An Indian priest has become so popular at a parish in north Wales that parishioners are campaigning to keep him there even though he has been ordered to return home.
One local has written to Pope Benedict XVI urging him to intervene, saying that Fr Joshy Thomas Cheruparambil CMI’s imminent departure has left the parish in shock.
Fr Cheruparambil, who is from Kerala, has learnt Welsh and celebrates a bilingual Mass twice a week.
He came to Bala, a town by a lake in Snowdonia National Park, five years ago and is now expected to return to India before Easter.
Alwyn Jones Parry, who is not a Catholic but has driven an elderly friend to Mass for four years, said in a letter to Benedict XVI that the parish was “very distressed”.
He said: “I can fully understand any branch of the Church wishing to have Fr Joshy serving with them as he could very well become one of the leaders of the Church, with his charisma, dedication and prayerful ministry.
“I understand that Kerala has a considerable number of new priests each year. This is in sharp contrast to the situation in Wales,” Mr Parry said.
“It is most difficult to find any positive reasons for this course of action… I am writing to your Holiness, in the hope that you will not allow damage to the Church in our area, and instruct that Fr Joshy remains in this parish, at least for the next few years,” he said.
In his letter Mr Parry said Bishop Edwin Regan of Wrexham had twice written to Fr Cheruparambil’s superiors in India asking him to be allowed to stay.
Fr Cheruparambil told the Herald: “If I am needed in Wales I will stay in Wales. If I am needed back home in India I will be back in India.”
Fr Cheruparambil is one of four Carmelites of Mary Immaculate in the Diocese of Wrexham. The congregation, founded in 1831, was the first indigenous religious congregation in the Catholic Church in India.