Former Jesuit Church to become Cathedral for Syro-Malabar Parish in Preston

Syro-Malabar Mass, St Ignatius Preston
Syro-Malabar Mass, St Ignatius Preston

The Pope has bestowed on Preston's formerly closed St Ignatius Church a great honour - making it a cathedral for Indian Catholics, one of only three worldwide. The Grade II-listed St Ignatius Church was shut in December 2014, after long years of a dwindling congregation. But now it has reopened serving an Indian branch of the Roman Catholics, the Syro-Malabar Church.

The Vatican said the Holy Father was happy to give this new diocese to Great Britain, because he knew there were so many Syro-Malabar faithful living here in the UK, and it is important for them to have the official support and structures of their Church. The other two dioceses of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church outside of India are in the United States (founded in 2011) and Australia (founded in 2014).

The Indian community are from the Syro-Malabar Rite, which claims to have been founded by St Thomas the Apostle in India, and is one 22 Eastern Catholic Churches is in unity with the Pope. The last thirty years have seen a growing influx of immigrants from India to the United Kingdom. More than 38,000 Syro-Malabar faithful reside in England, Scotland and Wales. They are present in twenty-seven dioceses, concentrated mainly in the big cities: London, Birmingham and Liverpool.

Upon hearing the news of this development whilst leading the Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes, Bishop Michael Campbell of Lancaster said:

"I welcome this exciting news and in particular Bishop Srampickal as the first Bishop of the Eparchy of the Syro-Malabars in Great Britain. I look forward to working with him as a close colleague and friend while he has care of his brothers and sisters throughout the whole country."

In Preston over 250 people – many of them children, teenagers and young working professionals with their families - attend the current single Sunday Mass at St Ignatius with an additional scheduled Mass to follow shortly. The usual rounds of Baptisms, First Communions and Confirmations are now re-established in this vibrant parish.

Bishop Michael Campbell also wrote on his blog about attending the mass celebrating the joint feasts of St. Thomas and St Alphonsa:

“The Syro-Malabar communities in our Diocese are a powerful reminder to us of what the word Catholic means, i.e. having a universal dimension. We in the West form part of a much bigger Church, as the presence in our midst of so many of our Syro-Malabar brothers and sisters testifies”.

St Ignatius Church was designed by Joseph John Scoles, who also designed Farm Street Church in London, and the Church of Saint Francis Xavier in Liverpool for the Jesuits. The poet Fr Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ was also a curate there during the late 1880s.

Syro-Malabar Mass, St Ignatius Preston

Photos used with kind permission from the blog of Bishop Michael Campbell.