Mar Joseph Powathil, Archbishop Emeritus of Changanassery Archdiocese, called to Eternal rest at 93

Mar Joseph Powathil, Archbishop Emeritus of Changanassery Archdiocese, called to Eternal rest at 93

Kerala—Mar Joseph Powathil, Archbishop Emeritus of Changanassery Archdiocese, was called to Eternal rest at the age of 93. He passed away today at 1.25 p.m. IST.

Mar Powathil had served as CBCI President; Chairman - KCBC; Founder-Chairman, Inter-Church Council; Chairman - CBCI Education Commission, and member of Asian Post Synodal Commission.

The Archbishop, who had been suffering from age-related health issues, was taking rest at the Changanassery archdiocese headquarters. He had received medical treatment at the intensive care unit of Chettipuzha Hospital in Changanassery.

P.J. Joseph (Pappachan) was born on August 14, 1930, in Kurumbanadam Pouvvam, Changanassery, to the John Powathil and Marykutty Joseph couple. He completed his schooling at Holy Family L.P. School and St. Peter’s U.P. School Kurumpanadom. He completed his High School Education in St. Berchmans’ High School Changanassery. He had his higher studies in S.B. College Changanassery and Loyola College, Madras, from where he took his M.A. Degree in Economics.

He did his seminary studies in St. Thomas Petit Seminary, Parel and Papal Seminary Pune.

After Ordination on 3rd October 1962 at Pune he was appointed lecturer in Economics and Warden of St. Joseph’s Hostel, St. Berchmans’ College, Changanassery. He was in the campus ministry for one decade (1962 – 1972). During this period he had the advantage of taking a one-year course in Developmental Economics at the prestigious Oxford University. That was in 1969.

He took keen interest also in the study of the ancient patrimony of the Syro-Malabar Church and for its restoration in accordance with the directives of Vatican II. He served as member of the Central Liturgy Committee of the Church. He was actively involved in the various apostolate of the Archdiocese and was secretary of the Pastoral council for a short period.

On 29 January, 1972 he was nominated Auxiliary Bishop of Changanassery and was ordained bishop by Pope Paul VI on 13th February-1972 in Rome. During the five years of his service as Auxiliary bishop and Vicar General (ex officio) he introduced many reforms in the Archdiocese in close collaboration with the Archbishop Mar Antony Padiyara.

Realizing the importance of youth apostolate he took the initiative in establishing a Diocesan youth movement called “Yuvadeepti”. In course of time it spread to all the Dioceses in Kerala leading to the formation of Kerala Catholic Youth Movement (KCYM). He was at the forefront in the struggle for educational freedom. He helped the Archbishop in establishing several institution for the under privileged such as homes for the mentally retarded and the physically handicapped. During the next 9 years he was entrusted with the task of nurturing the new born diocese of Kanjirapally to which he was appointed bishop on 26 February, 1977 and assumed charge on May 12th 1977.

Bishop Powathil was appointed Archbishop of Changanacherry on 5th November, 1985 and he assumed charge on January 17 the next year. True to his motto, the ministry of Mar Joseph Powathil as bishop and Archbishop has been one of dedication and commitment to ‘Truth and Charity’. From 1992 to 2007, he was a permanent member of the Syro-Malabar Church Synod.

The resignation of Mar Joseph Powathil from office as the Metropolitan Archbishop of Changanacherry submitted to the Major Archbishop on reaching 75 years of age became effective on 19 March 2007 when Mar Joseph Perumthottam was enthroned as the new Metropolitan Archbishop of Changanacherry.

The Ruby Jubilee of his Consecration was celebrated in 2012, and Navati in 2020.

Mar Powathil’s ministry transcends the bounds of the Archdiocese and the people entrusted to his care.

His concern for the poor, the underprivileged and the marginalized was such that he initiated a number of schemes for their development. The Malanad Development Society in Kanjirapally diocese and the various projects of the Changanassery Social Service Society (CHASS) bear ample testimony to this. Worthy of special mention also are the foundation of Saint Alphonsa Sneha Nivas for street children and Saint Alphonsa Centre for the terminally ill. Mar Powathil’s pastoral outlook is broad and encompasses the non-Catholics and even the non-Christians.

He is well known in the Ecumenical Movement (Inter-Church Council, Nilackal Ecumenical Trust) and the Church’s fellowship with followers of other religions (Religious Fellowship Foundation). New centres/parishes have been established in the extended territory (Home Mission) viz., at Chengannoor, Mavelikara, Adoor, Kollam, Niranam, Pathanapuram, Kottarakara and Karavaloor. The source of Mar Joseph Powathil’s sense of mission and dedication is undoubtedly his commitment to Truth and Charity, enriched by his solid faith and life in the Spirit.

Pope Benedict XVI described Late Mar Joseph Powathil as the ‘crown of the Syro-Malabar Church’.

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