis-Miguel Munoz Carbara and Cathedral administrator Fr Francis Kolencherry who was appointed by the Australian bishops as a national coordinator to manage the pastoral needs of Syro-Malabar communities.
To loud applause from the congregation, Mgr Woods said in the Year of Grace, Cardinal Alencherry was welcomed "as a grace" to the Archdiocese. "While we are separated by seas, we are united as one in Christ," he said.
Cardinal Alencherry said he gave thanks for the blessings God had showered on the Archdiocese as it celebrated its 150th anniversary.
There are about 32,000 Syro-Malabar Catholics in 18 active communities across Australia. There have been initiatives in most cities and towns to celebrate Syro-Malabar liturgies under the direction of bi-ritual priests working for Latin Rite dioceses of Australia. The Syro-Malabar Church is the second largest of the 22 Oriental (Eastern Rite) Catholic Churches in full communion with the Church in Rome (Latin Rite).
Syro-Malabar Catholics, also called "St Thomas Christians", trace their origins and faith to the missionary efforts of St Thomas the Apostle, who landed at Kodungallur in Kerala, India, in 52 AD.