Archbishop Emeritus Mar Joseph Powathil, former head of the Syro-Malabar Archdiocese of Changanassery, passed away at Changanassery near here on Saturday. He was 92.
The funeral services will be held at St. Mary’s Metropolitan Church (valiya palli) in Changanassery at 10 a.m. on Wednesday.
Known for stringent stance in matters relating to the Catholic Church., the Archbishop was a vocal advocate of the cause of farmers and played a key role in establishing the Malanadu, Peerumade, and Kuttanad development committees. He is the first Bishop of the Syro-Malabar Church to be ordained thus by the Pope.
Born P.J. Joseph to John Powathil and Marykutty on August, 14, 1930 the Archbishop did his postgraduation in economics from Loyola College, Chennai. Having joined the St. Thomas Petit Seminary, Parel, and later the Papal Seminary in Pune, he was ordained as priest on October 3, 1962. Afterwards, he joined the Department of Economics at St. Berchmans’ College, Changanassery, and also served as warden of the St. Joseph’s hostel.
He took keen interest in the study of ancient patrimony of the Syro-Malabar Church and for its restoration in accordance with the directives of Vatican II. On 29 January, 1972 he was nominated Auxiliary Bishop of Changanassery and was consecrated as Bishop by Pope Paul VI on February 13,1972 at a ceremony in Rome.
During the five years of his service as Auxiliary Bishop and Vicar General (ex officio), he introduced several reforms in the archdiocese in close collaboration with Archbishop Mar Antony Padiyara. Realising the importance of youth apostolate, he also took the initiative in establishing a diocesan youth movement called “Yuvadeepti”, which preceded the Kerala Catholic Youth Movement.
Instrumental in establishing several institutions to serve the underprivileged, he was entrusted with the task of nurturing the fledgling diocese of Kanjirapally, to which he was appointed Bishop on February 26, 1977. Bishop Powathil was appointed Archbishop of Changanassery on November 5, 1985 and he assumed charge on January 17 next year.
He served as president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI), chairman of the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC), and chairman of Education Commission of the CBCI.
Sensing the need of the time, he introduced several self-financing courses in colleges under the diocese. Consequent to the delinking of Pre-Degree from colleges, several higher secondary schools were opened. He also had a couple of run-ins with State governments over issues relating to education.
He retired from the episcopal service on January 22, 2007.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and other Ministers besides social and political leaders condoled his death.