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HomeChurch AbroadArchbishop Dr. George Panamthundil Elevated as Apostolic Nuncio to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and...

Archbishop Dr. George Panamthundil Elevated as Apostolic Nuncio to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan

Date:

His Holiness Pope Francis has bestowed the significant responsibility of Apostolic Nuncio for Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan upon Msgr. Dr. George Panamthundil from the Major Archdiocese of Trivandrum in the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. This appointment, dated 16 June 2023, also marks his elevation to the esteemed position of Archbishop of the titular see of Floriana. Notably, he is the first priest from the Syro Malankara Catholic Church to assume the role of Nuncio.

The ordination ceremony took place on 19 August 2023 at St. Mary’s Major Archieparchial Cathedral, Pattom, Trivandrum, where His Beatitude Baselios Cardinal Cleemis, Major Archbishop-Catholicos of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, ordained him Remban. The formal consecration to Archbishop was conducted by His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State (Holy See), on 9 September 2023 in Rome, with His Beatitude Baselios Cardinal Cleemis as the co-consecrator. Born on 20 May 1972 to Dr. P.V. George and Marykutty George in Trivandrum, Kerala, Archbishop Panamthundil was ordained a priest on 18th February 1998 for the Archdiocese of Trivandrum.

His journey in the diplomatic service of the Holy See commenced in 2005, marked by roles at various Apostolic Nunciatures across the globe. Notably, he holds a Doctorate in Canon Law from the Pontifical Oriental Institute, Rome, and pursued studies at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy (Rome).

Key Points:

  • Diplomatic Service: Archbishop Panamthundil entered the Diplomatic Service of the Holy See in 2005.
  • Language Proficiency: Fluent in French, English, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Malayalam.
  • Historical Appointment: He is the first Indian appointed as the Apostolic Nuncio to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.

In a region where the Catholic Church is a minority, facing challenges like religious restrictions, clergy shortages, and social discrimination, Archbishop Panamthundil’s appointment holds special significance. According to the 2021 census, Kazakhstan has about 125,000 Catholics, Kyrgyzstan 500, and Tajikistan 300. Most are descendants of Europeans exiled to Central Asia during the Soviet regime or recent immigrants.

Insight into the Region:

  • Kazakhstan: 125,000 Catholics (less than 1% of the population)
  • Kyrgyzstan: 500 Catholics (0.01% of the population)
  • Tajikistan: 300 Catholics (0.004% of the population)

The newly formed regional bishops’ conference for Central Asia, covering Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, aims to foster unity and growth among Catholic communities. Archbishop Tomash Peta, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Astana, Kazakhstan, leads the conference, which is also a member of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), promoting solidarity and evangelization among Asian churches.

This appointment is a testament to the Holy See’s commitment to strengthening the presence of the Catholic Church in regions where it is a minority, fostering unity, and addressing unique challenges.

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