Syro-Malabar Church, Eparchy of Great Britain

Pastoral Care of Syro-Malabar Migrants in the Diocese of Shrewsbury


Human Migration is the movement of people from one place to another and it is the permanent or semi-permanent relocation of people from one place to another. Migrations have occurred throughout the past domestically and internationally, and have affected economic structures, population densities, culture, and politics. Migration occurs in a variety of ways: between continents, within a continent, within the country and within a province or state of a nation.  The nature of these migrations differed according to situations and compelling factors. The migrations are, therefore, categorized as (1) internal, i.e. moving to a new home within a state, and (2) external migration i.e. moving to a new home in a different state. Emigration is leaving one country to move to another country with a view to better job opportunities and immigration is moving to a new country with a view to settle there.

During the British colonial period many people from India immigrated to Sri Lanka especially from neighbouring Kerala and Tamilnadu.  In 1947, when India became independent, there was large scale immigration to Britain from Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka which were British colonies till then.  South Asian migrants to the UK after 1947 come from different countries and for different reasons such as to escape civil war, to seek better economic opportunities or to join family members already settled in the UK. In spite of racial discrimination in Britain, these migrants settled in the UK, and through their organized struggles for workers’ rights and civil rights many contributed to the political, economic and social life of the UK. When the Commonwealth Immigrants Act was passed in 1962, it restricted the free movement of workers from the Commonwealth and so most workers from South Asia decided to settle in the UK and they were eventually joined by their families.

Kerala is one of the leading Indian states for the training and ‘export’ of nurses for the international market and Kerala is distinct from many other states in India because it has a long tradition of female education, nurse training and migration rooted in the state’s history of Christianity. Since the 1970s most Christian women from Kerala were trained as nurses to migrate to the GCC[1] and OECD[2] nations. Although the migrations of people to the UK from Punjab region of India may be traced to 1857 to fill personnel in the army, agriculture, manufacturing and textile sectors, the migrations from Kerala especially from the Syro-Malabar Church started when the UK government facilitated the recruitment of health care professionals from India since 2000. Since then the faithful from Syro-Malabar Church, which is one of the most vibrant churches in the world, depended on visiting priests from Kerala and supplying priests from Rome and other European centres of Ecclesiastical studies for spiritual needs and liturgy in their own Rite and language.

The Syro-Malabar Church has always been keenly interested in the pastoral care of her faithful all over the world wherever the local bishops were willing to make provisions for the pastoral care of the migrants especially from other ecclesial traditions. There were no dearth for structures and documents in this regard. There was the Pontifical Council for Migrants (Pontificio consiglio della Pastorale per i Migranti e gli Itineranti) as well as the Congregation for the Oriental Catholic Churches to deal with the pastoral care of Oriental Catholics.

In 1952, Pope Pius XII, promulgated the Ap. Constitution Exsul Familia followed by the decrees of the Second Vatican Council. In 1969, the post-conciliar Instruction De pastoral imigratorum cura followed by Motu proprio Pastoralis migratorum cura of Paul VI were issued. On 1 May 2004, Pope St John Paul II approved the Erga migrantes caritas Christi (EMCC) published by the Pontifical Council. The basis for pastoral care of the migrants is the recognition of the migrant faithful and their right to receive pastoral care and spiritual help from  the Church, specially the word of God and the sacraments (CIC can.213, CCEO can. 16; EMCC art 1§1). The pastors concerned have to adapt to the situation of the migrants, Latin as well as Oriental (cfr. EMCC 52; CCEO can. 28; LG 23). It is also important to recognize the equal dignity of all Christian faithful. This will add to the unity and universality of the Catholic Church.

Syro-Malabar Chaplaincy in the diocese of Shrewsbury is one of the pioneer chaplaincies in the UK. The whole credit goes to the generosity and openness of the Bishop of Shrewsbury Brian M Noble to the Vatican II Constitution Lumen Gentium, Council Decrees Orientalium Ecclesiarum, Unitatis Redintegratio, both the Canon Law Codes CIC 1983 and CCEO 1993, and the Post Conciliar documents Orientale Lumen (2 May 1995), Ut Unum Sint (25 May 1995) and in particular Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi (2004) which give sufficient guidelines for the pastoral care emigrants and immigrants from Eastern Ecclesial traditions. 

Fr Sajimon Malayilputhenpurayil sent by the Archbishop of Kottayam to serve in the diocese of Shrewsbury, UK in 2005 was appointed chaplain to the Syro-Malabar faithful in the diocese by Bishop Most Rev. Brian M. Noble. Although Fr Sajimon was assistant parish priest at St Antony’s Church and hospital chaplain in Wythenshawe, he did his best to organise the communities in various places in the diocese and attended to the pastoral needs of the people.

On December 8, 2014, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Rev. Dr Lonappan Arangassery, who was sent by the Major Archbishop of Syro-Malabar Church, was appointed Chaplain to Syro-Malabar Catholics by Bishop Most Rev. Mark Davies of Shrewsbury. Fr Lonappan Arangassery arrived in the diocese on 6th January, 2015. Residing at St Joseph’s Presbytery, 10 Willow Bank Road, CH42 7JY, he began his pastoral ministry in full enthusiasm.    

At present there are eight centres where Syro-Malabar Qurbana is celebrated regularly. They are:

  1. St Thomas Syro-Malabar Centre, St Antony’s Church, Wyhthenshawe.
  2. St Alphonsa Syro-Malabar Centre, St Peters Church, Stockport
  3. St Alphonsa Syro-Malabar Centre, St Joseph’s Church, Upton
  4. St Alphonsa Syro-Malabar Church, St Joseph’s Church, Ch42 7JU
  5. St Patrick’s Syro-Malabar Centre, Shrewsbury-Telford.
  6. Immaculate Conception Syro-Malabar Centre, Crewe
  7. St Alban’s Syro-Malabar Centre, Macclesfield
  8. St Wilfred’s Syro-Malabar Centre, Northwich
  9. St Syro-Malabar Centre, Ellesmere Port-Chester.

Sunday Catechism classes are organised quite seriously and systematically in centres where there are children with a view to bring up the children in the faith handed down to us by our forefathers.  At present there 5 centres where catechism is organised either Sundays or Saturdays. One of the major common celebrations of the Syro-Malabar Community in the diocese of Shrewsbury is the Feast of St Thomas and St Alphonsa which is celebrated with great solemnity on the 1st Saturday in the month of July every Year at St Antony’s Church, Wythenshawe. Retreats, seminars for children and adults are organised periodically.  In the month of October Rosary  


[1] Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is a regional intergovernmental political and economic union consisting of all Arab states of the Persian Gulf, except for Iraq. Its member states are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

[2] The OECD's origins date back to 1960, when 18 European countries plus the United States and Canada joined forces to create an organization dedicated to economic development.