India Now Has an International Pilgrimage Center

Vatican Declaration Officially Made for Shrine of Malayattoor

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KOCHI, India, FEB. 15, 2005 ( The Catholic shrine of Malayattoor, traditionally known as the place of retreat for Thomas the Apostle, is now officially an international pilgrimage center, the first in Asia.

The papal nuncio in India, Archbishop Pedro López Quintana, on Sunday read a statement of the Holy See confirming the designation for the shrine located in the state of Kerala. According to tradition, Jesus’ disciple took the Gospel to these lands and from his preaching was born the Syro-Malabar Church.

Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, Syro-Malabar major archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly, made the official announcement of the recognition last April. The shrine, which is under his jurisdiction, has been the object of pilgrimages since the fifth century.

The hilltop shrine is located in Malayattoor, where St. Thomas is believed to have spent many days in prayer. It is known as «Kurisumudi,» or the mountain of the cross.

A solemn procession to the foot of Kurisumudi and a concelebrated Mass led by Cardinal Vithayathil in the presence of the papal representative sealed the nuncio’s declaration, according to the Indian episcopate’s news service ICNS.

The Church has three categories of shrines: diocesan shrines approved by the local bishop, national shrines approved by the episcopal conference, and international shrines designated by the Holy See.

The Church in India considers it a great honor «that the Vatican has raised a shrine in the country to the status of an international pilgrimage center,» Auxiliary Bishop Sebastian Adayanthrath of Ernakulam-Angamaly told reporters.

John Paul II declared Malayattoor a national pilgrimage center in February 2004. The growing numbers of pilgrims and the shrine’s importance made the Holy See raise it to an international center.

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