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VIII th Bishop of Bharava Community

Pope Francis on May 20 appointed Father Nazarene Soosai Fernando as the new bishop of Kottar diocese that covers the southernmost region of mainland India.

The 54-year-old priest replaces Bishop Peter Remigius, who turned 78 on the same day.

This was announced at noon in Rome and its corresponding time in India, said a press note from Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.

The bishop-elect is currently the secretary of the Council of Priest of Kottar diocese as well as a member of the diocesan college of consulters.

He was born at Rajakkalamangalamthurai, a village in Kanyakumari district, on April 13, 1963, and joined St. Aloysius’ Minor Seminary in Nagercoil after matriculation. He did his philosophical and theological studies from Sacred Heart Seminary in Poonamallee, Chennai and was ordained a priest for Kottar on April 2, 1989.

He has acquired a licence degree in theology from Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium and a doctorate from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

In addition, he has master’s degree in Political Science from the University of Madurai.

He began his priestly ministry as assistant pastor of Our Lady of Presentation Church, Colachel, for a year. He was then appointed prefect of studies at the Tamil Nadu Xavier Mission Home, Nagercoil, as well as secretary of the Diocesan Commission for Vocations.

In 1992, he was appointed pastor of St. Helen’s Parish, Enayam for six years. He was also ecclesiastical assistant of Christian Life Community and secretary of the Diocesan Priests Personal Board.

He went for higher studies to Belgium in 1998. On his return in 2003, he took over as the dean and professor of theology at the Sacred Heart Seminary, Poonamallee. He held those posts for eight years.

In 2011, he was appointed pastor of the Shrine of Our Lady of Ransom, Kanyakumari, and Vicar Forane. He was also visiting professor at the Poonamallee seminary as well at various other universities and Institutes.

He has taught at Madras University, Chennai; CRI Theological Institute, Bangalore; Sanon, Sambalpur, Odisha; Salesian Theological Institute, Chennai; St. Paul’s Seminary, Tiruchirapalli; Arul Kadal, Chennai.

Kottar diocese covers major parts of Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu. The 1,685-square-kilometer district has dioceses belonging to Latin, Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara rites that make up the Catholic Church in India. Besides Kottar, the Latin archdiocese of Trivandrum and Tuticorin diocese share the district territory along with Thuckalay the Syro-Malabar and Marthandom Syro-Malankara dioceses.

According to the diocesan website, which was updated only on February 24, 2015, the diocese has 264,200 Catholics in a population of 618,318. There were 83,474 Christians belonging to other denominations, mainly the Church of South India.

The diocese has 88 parishes and 42 mission churches served by 148 diocesan and 35 religious priests. They were assisted by 16 religious brothers and 445 nuns belonging to various congregations.

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