THEY came in their thousands to mark an historic day.
Old and young, men and women, boys and girls.
And they filled Preston North End’s Deepdale ground to witness the ordination of a new Indian Catholic (Syro-Malabar) Bishop.
Pope Francis has formally established a new Eparchy – similar to a diocese – for Indian Catholics in Preston, one of just three worldwide outside of India.
The new Eparchy will have St Ignatius as its Cathedral Church, which has now been dedicated to St Alphonsa.
Fr Joseph Srampickal was ordained and enthroned as bishop at a massive open air event at Deepdale yesterday attended by around 10,000 people.
Worshippers travelled from as far away as Australia for the event.
Some were smartly dressed, some wore jeans, others wore colourful saris, but they were all there to see Fr Srampickal installed as Bishop.
Among the attendees at the colourful hours-long ceremony was the Bishop of Lancaster, the Rt Rev Michael Campbell.
He has described the establishment of the new Eparchy as “a clear indication of the care of the Holy See for the thousands of Syro-Malabar Catholics who have settled in Great Britain”.
Also among the dignitaries attending were Fr Matthew Choorapoikayil, who has been priest for Syro-Malabars in Preston for the last seven years.
Cardinal George Alencherry, the Archbishop of the Syro Malabar Church was the main celebrant of the consecration.
The Mayor of Preston, Coun John Collins, was also on the podium.
Merlin Mathew, of Preston, was among the worshippers. She said: “This is a very special moment.
“It’s going to bring everything together under one church.
“It’s going to be good to have a cathedral in the city.”
Sabi Jacob from Keighley travelled to the event with his family.
He said: “It has been a great day. The attendance has been superb.
“It is a special occasion for us.”
The Vatican said earlier this year the Holy Father was happy to give the new diocese to Great Britain, after learning of the large number of Syro-Malabar faithful living in the UK. The other two dioceses of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church outside of India are in the United States (founded in 2011) and Australia (founded in 2014). The city centre St Ignatius Church was closed in November 2014 after suffering a dwindling congregation.
Regular attendees of the 180-year-old Grade II listed church were furious, with one lady even chaining herself to the railings outside in protest.
The former congregation was merged with the congregation at English Martyrs Church on Garstang Road.
But after standing empty for some months, St Ignatius was reopened for the local Syro-Malabar community.
On Saturday night, dignitaries and clergy attended the dedication of the new St Alphonsa Cathedral.
The new bishop, Joseph Srampickal is, from Poovarany in Kerala, India.
He was ordained a priest in 2000 and has worked in India and Rome.