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Asian Catholic Dioceses Directory

Indian Church relishes miracles of Saint Thomas, the Apostle

Diocese of Palai Indian Church relishes miracles of Saint Thomas, the Apostle

On every first Friday of the month thousands of Catholics flock to Holy Cross Church of Cherpunkal in Kerala, India to revere Infant Jesus and St. Thomas, the founder of the church.

The church stands on the southern bank of Meenachil River. This fabled church, also known by its Syriac name Mar Sleeva (Holy Cross)Church, belongs to Catholic Diocese of Palai of the Eastern-rite Syro-Malabar Church.

Devotees pay their respect to Infant Jesus, the patron of the church, who is hailed as the Infant King, wearing a golden frock, crown and flag with an imprint of the English letters IHS bearing a cross. IHS is a monogram symbolizing Jesus Christ, the first Greek letters of the name of Jesus.

Sanctuary (Madbaha) of SS. Peter and Paul Knanaya Catholic Church at Cherpunkal.

The church’s historical records say it was founded by Saint Thomas the Apostle in 52 AD. Popular legend is St. Thomas came to Cherpunkal and bathed in the nearby Meenachil River. He placed a cross for assembly and prayer for the first five families he baptized. Many people attributed numerous miracles to the church, which gained parish status on Sept. 14, 1096, on the feast day of Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Later, the family of Kallampally Nampoothiri, a local landlord, donated land where the beautiful Church was built and consecrated in 1911.

Besides its connection to St. Thomas, the church holds the first-class relics of the Holy Cross, St. Sebastian and of two saints from the Diocese of Palai – St. Alphonsa and Blessed Augustine.

Today, the church premises sprawl along the riverside and include the old and new churches, the presbytery, the old and new parish halls, the High School, the Higher Secondary School and the Bishop Vayalil Memorial Holy Cross College with the terraced church cemetery in the background.

Holy Cross church is a major pilgrimage site that hosts the most popular festival of the circumcision of infant Jesus, starting with Christmas and ending on New Year’s Day with a solemn Holy Mass. Thousands of people join novena prayers and daily Mass to honor and to pray to Infant Jesus. They flock to Jesus to seek divine interventions to overcome agonies and difficulties of their lives. It is common to see devotees shed tears as they pray in front of the statue of the Infant King.

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