TURIN – Youngest of 10 bishops from India participating at the five-day meeting of Salesian Bishops from around the world says, “I am inspired, edified and encouraged mingling with eminent Church leaders and outstanding pastors.”
Bishop George Palliparambil from India consecrated in 2006, is 56 years old and is the first bishop of Miao in Eastern Arunachal. He is among 93 out of 119 Salesian bishops gathered in Turin to celebrate 125th anniversary of the consecration of the first Salesian bishop Giovanni Cagliero in December 1884.
They are meeting with Salesian Rector Major Father Pascual Chávez Villanueva, and members of his Council in Turin, 21-25 May discussing the topic “Salesian Charism and the Episcopal Ministry.”
Salesians Send Support Letter to Pope Benedict XVI
On Pentecost Sunday, 23 May, the bishops went to Don Bosco’s native village Becchi near Turin, where the Vatican Secretary of State Salesian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone declared the magnificent Don Bosco Church on the hilltop a Minor Basilica in view of Don Bosco’s upcoming birth bicentenary in 2015.
During the Solemn Pentecost Eucharist the Rector Major read out a letter expressing “the love, loyalty and solidarity of the sons of Don Bosco to his Holiness Pope Benedict XVI,” and handed it over to Cardinal Bertone to be given to the Pope personally.
“It was a very touching moment charged with a lot of affection, emotion and nostalgia,” said Bishop George recalling the three devotions Don Bosco insisted with his first Salesian Bishop, namely devotion to the Holy Eucharist, Mary Help of Christians and the Holy Father.
Bishop George added, “It was this Salesian tradition that motivated the Rector Major not to allow this important occasion to slip by without pledging support and unflinching fidelity to the Holy Father in these times of crisis. All the cardinals, archbishops, bishops and Major Superiors signed the letter.
Wonderful Interaction with Church Leaders
“It was wonderful to be interacting with old and retired Bishops, with great men like Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong and Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa and President of Caritas Internationalis and others.,” said Bishop George who was convinced of the unique role of religious in the missions.
He continued, “for us in northeast India and Arunachal in particular, it is not anything new but the need to continue working side by side with the religious and diocesan clergy is a must.”
“The personal testimonies of pastoral leadership of bishops from persecuted and trying situations like Cardinal Zen was very impressive,” said Bishop George who was a pioneer missionary for two decades under trying conditions of the obnoxious Freedom of Religion Bill in Arunachal.
Salesian Bishops in India
In the last 104 years 22 Salesian Bishops served the Indian church hierarchy. Eight of them were archbishops. Archbishop Eugene Mederlet of Madras was the first Salesian bishop in India (1928-1934) while Bishop Paul Mariaselvam of Vellore (1953-54) was the first Indian Salesian to become a bishop. The first five of them were missionaries from abroad while the remaining 17 are native sons of the Church.
Currently there are 10 Salesian bishops in India– five in northeast India, three in Tamil Nadu and two in West Bengal. Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil of Guwahati, Archbishop Dominic Jala of Shillong, retired Bishop Robert Kerketta of Tezpur, Bishop Joseph Aind of Dibrugarh and Bishop George Paliparambil of Miao serve northeast India.
While Archbishop Lucas Sirkar Kolkata and Bishop Joseph Gomes of Krishnagar serve the Church in West Bengal, Archbishop Mylappan Chinnappa of Madras-Mylapore, Bishop Periyanayagam Soundaraj of Vellore and Bishop Joseph Antony of Dharmapuri serve Tamil Nadu Church.
Today, there are about 2,500 Salesians spread out in 10 provinces in India.
Salesian Bishop in the World
In 125 years of the first Salesian to be made a bishop there have been 243 Salesian Bishops starting from Pope Leo XIII who appointed and consecrated 3 Salesian Bishops to 3 under Pius X, 6 under Benedict XV, 24 under Pius XI, 35 under Pius XII, 14 under John XXIII, 30 under Paul VI (no one under John Paul I), 102 under John Paul II and 26 under Benedict XVI.