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Diocese honors Kerala migrants for keeping the faith

Christian settlers in Malabar established vibrant Church amid ’hostile’ conditions

Thamarassery diocese honors migrants at a gathering in Koodaranji Thamarassery diocese honors migrants at a gathering in Koodaranji
  • George Kommattathil, Koodaranji
  • India
  • January 19, 2011
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A diocese in Kerala has hailed the efforts of elderly Catholics for establishing Christianity in the state’s Malabar region after settling there over 60 years ago.

“They deserve our respect and admiration,” Bishop Remigious Inchananiyil of Thamarassery told a special reception the diocese organized on Jan. 17 to honor 25 Catholic settlers in Kerala’s northern region.

George Vettam, who documents the lives of the Christian migrants, says famine during World War Two forced several Christian families from central Kerala to migrate to Malabar in search of fertile land in the 1940s.

According to Bishop Inchananiyil, the early settlers found in Malabar a culture that differed greatly from the one they left in Christian-dominated central Kerala.

“They could have adopted the new culture, but stood firm in their faith and built a vibrant Church in Malabar,” the prelate said.

Thousands of people from the diocese’s 105 parishes attended the gathering in Koodaranji, a parish that’s celebrating its Silver Jubilee this year.

Mathew Kannezhath, one of the settlers, said they faced “hostility” by trusting in God. He settled in Malabar in 1943 at age 14.

“God walked in front of us and the priest followed us,” he told ucanews.com.

We had to walk 40 kilometers through thick forest to attend Sunday Mass at Jesuit’s Christ Hall in Kozhikode, the nearest Christian center, he recalled.

“Eventually, priests came to our village occasionally to offer Mass in thatched huts,” he said.

The settlers kept their faith alive through family prayers, he added.

The region now has roads, schools, churches and hospitals, built mostly by Christian settlers.

“We owe a lot to the priests who came with us for all these developments,” Kannezhath said.

Abraham Pattasseril, another settler, said the main initial challenges were wild animals and malaria.

“Animals often destroyed our homes and diseases killed many of us. But we lived and fought together,” he said.

Tags: Thamarassery diocese, honors migrants, Christian faith, Malabar region, elderly Catholics, Christian migrants, Christian center, Bishop Remigious Inchananiyil, Koodaranji.

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