Kochi: Visiting Patriarch of Antioch and All the East H.H. Moran Mor
Ignatius Zakka I, the supreme head of the Universal Syrian Orthodox
Church, began the silver jubilee celebrations of his enthronement,
flanked by thousands of his followers in India.
Marked with religious fervour and enthusiasm, tens of thousands of
devotees thronged the Marine Drive here this evening, to greet their
supreme pontiff on the occasion of his jubilee.
The celebrations were formally inaugurated at a public meeting
attended by religious and political leaders. Kerala Chief Minister
Oommen Chandy inaugurated the celebrations. Union Minister for Power
P M Sayeed, former Union Minister and senior BJP leader O Rajagopal,
head of Syro-Malabar Church Cardinal Varkey Mar Vithayathil and
Opposition leader V S Achuthanandan were among those who attended the
detailed news on the third Apostolic Visit of His Holiness to India.
The transcript of Patriarch's Speech at the celebration is below
(Source: John Philip K.):
Patriarchal address at the public meeting in Ernakulam
We are extremely delighted to be here this evening with you all. It
is always a great joy to visit India, the great nation of sages and
saints, this beautiful state Kerala, "Gods own country", and
particularly our church here in India.
We remember with much gratitude, the warm reception we received from
the general public, the previous times we visited India. We still
cherish the fond memories of those visits. We wish to once again
thank the honourable governments, both at the centre and here in
Kerala for their kind hospitality. We are happy that the same spirit
has been shown to us even this time.
When we see this great crowd here, we marvel at the love that you
show to the Holy throne of Antioch. We can only talk about our church
in India with mixed feelings. On the one hand, we are extremely happy
to see the progress our church has made under the efficient
leadership of our spiritual brother in Christ His Beatitude Baselios
Thomas 1st, the Catholicos and Metropolitan Trustee. His Beatitude is
a born leader. God has bestowed many good qualities upon him. In
times of crises he will never waiver. His loyalty to the Holy throne
of Antioch is unflinching. He will never compromise aspects of true
faith and traditions. He will always walk ahead and with his people.
In His Beatitude you have a great leader whom you can always trust
and look upon. He will stay like a rock when it comes to matters of
faith. We remember with gratitude the great sacrifices of Late
Lamented His Beatitude Mor Baselios Paulose IInd along with the late
Lamented Mor Gregorios Geevarghese made for this church. We want to
appreciate the leadership of His Beatitude Baselios Thomas 1st at
this time and thank him for the same. May God grand him good health
and long life. We also would like to acknowledge the services of all
our Archbishops who stood with His Beatitude and the faithful,
especially during the time of crisis. We urge all of you to continue
to extend your prayerful support to His Beatitude Baselios Thomas 1st
and to the Holy Episcopal Synod.
Christianity in India is as old as the beginning of the Christian
Church. India had the great fortune of having received the gospel of
Christ in the first century itself through Apostle St. Thomas. The
relationship with the Syrian Orthodox Church in India and the
Patriarchate of Antioch started in the first Christian century, was
confirmed in the council of Nicea in AD 325. We are glad to note that
this ancient tradition is still kept alive. While we rejoice in this,
as the spiritual head of the church, we are equally saddened that a
group has gone astride from the mother church. Unfortunately, this
rift has lead to many court cases in India, which has become a
disgrace to the entire Christian community in India. As the Supreme
head of the church, we have always stood for making peace in the
church. In fact, the 1995 verdict of the Honourable Supreme Court of
India provided us with an excellent opportunity for peace and unity
in the both fractions here. However, we missed the opportunity
because the other faction was not willing to accept the challenge. We
tried our level best to make an amicable settlement on the basis of
the honourable Supreme Court Judgment and waited seven years for
unity and peace in the church. That was not to be. It was in this
context and on the request of our faithful here that we decided to
consecrate His Beatitude Baselios Thomas 1st as the Catholicos of our
church here. Today when I see this crowd, I am more than convinced
that we made a correct decision and a correct choice. May our church
continue to prosper under the spiritual leadership of His Beatitude
Baselios Thomas 1st and our Holy Episcopal Synod in India.
At this time, we also would like to appreciate the Government of
Kerala of its positive role and approach in our church affairs. The
state government knew that our cause was just. We wish to record our
gratitude and thanks for the Honourable Government for their care.
Our particular thanks to the former Chief Ministers Mr. K.
Karunakaran, late Mr. E.K. Nayanar, Mr. A.K. Antony and his council
of ministers and his successor Mr. Oommen Chandy for their constant
support and cooperation. Our sister churches and their leaders also
expressed their concerns and extended their help in hands for
reconciliation through mediation. Also the contributions of the
cultural leaders of Kerala are worthy to be mentioned.
Once again we are so glad we could come to India, which is the
largest democracy in the world. You have yet again proved through the
recent elections that the roots of democracy here are, indeed,
strong. Everyone can be proud of these traditions of democracy and
secularism in India. We remember with great respect Mahatma Gandhi,
the father of the Nation. This land is the cradle of the rich and
ancient culture and civilization. Kerala has been home to people of
all faiths and nationalities. When religious fundamentalism and
conflicts are destroying nations, Kerala has stood as a model for all
nations to learn from. Here, people of all religion live in harmony.
We have experienced this during all our visits to India. Minority
religions such as Christianity have received royal patronage from the
Hindu rulers in the past. Our own church, the Syrian Orthodox Church,
has been a beneficiary of this generous attitude of Hindu brothers
and sisters. Our Syrian community, in turn has accommodated many
aspects of Hindu culture in their social and religious life. We are
happy to note that our church has been able to maintain a cordial
relationship with all religions here. It is our responsibility to be
faithful to our own religious traditions and to be open to others and
to respect the faith of the brothers and sisters of other religious
traditions. We urge to continue this spirit of cooperation and to
take a stronger role in nation building. The church is the extension
of God's incarnation in Jesus Christ. Our mission in India is to
share the immense joy of Gospel, not forceful conversion. Gospel is
to be shared not to be imposed and our challenge is to witness the
love of God through our lives. It is our calling to be the voice of
the voiceless, the poor and marginalized. We should never entertain a
minority complex; rather we should continue to be part and parcel of
the national life in India.
We take this opportunity to thank you all for the preparation of the
Patriarchal Silver Jubilee celebrations of enthronement to the Holy
Throne of St. Peter and for the good words. Let me thank Oommen
Chandy, the Chief Minister of Kerala and his cabinet ministers for
making my visit possible and all the facilities provided as a state
guest and for his personal presence here. I thank Cardinal Varkey
Vithayathil and all the leaders of the sister churches who were here
and the social, cultural and political dignitaries present here.
We expect that you all pray for us to continue our efforts to glorify
our Lord Jesus Christ through the years to come.
We wish you all the best and thank you. May God Bless you.