The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church is one of the 23 Eastern (Oriental) Catholic Churches in full communion with Rome. It is the second largest Eastern Catholic Church after the Ukrainian Church and the largest of the Saint Thomas Christian denominations, with 5 million believers. The Syro-Malabar Church is an Apostolic Church which traces its origin to St Thomas, the Apostle, who landed at Cranganore, Kerala, India in 52AD and founded seven Christian communities. St Thomas was martyred in 72AD at Mylapore, near Chennai/Madras, India. The early Christian community in India was known as St Thomas Christians or Nazranikal, which means followers of Jesus of Nazarene. The word Syro-Malabar means Syrian Christians of the Malabar Coast (Kerala). However, today the Syro-Malabar Catholics live, work and contribute to communities across the globe, with 35 Eparchies (Dioceses), 4 of which are located overseas. The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church is very actively involved in educational and social development and healthcare provisions that affects the day to day lives of many, currently running 4860 educational institutions, 262 ecclesiastical and 2614 health and charitable institutions.
Syro-Malabar Church in the UK
The National Health Service had acute shortage of nurses during the early 2000s. This led to a wave of overseas recruitment programmes across the globe and the highly skilled, trained and dedicated nurses from Kerala were the best to match the demands of the NHS. Nurses were recruited to work in the local hospitals across the UK and Merseyside was no exception to this. The Catholic nurses who migrated to the UK joined the local parishes, as attending the Church regularly was a part and parcel of their spiritual life. The thirst to have the church celebrations in own mother tongue led to mass centres developing at various locations of the UK. The very small number of Syro-Malabar priests available in the UK at that time, travelled all over the UK to meet the demands of the faithful. The community grew in numbers and in spirituality and the church authorities in the UK and back home could not turn a blind eye to needs of the community. This led to the appointment of Syro-Malabar Chaplains for various dioceses of the country and later on the Catholic Syro-Malabar Eparchy of Great Britain. Currently it is estimated that there are more than 55,000 Syro-Malabar Catholics in the UK. Today, the members of the Syro-Malabar Church are actively involved in the local parishes and communities while still upholding their proud culture, heritage and rite.
Syro-Malabar Church in Liverpool
The Syro-Malabar faithful residing in the Archdiocese of Liverpool established 7 mass centres across the Archdiocese: Sacred Heart Church Liverpool, Holy Name Church Fazakerly, Sacred Heart Church Warrington, St Luke’s Church Whiston, Holy Cross Church St Helens, St Mary’s Church Wigan and St Mary’s Church Southport. Recognising the need, the Archbishop of Liverpool appointed a Chaplain to look after the spiritual needs of the members of the community. It had been the dream of the Syro-Malabar Community at Liverpool to establish as a parish and worship at a permanent place and to bring the members of the community who were scattered across Liverpool Archdiocese under one umbrella.
Under the leadership of Fr Jino Arikkatt, the former Syro-Malabar Chaplain at Liverpool and the first parish priest of Our Lady Queen of Peace Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Litherland, Liverpool and with the support of His Excellency Mar Joseph Srampickal, Bishop of the Catholic Syro-Malabar Diocese of Great Britain, the community has advanced considerably in their spiritual life. The community is indebted immensely to His Grace Most Reverend Malcolm McMahon, Archbishop of Liverpool for offering the community the much loved Our Lady Queen of Peace Church at Litherland and the facilities around it as a gift, to be used as a permanent place of worship. The community was overcome with joy at the news and at the prospects of celebrating Holy Mass in own Rite at this immaculate modern church. We are extremely grateful to Fr Mark Madden for welcoming us to this beautiful church and for being there for us no matter what time of the day it is. We have no words to express our gratitude to the parishioners at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church for the great sacrifice they have made for our community and we are delighted to work and worship together as one community.
The Syro Malabar Community is not just a faith group, but it is also an ethnic and cultural group and the members have showcased several events unique to the community at several occasions. The members of the Syro-Malabar community speak the ethnic language Malayalam and have various traditional art forms like the Margamkali which has been passed down generations over the centuries. The liturgy and worship of the community is very different from the rest of the Catholic Church and has been preserved for over generations. The community shows great enthusiasm and interest in preserving this cultural uniqueness while ensuring that the members integrate fully with the society where they live.