Kochi: The Syro-Malabar Church has appointed two new bishops for the Idukki diocese (Kerala) and Sagar diocese in Madhya Pradesh. The appointment of Fr. John Nellikunnel as Idukki bishop and Fr. James Athikkalam as Sagar bishop was announced simultaneously in Kochi and Vatican on Friday.
All bishops attending the synod of bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church, priests, sisters and some lay representatives were present on the occasion. Major Archbishop George Cardinal Alencherry presented the bishops-elect with the insignia of episcopacy. The two appointments were made as the Idukki bishop Mathew Anikuzhikattil and Sagar bishop Antony Chirayath resigned after attaining 75 years of age.
Fr. John Nellikunnel was born on March 22, 1973 at Kadaplamattam near Pala as the son of Varkey and Mary Nellikunnel. Having completed his school education in St. Mary’s High School, Mariapuram, he joined the Minor Seminary of Kothamangalam in 1988 for his priestly formation. He had his philosophical and theological formation in St. Thomas Apostolic Seminary, Vadavathoor. He was ordained priest on December 30, 1998. After his ordination, he exercised his parish ministry as assistant vicar in St. Sebastian's Church, Nedumkandam, Infant Jesus Church, Kombayar and St. Mary's Church, Manjappetty.
He held various other positions in the Church and also completed a doctorate from Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome.
Fr. James Athikalam was born on July 5, 1958 at Pulincunnu near Changanassery as the son of Paulose and Annamma Athikalam. After his school education in Pallam CMS High School, he joined Deepti Minor Seminary of the Missionary Society of St. Thomas the Apostle for his priestly formation. After his philosophical studies in Sacred Heart Seminary, Poonamally, and Theological Studies in St. Joseph’s Seminary, Mangalore, he was ordained priest on March 22, 1984. After his priestly ordination he served as assistant parish priest at Harshodan, Barnagar and Rajghat in the eparchy of Ujjain. He secured MA from Mysore University and Licentiate in Biblical Theology from Jerusalem and doctorate in patrology from Augustinian University, Rome. He held various positions in the Church before being designated as bishop of Sagar.