Posted by: cochinblogger | November 26, 2012

Celebrating the 1960th Anniversary of the Arrival of St. Thomas in Kerala

I saw this full-page ad in today’s newspaper over my morning coffee. The number 1960 in the headline is the difference between 2012 and 52, 52 AD being the year that St. Thomas is supposed to have set foot in Kerala on his mission. The original Malankara church is the name of the indigenous church that was established in Kerala as a result. “The Centenary of the Catholicate” requires some explanation. The Malankara church (also called the Syrian church) split many times, and the split of 1912 resulted in the Jacobite and Orthodox factions. The Jacobite church’s spiritual head is the Patriarch of Antioch, whereas the Orthodox church’s spiritual head is the Catholicose of the East. (Unfortunately, the relationship between these two branches is bellicose; yes, yes, I too sniff a limerick here :-))).

The word “Catholicate” in the headline means the spiritual fiefdom of the Catholicose; it has nothing to do with the Catholic church. Even a relative who came today, a Syrian Christian with deep roots in Kerala, was misled by the word “Catholicate” into thinking this was a Catholic function. Kerala church politics can be bewildering even for insiders. It is true that this relative was a Marthomite, a member of yet another branch of the Malankara church (the Marthoma church). Still …

Stepping outside after breakfast, I passed this Orthodox church decorated for the occasion. There was to be a public meeting on Marine Drive at 3 pm, presided over by the Catholicose, the Dalai Lama, ex-president A.P.J. Kalam, and the chief minister of Kerala, Oommen Chandy, who is himself a member of the Orthodox church. I went over to Marine Drive after a late lunch.

This was the scene outside the venue of the meeting.

And this was the scene inside the venue. The dignitaries are seated at the far end, and the screen shows a metropolitan (my guess) of the Orthodox church speaking.

And this screen shows, from left to right, the Dalai Lama, the Catholicose, and A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

They were distributing this magazine, the journal of the Orthodox church, at the venue. The cover features St. Thomas surrounded by the eight Catholicoi of the Orthodox church who have presided since 1912. The current Catholicose is at the bottom right-hand corner.

And this is the emblem of the Orthodox church, which says it all.

It’s a strange coincidence that this event should take place soon after I started blogging about the Syrian Christians. No, I’m not implying causation. 🙂

And, yes, I belong to the Orthodox church, but the faith sits lightly on my shoulders.


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