Pope Francis confirms election of head of Syro-Malabar Church

Pope Francis confirms election of head of Syro-Malabar Church Bishop Raphael Thattil

Pope Francis has granted his confirmation to the election of His Excellency Raphael Thattil, Bishop of Shamshabad, as Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly (India) and “Father and Head of this beloved Church sui iuris.”

A Church “sui iuris” (Latin – literally, “of its own law”) is “a community fo the Christian faith, which is joined together by a hierarchy according to the norm of law and which is expressly or tacitly recognized as sui iuris by the supreme authority of the Church (CCEO, 27)

Mar Raphael Thattil was chosen by the Synod of Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church, which had gathered at St. Thomas Mount in India for the election. Pope Francis subsequently granted his confirmation of the election in accordance with Canon 153 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (CCEO).

Churches sui iuris have their own liturgical and theological, spiritual, and disciplinary patrimony, culture, and history. Such Churches enjoy autonomy while remaining in union with, and under the supreme authority, of the Roman Pontiff, the Pope.

Prayers for the Syro-Malabar Church

In his letter responding to Mar Raphael’s request for confirmation of his election, Pope Francis writes, “Please know that I willingly grant the confirmation you have requested and express my fraternal good wishes in Jesus Christ, our Lord and God.”

The Holy Father goes on to encourage Mar Raphael to follow his predecessor’s example of “generous and fruitful pastoral ministry to the flock now entrusted to [his] care,” and “to remember the poor and those most in need.”

The Pope continues with the prayer that “the Holy Spirit foster the unity, fidelity, and mission of the Syro-Malabar Church, so that it may grow and flourish under [Mar Raphael’s] paternal guidance.”

Concurrently with the announcement of the papal confirmation of Mar Raphael’s election, the Vatican stated that Mar Bosco Puthur will continue as Apostolic Administrator of the Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly ad nutum Sanctae Sedis (at the discretion of the Holy See) until further provision is made.

Curriculum vitae of His Beatitude Raphael Thattil

His Beatitude Mar Raphael Thattil was born on 21 April 1956, in Trichur (Thrissur), India. After attending seminary in Vadavathoor, he obtained a Doctorate in Eastern Canon Law from the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome. He is fluent in Malayalam and English and knows Italian and German.

He was ordained a priest on 21 December 1980, and has held the following positions: Assistant Vicar in Aranattukara (1981); Prefect of the Minor Seminary (1982); Vice Chancellor of the eparchial Curia (1988); Vice Rector of the Minor Seminary (1991); Director of the Diocesan Biblical Catechetical Liturgical Centre (1992‑1995); Chancellor and eparchial judge (1995‑2000); first Rector of the Mary Matha Seminary (1998‑2007) – where he made a significant contribution to the growth of the Major Seminary; and Protosyncellus of the Archeparchy of Trichur (2007-2010).

Elected Auxiliary Bishop of Trichur by the Synod of Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church on 18 January 2010, he received episcopal ordination on 10 April 2010. On 23 December 2013, Pope Francis appointed him Apostolic Visitor for the faithful of the Syro-Malabar Church residing in India outside their proper territory.

On 10 October 2017, simultaneously with the erection of the new Eparchy of Shamshabad, he was appointed its first Bishop.

On 9 January 2024, he was elected Major Archbishop, and His Holiness Pope Francis confirmed the synodal election on the same day.

The article first appeared in a newsletter sent out by Vatican News