Nagpur: Pope Francis on October 18 appointed a Pallotine priest as the new bishop of Gwalior, a diocese in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.
A press note from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India headquarters in New Delhi said the Pope has accepted the resignation of Bishop Joseph Kaithathara of Gwalior and appointed Father Thomas Thennatt as his successor.
The appointment was announced at noon time in Rome and corresponding time in India, the note added.
Fr Thomas Thennatt is the first prelate from the Society of the Catholic Apostolate, popularly known as Pallotines, to become a bishop in India, said Archbishop Abraham Viruthakulangara of Nagpur while announcing the appointment.
“It is recognition for the Pallottines as they contribute much to the Church through laity formation, Small Christian Communities, formation of seminarian, and pastoral council,” Archbishop Viruthakulangara told Matters India.
Bishop-elect Thennat has served as pastor in states such as the undivided Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
He has served as the parish priest of St. Pius X Church Mankapur in Nagpur diocese since 2012. He is also the president for the pastoral commission of the Prabhu Prakash province of the Pallotines at Nagpur.
He has also served as director of family apostolate, youth ministry, small Christian Communities, as well as member of many commissions of his congregation He was also rector of the Regional Theologate at Ashta, Bhopal, for ten years.
Pallotine provincial Father Thomas Pullan says the bishop-elect is known for simplicity, humility and detachment from worldly things. Father Thennatt’s unassuming nature will help his duty as a bishop in Gwalior, the provincial told a function at the provincial house in Nagpur to vest the bishop-elect.
When contacted, the bishop-elect told Matters India, “No feelings to share at the moment.
Father Thennatt was born in a family of six on November 26, 1953, at Koodallor in the Archdiocese of Kottayam in Kerala. After matriculation in 1969, he joined the Pallotine minor seminary in Thiruvananthapuram (then Trivandrum), Kerala capital.
Two years later, he began his philosophical studies at St Charles Seminary in Nagpur. He also did his bachelors studies from St Francis de Sales College, adjacent to the seminary. He joined Pallotine novitiate in Bangalore in 1974 and took his first vows a year later.
He returned to Nagpur to continue his theological studies and was ordained a priest in 1978 by Bishop Joseph Fernandez of Quilon. He obtained a Masters degree in pastoral theology from Papal Seminary, Pune, western India.
He began his priestly duties as assistant parish priest at St. Vincent Pallotti Parish of Amravati in Guntur diocese for a year in 1979. He served as the parish priest of St. Antony Church, Mudfort under Hyderbad archdiocese for three years from 1984. He then served as the secretary of the archdiocesan commissions of youth and family and laity.
In 1991 he moved to Indore diocese as the parish priest of St. Theresa Church of Pushpanagar and director for laity and family and Small Christian Communities. Two years later, he was appointed as regional director for laity and family Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, a post he held for five years.
He became the Ashta rector in 1998.
Gwalior diocese was erected in 1999 comprising six civil districts of Madhya Pradesh. The diocese has some 5,000 Catholics in a population of nearly 6 million.