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St. Thomas belongs to the whole of India

PCALEXANDER

(Speech by Dr. P. C. Alexander, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister of India at Sapthathi celebration public meeting in 1982 September 12 at Kottayam)

Respected Rashtrapathiji, Your Holiness Marthoma Mathews I, Catholicos of the East. Your Holiness Catholicos- Patriarch Ilia, Archbishops, Representatives of the Christian Churches, Eminent Emissaries of His Holiness the Pope, Heads of various Christian Communities in India, Heads of Religious Communities present here and my fellow members of the Indian Orthodox Church.

Let me at the very outset as a member of the India n Orthodox Church, offer our respectful felicitations and gratitude’s to our Res. Rashtrapathi for his gracious gesture of his presence in our midst this evening . Sir, we are greatly honored and privileged by your presence here. To the members of the Orthodox Community your presence should carry a greater message. That the head of the 700 million people of India, should find the time and take trouble to corns allover to this corner of our State and to be present here for a small function organized by 1. 5 million people of the State, speaks volumes about the concern and the patronage with which he looks at, and his Government looks at all communities. It is an eloquent tribute to the policy of his Government that they make no distinction between one community and another; and the size of a community does not matter at all. In the same way, the presence of the luminaries, dignitaries of the various Churches here should also convey to us great message. It is not merely we are rejoicing in this great function of ours, which is indeed a recognition of the eminent position which our Church has acquired after we regained our independence. Whenever I think of this small community of Orthodox Christians in lndis, I am struck by one simple factor and that is the real life. vigor and vitality of this small community. I have lived in various
parts of the world, had different times and occasions to see Christian Communities in operation and I tell you with full knowledge of facts, there are very few communities in this wide world of Christianity with as much spiritual life, as much vigor and vitality as this small community has. I have asked this question how is it that for 1900 years, this community has survived, the turmoil’s, the troubles, the litigations; and how is it that the Church has been able to retain its faith. I have only a few answers to that. The first is the passionate faith of this community in the tradition of St. Thomas I am not claiming this tradition as the exclusive heritage of the Orthodox Christians. St. Thomas belongs to the whole of India. In fact Jawaharlal Nehru once said when he was participating in the 1900 years’ celebrations of St. Thomas, that St. Thomas belongs to the whole Indian heritage. We are not making an exclusive claim of St. Thomas.

But there is a special point for this community. While for other Christians, it may be a part of history, while for some others it may be a part of heritage, for Orthodox Syrian Christians it is a part of their emotion, something which we have imbibed from the milk of mothers. Something which we want to transfer to our children and to our children’s children as treasure to be preserved with awe and pride. This is the special feature about St. Thomas as far as we, Christians are concerned I have always Wondered why 51. Thomas chose to come to this ancient land of ours, which is the cradle for the four religions of the world. Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism and I have the answer for that.

In this ancient holy land of ours, Christianity out of necessity has to come from the authentic hands of the Apostle of Christ himself. Imagine what would have the inadequacy been of Christianity, if our ancestors have been converted by the missionaries who carne with the Portuguese, the French or the Dutch. It was one of the justifications of the historical necessity and inevitable part of history that in this land, the authenticity of Christianity should be established by the disciple of Christ himself. When we speak about the authenticity of Christianity, we should also remember another thing and that is to preserve the faith of our fathers. On this day of joy and gratitude let us remember them also.

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The Catholicate is so precious to us …..

HH-Baselios-Marthoma-Mathews-I

(The inaugural address delivered 70th Anniversary of the re-establishment Catholicate in India by His Holiness Baselius Marthoma Mathews I, the then Catholicos of the East in 1982 at Ernakulam).

Your Holiness Patriarch Ilia, Your Eminences, Your Excellences’, Your Graces, Honorable Ministers, and our beloved people.

