Church group keeps the faith

Mar Joseph Srampickal
Mar Joseph Srampickal
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They rescued a doomed church in Preston and turned it into a cathedral for the whole of Britain.

A year on the Indian Syro-Malabar community celebrated its first anniversary based in the city with a special Mass this week.

And one of the most prized birthday messages to arrive at the former St Ignatius Church was one from the soon-to-retire Bishop of Lancaster saying simply: “We need you - we love you.”

The establishment of a nationwide Eparchy (Diocese) centred on the newly-named Cathedral of St Alphonsa is evidence that the Catholic Church is fighting back in one of its traditional strongholds.

In addition to the Syro-Malabar community, Italy-based Latin Mass group the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest has also saved two churches - St Walburge’s and English Martyrs - from the brink of closure, breathing new life into the Catholic faith in Preston.

Bishop Campbell, who has been instrumental in bringing both groups into the city to revitalise the Catholic faith, said in his anniversary message to the Syro-Malabar community: “The Church values your steadfast presence in these lands.

“The assistance so many of you give to local Latin-rite parishes, your work and unique contribution to the NHS and in nursing homes is especially precious to us.

“Because you have a deep and joyful faith, be proud of it, be united together and be missionaries here in Britain. We need you - we love you.

“As my time as Bishop of Lancaster draws to its close, I offer thanks, glory and praise to Almighty God for the care-filled work leading to the foundation of your own Eparchy.

“I am aware that already much work is going on at local level and more centrally. Soon will surely come more buildings of your own and the establishment of your own stable parishes.”

A year ago thousands of Syro-Malabar Catholics flocked to Preston from around the world to see the new Bishop of Great Britain, Mar Joseph Srampickal, ordained and enthroned in two services at the Cathedral and at the football stadium.

Bishop Srampickal told the Post after his ordination: “Congregations are good here, but we expect them to be even bigger.”

Centralising the national Syro-Malabar community in Preston was the idea of Pope Francis. Bishop Srampickal, an Oxford educated cleric, was hand-picked after serving in as vice-rector of a college in Rome.