//Beatification Date for "Apostle of the Untouchables"

Beatification Date for "Apostle of the Untouchables"

Ceremony Set for Priest’s Native Village in India

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 8, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI has agreed that the beatification of Father Augustine Thevarparampil, an apostle of India’s "untouchables," will be held in the latter’s native village of Ramapuram this spring.

The Indian bishops’ conference confirmed the beatification, scheduled for April 30, in a statement on Tuesday.

It echoed a letter sent by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano to Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, archbishop major of Ernakulam-Angamaly, of the Syro-Malabar rite.

Cardinal Sodano wrote the cardinal to "inform him of the Pope’s permission to direct the beatification ceremony of the Venerable Servant of God Augustine Thervarparampil in Ramapuram and to request that he preside over the ceremony in the name of the Pope," says the note issued by the bishops’ conference.

The ceremony will be held in the church of Ramapuram, where "Kunjachan" — or "little priest," as he was popularly known — was born on April 1, 1891.

Parish work

The village belongs to the Eparchy of Palai, in the southern state of Kerala, where the future blessed was a priest, beginning in 1921.

The episcopate emphasized that the greater part of his priestly ministry was carried out in his own parish, St. Augustine’s Church in Ramapuram. He was one of the three assistant priests for more than four decades.

He died on Oct. 16, 1973, at age 82. His place of burial, in his parish, immediately became a center of pilgrimage. He is buried in the Palai cathedral, in the Diocese of Ramapuram.

Father Thevarparampil baptized more than 5,000 Dalits, or untouchables, whom he always referred to as "my children," explained witnesses in the process of beatification.

See www.kunjachan.org.