Our heart is truly filled with joy and gratitude on this occasion, Not only because God Almighty has been gracious to us and has fostered this Catholicate here in India for the last seventy years. For that our gratitude to God knows no bounds. But even more, our joy is fulfilled because you from our sister Churches from all over the world have arrived here to share our joy. Ever since St. Thomas established this Church here in the first century, the circumstances of history and geography have conspired to isolate us from other Christian Churches. Why did our sister Church in China disappear? Mainly because of a similar isolation from the sister Churches of the world.

The last seventy years mark not only the history of our reestablished Catholicate but also a period of more helpful and more frequent contacts with sister Churches all over the world. We remember especially the visit of one of our distinguished predecessors to the Faith and Order Conference in Edinburgh in 1935. We became founder members of the World Council of Churches in 1948, and our bishops. Priests and lay people have represented us in all important World Council meetings and other ecumenical gatherings. It is a matter of no small pride to us that the first Woman President of the World Council of Churches was our beloved daughter Miss Sarah Chacko, who later served the W.C.C. as its first Secretary for the Department of Co-operation between Men and Women and died in harness. Later our Fr. Paul Varghese served the W.C.C. as Associate General Secretary. Others like Dr. K. C. Joseph and Mr. C. I. Itty served on the staff in Geneva. The World Council of Churches became in many ways the forum through which our frequent and friendly contacts with the non-Roman Churches were built up and maintained. We are therefore particularly grateful that one of the Presidents of the World Council is present with us on this occasion its Orthodox President H.H. Patriarch Ilia Catholicos-Patriarch of aII Georgia.

With the opening of the Second Vatican Council and from the time of Pope John XXIII of blessed memory, our relations with the Roman Catholic Church also were put on a new basis of ecumenical co-operation. Our delegates were present at the Vatican Council as delegated observers. Our immediate precedes or had the privilege of greeting and embracing Pope Paul VI In Bombay His Eminence Cardinal Willebrands. Fr. Pierre Duprey, Archbishop Jerome Hamer. Fr. John Long and others visited us and opened and maintained a new set of genuinely sisterly relationship, between our Churches. It gives us particular pleasure that Pope .John Paul II has delegated Fr. Pierre Duprey to represent His Holiness on this joyous occasion.

His Holiness Patriarch Athenagoras of blessed memory. that angelic ecumenical pastor whom we never had the privilege for meeting also maintained vary close relations with our Church and we are very happy to welcome the delegate of Patria rch Dimitrios his successor, in the person of Metropolitan Emilianos of Siberia.

All our distinguished international and Indian guests have already been welcomed. We wish only to add our personal welcome and gratitude to all of you.

In requesting to inaugurate the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the re-establishment in India of the Catholicate of the East, we wish to make one or two points clear…First, ours is an autocephalous Orthodox Church of apostolic origin, and we want to develop our life in sisterly ecumenical co-operation with all our sister Churches in the world. We are fully committed to the ecumenical movement a prayerful dedication to make manifest our unity in Christ as His One Body. We are anxious to engage in active dialogue with our sister Churches in India as well as abroad. We have officially communicated our desire to begin a dialogue with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India. We are still awaiting an official response.

We have also communicated our desire to begin a dialogue with the federation of the three evangelical Churches: the Mar Thoma Syrian Church, the Church of South India and the Church of North India. We have now been in a dialogue for some years With the Lutheran Churches in India, and we are pursuing it. We hope the other two dialogues can also begin soon.

Secondly. I want to say a brief word about our relations with the Syrian Orthodox Church in the Middle East. Our experience in the past twelve years has been bitter. We have faced both Portuguese and British intrigue and treachery in the past instances in which our ecumenical hospitality has been sinfully misused to disrupt our, Church from within. What the late Syrian Orthodox Patriarch did to our Church was something worse. We pray that God may forgive him. We allowed him inside our Church in 1958 in good faith. Since 1970. He consistently betrayed that good faith and Interfered In our internal affairs. His successor, the present Patriarch, came here recently, without even the courtesy of informing us, and began entering our churches and misleading our people. He did not take one step towards a settlement of our disputes beyond certain very offensive paternalistic declarations of self- righteous willingness to forgive those whom his predecessor had hurt. We had cabled him before his departure from Syria to delay his visit in order that we could prepare the stage for a settlement of our disputes. To this date he has not had the courtesy to respond to our telegram. We want to make this clear. We are anxious for a settlement. We are prepared to ask our deputies to sit down and discuss such a settlement with duly authorized people. We shall, of course, not compromise the autocephaly and independence of our Church. Nor can we allow any other Church to interfere in the affairs of our Church. Those are our two cherished values. We have sometimes compromised these values in the past for the sake of peace. We cannot do so in the future. We have learned our lesson.

