Pope Francis on Friday acknowledged the appointment of a new bishop to Idukki diocese in southern India’s Kerala state belonging to the eastern rite Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. The Syro-Malabar Church Synod elected Fr. John Nellikunnel, the present Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy at Saint Joseph’s Pontifical Seminary, Mangalapuzha. Unlike in the Latin-rite Church where the Pope directly appoints bishops, the synods of eastern-rite Catholic churches have the autonomy of appointing their own bishops, to which the Pope gives his assent. Fr. Nellikunnel takes over from Bishop Mathew Anikuzhikattil, the first bishop of Idukki who has retired.
Born March 22, 1973, Fr. John Nellikunnel did his initial priestly studies first at the Saint Joseph’s Minor Seminary, Kothamangalam and then at St. Thomas Apostolic Seminary, Vadavathoor. He was ordained priest on December 30, 1998. He then exercised his priestly ministry in various parishes of his diocese. He was then sent to Rome for his highter studies and obtained a Licentiate and Doctorate in Philosophy at the Pontifical University of San Tommaso. On returning to his diocese he served as the Eparchial Chacellor, Secretary to the Bishop, Director of Catechesis and the Biblical Apostolate, Professor and then Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy at Saint Joseph’s Pontifical Seminary Mangalapuzha.