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FIRST EPISCOPAL CONSECRATION IN ARUNACHAL
By CM Paul
Kolkata, Feb. 28. Salesian Fr. George Palliparambil was consecrated first Bishop of Miao diocese in East Arunachal, 26th February. Salesian Archbishop Thomas Menamparambil of Guwahati, the bishop elect's mentor, was the principal consecrator along with co-consecrators Archbishop Joseph Mittathany of Imphal and Salesian Bishop Robert Kerketta of Tezpur.
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Over 6,000 faithful from East Arunachal flocked to the open air event held at Miao town-field situated some 155 km northeast of mother diocese Dibrugarh.

Salesian Bishop Joseph Aind of Dibrugarh presented the bishop-elect for the Episcopal consecration attended by five archbishops and ten bishops along with some 150 priests. The people arrived at the remote Arunachal town in some 250 cars and jeeps as well as 70 buses. The nearest catholic parish is at Neotan, some 11 km away from Miao Bishop’s house.

''The Episcopal consecration of one of our confreres who laboured more than 20 years in East Arunachal as pioneer missionary is Lord's gift to us celebrating the centenary of Salesian missions in India,'' said Salesian provincial of Dimpaur Fr Thomas Mulayinkal witnessing the consecration. Bishop George is the 23rd Salesian Bishop in India (eight of whom are still active).  

“The progress of the people in this state will happen only if the Church and the state grow together,” said Former State Minister in charge of the Home Dept. and first Catholic in Arunachal Mr. L. Wanglat speaking in the context of the 30 year-old anti-conversion bill implemented in the state to curtail the activities of Christian missionaries.

The Vice-Chairman of the Episcopal Ordination Committee and a prominent local leader, Mr. K. Chithan, was ecstatic when he said, “We finally have a shepherd to take care of the growing flock.”

“We have done it before, we will do it again and don’t leave me alone,” were the concluding words of the new bishop who addressed the faithful after his consecration. The Bishops’s cathedral is a small octagonal structure covered with bamboo mat and tin roof. The Bishop’s residence is a typical Assamese house with asbestos partition and tin roof.

Bishop George’s new diocese borders Tibet, China, Myanmar to the north and east, and by the Indian states of Nagaland and Assam to the south and west.  Bishop George Palliparambil was the first resident priest in Arunachal, Borduria, which is now the heartland of a new diocese created by Pope Benedict XVI on December 7, 2005.

The first Christian and Catholic missionaries to broach this forbidding territory were from the Paris-based Foreign Missions Association.  That was 1854 and they were on their way to Tibet.  They never made it.  That year they met opposition and martyrdom in Arunachal Pradesh.  The Salesians came in 1922 - to Assam - and later, young Fr. Menamparambil, then Rector in Shillong and now Archbishop of Guwahati, palled up with a young tribal chief L. Wanglat in Arunachal.  It became the turning point for visits to and pastoral work in East Arunachal. People accepted Jesus Christ with open arms.  It went on from there.  In 1982 Fr George Palliparambil took up the mantle.  In 1992 Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity came to Borduria, and Don Bosco School opened ten years later.

As the first resident priest in the area, Fr George opened a total of eleven centres, Miao, the episcopal see for the new diocese, being one of them. As of today the Catholic population of East Aranuchal is approximately 70,000. In a total state population of 11 lakhs people the Catholics number over 1,60,000 (one lakh sixty thousand) people.  Bishop George has 6 diocesan priests along with the support of many religious – Salesians of Don Bosco, Society of the Divine Word, Society of St. Francis Xavier, and the Heralds of the Good News. Additionally there are Salesian Sisters, Missionary Sisters of Mary Help of Christians, Missionary Sisters of Charity, Carmelite Missionary Sisters and Sisters of Mary Immaculate.  There are also active members of the Don Bosco Secular Institute.

Bishop John Thomas of Diphu will be installed as Bishop in West Arunachal in the state capital of Itanagar, 12th March.
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