BY PETER JENNINGS
THE ARCHBISHOP-elect of Westminster, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, was the principal celebrant at a Mass organised by the Midland Knanaya Catholic community, at the parish of the Sacred Heart and Holy Souls, Acocks Green, in Birmingham, last Saturday morning.
The four concelebrants at the Mass were Fr Sebastian Arikat, priest-incharge, Blessed Robert Grissold, Balsall Common and chaplain for SyroMalabar Catholics in the Archdiocese of Birmingham; Fr Saji Malayil Puthenpurayil, spiritual adviser for members of the United Kingdom Knanaya Catholic Association (UKKCA), who works in Manchester; Fr Saji Thottathil, based in the Hexham and Newcastle diocese; and Fr Dan Oryema, from Uganda, assistant priest at Holy Souls.
Parts of the Mass were either sung or said in the Malayalam language, including the Opening and Recessional hymns, Responsorial Psalm, the Second Reading, and the “Holy, Holy, Holy”.
Archbishop Nichols began his homily by welcoming Kerala (southwest India) Catholics from all over the Midlands and beyond and parishioners from Holy Souls parish, to the Mass on the Feast of St Mark.
The Archbishop of Birmingham said: “In Kerala there are three Catholic jurisdictions and today I welcome, in a special way, all those who are part of the Archdiocese of Kottayam, the Knanaya community who today are celebrating their Easter get-together. “I welcome their priests, from Newcastle and Manchester and Fr Sebastian, too, who, in this archdiocese, leads our ministry with Catholics from Kerala.” The archbishop continued: “St Mark, whose feast we celebrate, was concerned to proclaim that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that in Him we have our salvation and fullness of life. This is our faith, too, no matter the language in which we speak of it, or the music with which we proclaim it.” Archbishop Nichols stressed: “Each of us has a particular identity which is real and defining, of which we are proud and which we rightly protect. Yet in Christ there is a deeper truth about it, for He is one with us in our distinctiveness and also draws us, in Himself, to a greater unity.
“So we rejoice in our particular cultures, customs and identities and, at the same time, celebrate our deeper unity. This unity enables us, with truth and sincerity, to recognise and embrace each other, at the deepest level, as brothers and sisters.” Archbishop Nichols concluded: “Today we pray for this profound unity between us all in the Body of Christ, the Church. We pray for a missionary spirit so that we can nurture and share our faith, with neighbours and with next generations. And may the Lord always work with us to strengthen us with his grace. Amen.” After Mass Archbishop Nichols was taken in procession to the nearby school hall for the Midlands Knanaya Catholic get-together. He was sprinkled with rice and petals in the traditional manner by the Knanaya women. As he arrived the men chanted their traditional welcome.
The Archbishop-elect of Westminster was given flowers and warmly welcomed by Cyril Chacko Padapurackal, president of the United Kingdom Knanaya Catholic Association.
Archbishop Nichols gave a short address and then took part in the lighting of the lamp ceremony to launch a vibrant inaugural Midland Kananaya Catholic’s Easter get-together, full of colour, music and dance.
It was a truly memorable occasion for the Knanaya Catholic Community from Birmingham, Coventry, Kettering, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Worcestershire.
Also it was the second-to-last parish engagement that Archbishop Vincent will undertake as Archbishop of Birmingham. The last, before his installation as Archbishop of Westminster, will be Confirmations at the parish of St Bernadette, Brownhills, near Walsall, on Tuesday May 5.