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4771A million people line up to mourn Indian Orthodox churchleader

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  • Rev Fr John Brian
    Feb 1, 2006
      Ecumenical News International / 31 January 2006

      A million people line up to mourn Indian Orthodox church leader

      By Anto Akkara

      New Delhi, 31 January (ENI)--More than a million people lined up
      along the road through the night in the southern Indian state of
      Kerala as the body of Orthodox church leader Baselios Marthoma
      Mathews II was taken 120 kilometres for burial.

      "It was one of the biggest funeral processions Kerala has ever
      witnessed," said Jose Parakkadavil, spokesperson for the
      Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, which Mathews II led until his
      retirement in October 2005, at the age of 90, due to ill health.

      The funeral cortege took 12 hours to travel from the city of
      Kottayam to the chapel at Sasthamkotta where the Orthodox leader
      who died on 26 January was buried. The funeral was attended by
      more than 500 priests.

      Police and church volunteers had a tough time to control the
      masses who thronged the chapel, said Parakkadavil.

      Christian leaders including Pope Benedict XVI and World Council
      of Churches general secretary the Rev. Samuel Kobia joined Indian
      church and political figures in mourning the death of Mathews II,
      who held the title of Catholicos of the East.

      Mathews II was born on 30 January 1915 and became a bishop in his
      church in 1953 at the age of 38. He rose to be its head in 1991,
      a post he held until he stepped down in 2005.

      "It was a life filled with love and inspired by prayer," said
      Oommen Chandy, the chief minister of Kerala, which accorded a
      State funeral to the Orthodox church leader.

      Leaders of all political parties in Kerala paid tributes to
      Mathews II who had been a strong advocate of improving
      educational standards and had launched several educational and
      charitable institutions.

      Catholic Archbishop Joseph Powathil of Changanacherry, who had
      worked closely with Mathews II, told Ecumenical News
      International that "churches in Kerala will remember him for
      bringing them closer".

      Kerala has more than 6 million Christians, most of whom trace
      their faith back to St Thomas, the apostle of Jesus, who is said
      to have reached the coast of India where the state lies in AD 52.

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