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Patriarchal address at the public meeting in Ernakulam
Kochi (22.9.2004) - 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 meeting.
The transcript of the Speech of H.H. Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas at the celebration
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.
(Source: John Philip K.)