Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Sagar
|Diocese of Sagar
सागर के सूबा
|Area||39,020 km2 (15,070 sq mi)|
|(as of 2010)
|Cathedral||St Raphael’s Cathedral in Sagar Cantonment|
|Patron saint||St Thérèse of Lisieux|
|Major Archbishop||George Alencherry|
|Metropolitan Archbishop||Leo Cornelio|
|Emeritus Bishops||Joseph Pastor Neelankavil Bishop Emeritus (1987-2006)|
|Website of the Diocese|
The Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Sagar is a Catholic diocese in India, under the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. It was created by the Papal Bull "Divina Verba" of Pope Paul VI, and Mar Clemens Thottunkal was appointed its first bishop.
With the retirement of the diocese's first bishop, Mar Joseph Pastor Neelankavil was appointed the second Bishop of Sagar. After his retirement in the year 2006, Bishop Anthony Chirayath is the Bishop of the diocese.
History of Sagar Diocese
The diocese of Sagar was erected as an Apostolic Exarchate by the bull ‘Quo Aptius’ dated July 29, 1968, cutting out from the Archdiocese of Bhopal the civil districts of Sagar, Raisen and Vidisha. Again at the request of the Bishop of Ajmer-Jaipur, the district of Guna was added to the Exarchate of Sagar by the decree of ‘De Bono Animarum’ on 2 April 1973. The civil district of Guna was further bifurcated on August 15, 2003 to form the district of Ashoknagar. At present, diocese of Sagar consists of five civil districts in Madhya Pradesh, namely Sagar, Raisen, Vidisha, Guna and Ashoknagar. The Holy See by its decree ‘Divina Verba’ on 26 February 1977 raised the Apostolic Exacrchate to the Status of a proper diocese. The diocese covers an area about 40,000 km2. Bp. Clemens Thottungal CMI was the first bishop of the diocese. Bp. Joseph Pastor Neelankavil CMI succeeded him as second bishop of the diocese. After his retirement in the year 2006, Bishop Anthony Chirayath is the Bishop of the diocese. The area is rather under developed due to various social, economic and cultural reasons. 85% of the people are farmers or farm-workers. The labour is not well organised, and consequently a lot of exploitation prevails. 80% of the people are Hindus belonging to various castes and the rest are Muslims, Jains, Sikhs, Adivasis and a very small minority of Christians. Out of the total population of 6 million peoples, the Christians are only 12,000 of which 7,000 are Catholics. The various Socio-Pastoral, Medical and Educational apostolates of the Church are being carried out in the diocese under the Sagar Diocesan Service Society (SDSS), which is registered under M.P. Government Firms and Societies Registration Act. For better coordination and management, the social work apostolate of the diocese is being carried out by Manav Vikas Seva Sangh (MVSS). There are also St. Francis Society (SFS) and Pushpa Service Society (PSS). All of these societies are registered under M.P. Government Firms and Societies Registration Act. The diocese has 15 parishes and about 55 mission centres. Through various pastoral activities, the missionaries take care of the spiritual needs of the Catholics and other Gospel proclaiming programmes. There are many developmental programmes by which the poor farmers and poverty stricken people are helped. Missionaries in Sagar have always tried to venture into new areas of apostolate according to the need.
Bishop Anthony Chirayath
Bishop Anthony Chirayath was born on July 30, 1941 at Aranattukara in the Archdiocese of Trichur. His parents were Mathew and Anna. He was the fifth of six children. On August 5, 1941 he was baptised at St. Mary’s Church, Aranattukara. As a young boy he was active in the parish activities. He was an altar server, member of the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. He did his primary and secondary schooling at Tharakan’s High School, Aranattukara. On July 8, 1951 he received the Sacrament of Confirmation from Bishop George Alappat of Trichur at St. Mary’s Monastery chapel, Elthuruth. In 1958 he completed his high school from St. Aloysius High School, Elthuruth. The next two years were spent in St. Augustine's Minor Seminary, Jabalpur. In 1961 he passed Intermediate Exams from Jabalpur University. In 1964 he graduated with first rank in political science from Nagpur University. It was at St. Charles Seminary, Nagpur that he did his philosophy and theology studies. In 1969 he represented the seminary at the Post-Conciliar Assembly held in Bangalore in 1969. On January 2, 1970 he was ordained priest for Sagar Diocese, together with his brother Fr. Jose Chirayath, CMI at Devmatha Provincial House Chapel at Trichur by Bishop George Alappat. In the same year he obtained B.Th. The next two years he was active in Sagar as Secretary of Bishop Clemens Thottungal, CMI, Chancellor of the Diocese, Parish Priest of the Cathedral, Sagar University Chaplain and Diocesan Director of Social Services. In 1972, he was selected to serve in the Roman Curia. From 1972 he was an Official of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. In 1978 he was given the title of Papal Chamberlain. In 1994 he was made a Prelate of Honour. In 2003 Pope John Paul II elevated him as Office Head. In the same year he was honoured with the title of Apostolic Proto-notary. On February 2, 2006 Pope Benedict XVI elected him third Bishop of Sagar. On March 25, 2006 he was ordained Bishop by Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil, Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church. Archbishop Jacob Thoomkuzhy of Trichur and Bishop Joseph Pastor Neelankavil, CMI, Bishop Emeritus of Sagar, were co-consecrators. Bishop Chirayath speaks several Indian and European languages. He has travelled widely representing his Office and the Holy See at several international and national meetings.