Altar of the Old Church
Infant Jesus Cathedral Church stands imposingly tall in the annals of Indian Church history. It dates back to as early as the thirteenth century, when Kollam went through Christian Renaissance, under the able leadership of Fr. Jordanus Cathalani, who was helped by both the Franciscan and the Dominican missionaries. They were instrumental to win back the lay Christians who were influenced by the Nestorian heresy, back to the Roman Latin rite. Eventually, Pope John XXII instituted Asia’s first ever diocese in Kollam in 1329. It was Fr. Jordanus Cathalani who built this Church for the first time. Back then, it was called ‘San Salvador’ Church (Church of the Holy Redeemer). It was renovated in 1548 by a Portuguese engineer Hector De La Casa.
The fifteenth and the sixteenth century witnessed great trials and tribulations of the faithful residing in Tangasseri. It was the “Dark Age” of Indian Christianity, rife with persecution and adversities. The San Salvador Church was defiled and desecrated, the sanctuary utterly destroyed and the Church was left to ruin. The faithful were exiled into oblivion. However, lack of labor compelled the Dutch authorities to restore religious freedom and to call back the residents. The arrival of Carmelite missionaries came to their rescue and gave the Catholics in Kollam a new lease of life. Like a phoenix that rose from the ashes, Kollam Diocese found its lost glory under their ministry. The altar was rebuilt by the Carmelites in 1610 and the Church was named Bom Gesu or the Infant Jesus Church. Belgium-based Carmelite missionaries were given in charge of pastoral and parochial duties and so Rt. Rev. Bernard Pacinllie was appointed as the Pro-Vicar Apostolic of Kollam Diocese. He raised Bom Gesu Church to the status of Pro-Cathedral.
Rev. Msgr. Bernadine took over from Rev. Pacinllie in 1853. He was succeeded by Very Rev. Fr. Maurice who was the Vicar Apostolic from 1854 to 1864. He was followed by Msgr. Charles Hyacinth in 1864, who died in office the same year. His mortal remains are still found entombed in the Cathedral. He was succeeded by Rev. Fr. Maria Ephrem OCD who in turn was followed by Msgr. Idelphonse. By 1853, Msgr. Ferdinand Ossi took over as Bishop of Kollam and he was succeeded in September 14, 1905 by the Eminent Msgr. Aloysius Maria Benzigar. It was he who instated Infant Jesus Pro-Cathedral into an independent parish. Fr. Alexander was the first parish priest. His pioneering efforts were zealously carried on by his successors Fr. Ambrose OCD and Fr. Biederman respectively.
December 12, 1937 marked a new epoch with the institution of the first ever indigenous Bishop – Admirable Jerome Fernandez under whose tenure, the parish was animated by Fr. Gracian Fernandez from 1939 to 1941 and then Msgr. Bernard D’ Cruz took over from him. That was when the near-dilapidated Church and belfry was refurbished. Fr. Stephen Netto was the parish priest from 1955 to 1960, followed by Fr. Christopher Morris till 1967. He was succeeded by Msgr. Peter Thekkevila. He was the first to come up with the idea of building the Cathedral anew. But, he was not able to realize it, since his relentless efforts were constantly impeded by infirmity. Fr. Joseph Martin who took over from Fr. Thekkevila kept alive this ambition of building a new Church among the parishioners. After Fr. Martin, the parish was temporarily assigned to Msgr. Ferdinand Kayavil.
By this time Rt. Rev. Joseph G. Fernandez was anointed Bishop of Kollam on May 14, 1978. Fr. Charles Augustine was the parish priest in 1978 and Fr. Gracian Fernandez was the parish priest from 1981 to 1983. From 1984 to 1989 it was Fr. Charles Fernandez, after whom, Fr. Stephen Gomez was the parish priest from 1989 to 1990, followed by Fr. Richard Fernandez and was later succeeded temporarily by Fr. James Puthenpura. He put together the Committee to realize the construction of the new Cathedral. Fr. Paul Mullassery took over the baton from him as parish priest and with much deliberation with architect Tony Xavier, drafted together the plan and estimate for the new Cathedral and got the Bishop’s approval of the same. And in August 9, 2000, in the presence of all the parishioners, priests and religious laid the foundation stone. The Cathedral we see today was completed during Msgr. George Mathew’s tenure as parish priest.
Msgr. Stanley Roman was ordained Bishop of Kollam on 16 December, 2001. On December 3, 2005, the Cathedral was inaugurated by Cardinal Telesphore Topo. From 2007 to 2013, Fr. George Rebeiro served as the Parish Priest. From May 2013, Fr. Joseph John is the Parish Priest.