Pope Francis on Friday made an appointment in the eastern-rite Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, headquartered in southern India’s Kerala state.
He has appointed Bishop Jacob Manathodath of Palghat (Syro-Malabar) as Apostolic Administrator “Sede Plena” of the Metropolitan Archeparchy (archdiocese) of Ernakulam-Angamaly.
Normally, the Pope appoints an apostolic administrator when a see is vacant (sede vacante), but a “sede plena” appointment is done in a special case where the see is not vacant, i.e. the diocesan bishop is still in place.
Hence, Cardinal George Allencherry continues to be the Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly as well as the head of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church.
According to Canon 234 - §1 of the 1990 Code of Canons of Oriental Churches, “the governance of an eparchy, whether occupied or vacant, is sometimes entrusted by the Roman Pontiff to an apostolic administrator due to serious and special reasons.”
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), the apex body of the Catholic Church in India, comprises the Latin and two eastern rites – the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Churches that claim their origin from St. Thomas the Apostle.
Of the country’s 180 dioceses, 132 belong to the Latin rite. Syro-Malabar Church has 34 dioceses, while the Syro-Malankara has 14.