We have a long history of association with our sister Church of Antioch. We are grateful for their help on occasions in the past when we were harassed by the British and by the Portuguese. We want to restore our sisterly relationship with that Church. We will not uncanonically interfere in their affairs, nor should they interfere in ours. This is all we ask.

Our faith in the Triune God and the Incarnate Lord Jesus Christ is very precious to us. Equally precious is our heritage from the Holy Apostle Thomas through whom we received that faith. That is why the Throne of St. Thomas and the Catholicate of the East so precious to our people. It is the Kerala celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the re-establishment of that Catholicate of the East here in India, that we most graciously request your Grace. Metropolitan Emilianos, the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch to inaugurate now.

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Remembering Rev Fr. P K George, the Apostle of North India

fr_george_pk

“For many are called, but few are chosen” St Mathew 22:14.

Rev Fr P K George was born in a village in Mylapra, Pathanamthitta, Kerala. He had his primary school education in Mylapra. After schooling he acquired Diploma in Civil Engineering and my mother, Late Mrs Annamma Oonnoony, was his classmate for the Diploma course. My mother used to remember him as the most disciplined and religious student. From childhood he was closely associated with St. Kurakose Ashram (Attachakkal), he was related to Attachakkal Rambachan and he became his ‘spiritual’ GURU. After studies in Kerala, he moved to Rajasthan and served for the Rajasthan state government for many years. During this period he completed his Bachelor’s Degree. While serving in the Rajasthan Government, “the Divine call came” and Achen decided to dedicate his life for the LORD’s service. He left the government job and became a priest on 21-10-1971.

My association started with Achen from Obra, Sonebhadra district in UP (120kms south of Varanasi) in the year 1975-76 when I was an Engineering student at Gorakhpur. Since then, he was my “Spiritual Father” and had always stood with me as my guide and mentor during my happiness and sorrows. I had the opportunity to travel with him to many places in Eastern UP (1976-81) for the church related activities.

A true Orthodox Christian

We all know that the Orthodox Christianity spread to different parts of the world not by missionary work or through outreach activities, but it is purely based on the prayer and selfless life style of our forefathers. Achen, always led a life of prayer and he practiced what he preached” and prayed 7 times a day which included even mid nights. Irrespective of caste, creed or religion, people approached him for his blessings and prayers. Achen used to pray for them regularly. He had many disciples and well-wishers including Non-Christian North Indians. He had the unique quality of maintaining, a good relationship with people who came across in his life and used to be in regular contact with those people and thereby always preferred to “give rather than to take”

The Moving Church

There is a saying that “where there is a Bishop, there is a church”. In the case of George Achen, people used to call him a “Moving Church”. In the early 1970s, Achen stayed at Rewa, a small town of MP. From Rewa, he used to visit many remote places of UP, M P & Chhattisgarh. Once he left his headquarters, he used to return only after weeks after covering many places. Many churches/ congregations of Kolkatta and Delhi Dioceses of Eastern UP and north- western MP were formed during his stay at Rewa. From Rewa, Achen shifted his headquarters to Allahabad. From Allahabad, in search of his sheep, he could cover many places such as Rae-Barelly, Mirzapur, Badhohi, Varanasi, Gorakhpur, Robertsganj, Chopan, Obra, Renukoot, Singrauli etc. At that time reaching Singruli (from Renukoot) was very difficult. He used take lift in coal loaded trucks, tractors etc for reaching many of the destinations. Wherever he visited, he used to interact with all the people. He used to bring all Syrian Christians under one umbrella.

