WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Jacob Angadiath, who has headed the St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago for 21 years, and has named Auxiliary Bishop Joy Alappatt of the diocese as his successor.
Bishop Angadiath is 76 years old. Canon law requires bishops to submit their resignation to the pope when they turn 75. He was appointed the first bishop of the diocese by St. John Paul II, who established the diocese March 13, 2001.
Bishop Alappatt, 65, has been auxiliary bishop of the diocese since 2014.
The changes were announced July 3 in Washington by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the U.S.
Bishop Alappatt was born Sept. 27, 1956, in Parappukkara, India, in the Diocese of Irinjalakuda, which is in the state of Kerala. He attended St. Thomas Apostolic Seminary in Vadavathoor and was ordained a priest Dec. 31, 1981.
After ordination, he continued his master’s level studies at St. Joseph’s Pontifical Institute in Aluva and Adheva University in Wattair, both in his home diocese.
Then-Father Alappatt served in pastoral assignments in Chalakudy, Mala and at the Irinjalakuda Diocese’s cathedral. He also was chaplain of the Syro-Malabar community in Chennai for six years, from 1987 to 1993, before being transferred to the United States in 1994.
He served as an associate pastor in the New York borough of Staten Island, in New Milford, Connecticut, and in Newark and Garfield, New Jersey.
From 1999 to 2002, while chaplain at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, he completed the clinical pastoral education program there.
He was then invited by Bishop Angadiath to serve in the St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese and was appointed as the director of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Mission in Garfield, New Jersey, and administrator of Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Garfield.
He was the convener of the 2003 Syro-Malabar convention in New Jersey.
When Pope Francis named him auxiliary bishop, he was pastor of the Mar Thoma Sleeha Syro-Malabar Catholic Cathedral in Chicago, a post he’d held since August 2011.
He has written lyrics for several Christian devotional songs and published a few music albums. He is well-known as a retreat preacher and a skilled pastor and administrator.
Bishop Angadiath, a native of India, was ordained a priest Jan. 5, 1972. As a priest of the Palai Diocese in India, he held several parish assignments from 1972 to 1980 and taught at Good Shepherd Minor Seminary from 1980 to 1984, when he came to the United States to minister to Syro-Malabar Catholics in Dallas and Garland, Texas.
Then-Father Angadiath was director of Syro-Malabar Mission in Chicago when Pope John Paul named him the bishop of the newly established St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese.
His episcopal ordination and installation took place with the inauguration of the diocese July 1, 2001.
The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church is one of two Eastern Catholic churches that have their origins in India. The other is the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church.
Syro-Malabar Catholics trace their faith to St. Thomas the Apostle, who they believe landed on India’s southern Malabar Coast, in what is now the state of Kerala, in A.D. 52.
The Chicago diocese was the first diocese of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church to be established outside India. Today there are four dioceses, or eparchies, outside India.