The Archdiocese of Verapoly lies in the civil district of Ernakulam of
Kerala State. Since 1904 it has its headquarters at Ernakulam in the
Corporation of Cochin. Within the corporation, the Archdiocese of
Verapoly and the Diocese of Cochin (both the Latin Rite) and the
Archdiocese of Ernakulam (of the Syrian Rite) have their headquarters.
The Corporation of Cochin, according to the statistics of 1988 has a
population of 513,000 of which about 220,000 are Catholics and 88% of
the Catholic population is of the Latin Rite more than half of the
Latins belonging to the Archidocese of Verapoly and the rest to the
Diocese of Cochin and Aleppey.
The Archdiocese of Verapoly was originally known as the Vicariate of
Malabar. It has its origins in 1657, with the arrival of Carmelite
Missionaries, most prominent among whom was Father Joseph of St. Mary,
better known as Joseph Sebastiani. They had been deputed under Father
Hyacinth as Apostolic Commissar, by Pope Alexander VII to effect
reconciliation of St. Thomas Christians of the Syro – Chaldaic Rite,
who had seceded from their Archbishop 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 illegally made
their Archdeacon the Archbishop by going through a farcica ceremony
.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 –
Chaldiaic Rite. For this purpose the Vicariate of Malabar was erected
by Pope Alexanded VII on the 3rd December, 1659. Sebastiani was
consecrated Titular Bishop of Hierapolis on December 15, 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 and the consequent explusion of all
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 Rite who were under Portuguese Protection.
On the 13th of March 1709, by a Brief of Pope Clement XI, the Malabar
Vicariate was suppressed and the Vicariate of Verapoly took its place
with Bishop Agnelos Francisco as its first Vicar Apostolic.
By the Brief “Multa Praeclara” of Pope Gregory XVI, dated April 24,
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
separated from Verapoly as a suffragan Vicariate.
When by the famous Apostolic Letter “Humanae Salutis Auctor” of Pope
Leo XIII, dated September 1, 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, ocd,
as its first Archbishop, who was the 17th in the line of Vicars
Along with this in 1886 the Diocese of Cochin was also resuscitated
and reconstituted with 34 Latin Churches taken from the Archdiocese of
Verapoly and the Diocese of Quilon.
On March 19, 1887, the Catholics of the Syrian Rite were separated
from those of the Latin Rite and placed under an Administrator, Dr.
Marcelino Bernard of St. Theresa, ocd, who was consecrated Coadjutor
to Archbishop Mellano. By the Brief “Quod Jam Pridem”, of Pope Leo
XIII, dated May 20, 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 Verapoly
Archdiocese came to consist exclusively of Latin Catholics.
Transfer of the Headquarters to Ernakulam
Before close of the XVIII century great changes had taken place in the
regions in and around Cochin. The industrial, social, economic and
educational developments made the island of Verapoly unsuitable for
the activities of modern life. The need was therefore felt for
shifting the headquarters of the Archdiocese of Verapoly to a more
suitable centre for the efficient and effective administration of the
During the last decades of the XIX century, Ernakulam became the heart
and center of the Latin Catholic population. At that time , in
Ernakulam the Latin Catholics numbered 3759 with two important
Churches, while the Syrian Catholic population was only 350 souls with
only one Church. In the areas lying within a radius of 10 km from the
centre of Ernakulam there lived more than 46 percent of the total
Archdiocesan population with 14 churches, having 28,340 parishioners,
while for the Syrian Catholic population at the time there were only
five Churches with 3,948 parishioners (Cf. Cath. Directory of India
1901). It was this state of affairs that prompted Archbishop Bernard
Auguinzon to transfer the headquarters to Ernakulam in 1904 with due
permission from Rome and be in the midst of his flock.
Even when the Syrian Vicariate of Ernakulam was raised to the status
of an Archdiocese in 1923, the Syrian Catholic population was only
610, with one Church, while the Latin Catholics numbered 14,683 with
four Churches within the Muncipal limits.
On July 14, 1930 by the Bull “AD Christi Nomen” of Pope Pius XI, the
new Diocese of Vijayapuram, was formed and dismembered from Verapoly
and its administration was 273 years. With this change, the
Archdiocese came under the administration of the Indian clergy, except
for the continuance of its head in the person of the Archbishop the
Most Rev. Dr. Angel Mary, ocd.
The Indianisation was completed when on 29th November 1932 the Most
Rev. Dr. Joseph Attipetty was nominated, Co-adjutor Archbishop to Dr.
Angel Mary, ocd. Dr. Joseph Attipetty assumed the reins of
administration on 21st December 1934 after the resignation of
Archbishop Angel Mary the last in the long line of European Prelates
to the Archdiocese.
On July 3, 1987 by the Bull “Quae aptius” the Archdiocese was again
bifurcated and the Diocese of Kottapuram was formed and Rt. Rev. Dr.
Francis Kallarakal who was appointed as its first Bishop took
possession of the Diocese on October 4, 1987.
His Holiness Pope John Paul II, during his visit to India celebrated
the Holy Eucharist in the Latin Rite at H.M.T. Grounds, Kalamassery,
Cochin and thereafter visited the Saint Francis Assisi Cathedral,
Ernakulam on February 7, 1986 and stayed one day in the Latin
Latin Archbishop's House,
P. B. No. 2581,
Cochin - 682 031,
Tel: +91 484 - 2372892, 2360988,
Fax: +91 484 - 2360911