There is one anecdote; I will share……In the 70s when postal communications was the only communication facility available, we received a letter from Achen that he would be coming on a particular date. Achen had to reach Obra by bus from Allahabad (about 300 kms away) but Achen did not reach Obra on the day he had informed us. We were all worried but we had no way to contact him. However next day by afternoon, Achen reached Obra. We enquired about his delay. He told us that during his travel, he met one Mr Peethambaran who was residing at Robertsganj. Achen got down at Robertsganj and stayed with him for a day. There were about 8-10 Malayalees who were working in an electrical substation and in a nearby cement plant. Till 1981, Achen used to visit this place occasionally enroute to Obra, Renukoot and Singrauli areas. In 1980, LL HG (Dr) Geevarghese Mar Osthathios also visited this place, Robertsganj. Achen was the first Syrian Christian Priest to visit Gorakhpur where he conducted Holy Qurbana for 3 years. Achen used to conduct prayer meetings at various localities including Air force stations.

In addition to many remote places of MP and Eastern UP, Achen was the first Syrian Christian Priest to visit Gorakhpur where he conducted Holy Qurbana for 3 years. Achen used to conduct prayer meetings at various localities including Air force stations. At that time late Prof. E J John (former PRO of Malankara Orthodox Church) was Vice-Principal of St Andrews College and Mr. A V Paulose (Former Member, Railway Board and Senior Member of Hauz Khas Church) was in Gorakhpur for a short period.

The second anecdote ……….Achen visited my hostel two times and once stayed with me in the Hostel. I was the only South Indian and Christian student in my college. At that time, North Indians had a different perception about Christianity. However, Achen was able to gain many of my college friends as Achen’s “FANS”, till date many of my friends remember him. Few of my college friends were able to meet Achen during my daughter’s wedding reception at Noida and had many old memories to share.

From Allahabad, he preferred to remain in Ambala and he served the people from Ambala till he recently went back to Kerala due to illness. From Ambala, he used to travel to many places and he established many churches and congregations of Delhi Diocese. Few places which I remember are: Jaipur, Kota, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Bharatpur. Dholpur Punjab & Haryana: Ambala, Patiala, Bhatinda, Hissar, Pathankot, Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Jallandhar, Jammu, Sri Nagar, Haridwar, Dehradun etc

Discovery of a remote Christian Village in MP

During his travels Achen used to wear only his cassock (priestly garments). In addition, he used to wear the wooden black cross. Once Achen was travelling in a bus through a forest area in MP and the bus broke down and all the passengers got out of the bus. Seeing Achen in his cassock, a few villagers approached him and informed him that they were some Christians and no priest had visited them after independence. Achen stopped his onward journey and followed them to their village and spend one night with them. After returning to Rewa, Achen visited the Catholic Bishop of Rewa and informed him about the incident. Subsequently, Catholic Church re-established Christianity in that village.

Capability of Prophesy

Many people approached, Achen for his blessings and intercessory prayers. I have seen that all the advices/suggestion given by Achen to his followers was always fruitful and he always, submitted the issues to God Almighty through special prayers. I would like to share my personal experience about Achen’s advice. My daughter’s wedding reception at Noida was in November and the venue we had selected was an open lawn. It is not common to have rains in November. But that day, Achen asked me to keep in mind an alternate arrangement, if it rained in the evening. As I kept Achen’s advice in mind I could re-arrange the venue to a covered area in time as it rained in the evening.

Apostle of North India

Achen’s Contribution to Christianity in North India is unforgettable and I don’t think anyone could have taken so much pain in meeting people and fulfilling their spiritual needs in so many places in North India.

He had a monastic and celibate life throughout his life. At the age of 80, after serving the Church as a priest for about 44 years, Achen entered eternal life on May 23, 2015. In all respect, remembering Rev Fr P K George as an “Apostle of North India” is a true tribute to Achen.

May His soul rest in peace in the hands of our Saviour.