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A Report of the Historic Events at Mumbai Diocese

Mumbai Diocese Accords an Astounding and Historic Welcome to the Supreme Head of The Indian Orthodox Church

The Supreme Head of The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, His Holiness Moran Mar Baselios Marthoma Paulos II, Catholicose of the East and Malankara Metropolitan was given an arousing and august reception at Mumbai on 5th February, 2011. His Holiness arrived from Pune after a grand reception, where His Holiness has inaugurated Mumbai Diocese’s new ICSE school. The programme started at 3.30 p.m. Even in that hot sun thousands of faithful assembled at the Vashi St. Mary’s school ground, as a mark of the loyalty, allegiance and love to His Holiness. Each and every one was so eager and happy to make the reception a grand success and to make the mighty leader of the Orthodox Church happy. Bava Thirumeni was escorted to the dais by Diocesan Secretary – Rev. Fr. T. E. Isaac, School Principal – Rev. Fr. Abraham Joseph, Rev. Fr. Aswin Fernandez – Joint Secretary of Gregorian Community, all the revered Priests, the officials of the Diocesan Centre and of St. Mary’s school. It was an awesome experience to see that procession with Catholicate flag first (which was carried by Mr. M. C. Sunny – the Diocesan Council member), followed by the dignitaries. The school band did their job in an exemplary and appreciable manner. The procession also had ‘The Platter of Light’ (Thalappoli), adding colour and brightness as well as transforming the procession to spectacular especially with all paraphernalia, wherein 60 girls clad in Kerala Saree, ceremoniously carried a platter (thalam) in their hands having rice, fresh flowers, coconut and lighted lamp, signifying love, reverence, honor and prosperity.

His Grace Mar Coorilos welcomed His Holiness in a short speech, since one more welcome speech had to be done during the function of the school jubilee. Mar Coorilos expressed the joy in welcoming the Holy Father. His Holiness inaugurated the Birth Centenary celebration programmes of our former Diocesan Metropolitan, late lamented His Grace Dr. Philipose Mar Theophilus, the mentor of the Diocese. All the churches of the Diocese participated in the function. The vicars/representatives of each Parish felicitated Bava Thirumeni by presenting woolen shawl/our Kerala special handloom ‘kasavu kavani’, which His Holiness appreciates much, as His Holiness distributes the same among the needy and poor. Also Mr. Kurien Daniel felicitated Bava Thirumeni on behalf of Trinity News. His Grace Mar Coorilos, on behalf of the Diocese, handed over the citation to Bava Thirumeni. Reception to the Holy Father concluded here. For the next function His Excellency, Sri Sankaranarayanan, Governor of Maharashtra, the Honourable Excise Minister – Mr. Ganesh Naik and the Navi Mumbai Mayor Mr. Sagar Naik had to arrive. Till their arrival, the talented choir took the audience to a divinely atmosphere with their devotional songs.

Dr. Mar Theophilus Birth Centenary & the Silver Jubilee Celebration of St. Mary’s Multipurpose School at the School Ground, Vashi.

His Excellency Sri Sankaranarayanan and the Honourable Excise Minister – Mr. Ganesh Naik were received at 5.30 p.m. by His Grace Geevarghese Mar Coorilos, along with all other dignitaries, office bearers and school teachers. The guests of honour were also accompanied by the same school band and “thalappoli”. The Inauguration of Mar Theophilus Birth Centenary Award and Silver Jubilee celebration of St. Mary’s Multi Purpose High School were the purpose of this function. The function was presided by His Excellency Sri. Shankaranarayanan. State Excise Minister Hon. Ganesh Naik – who is an integral part of Mumbai Orthodox diocese (his own words), His Grace Yuhanon Mar Chrisostomos – Metropolitan of Niranam Dicocese and President of Balika Samajam, Rev. Fr. K. M. George – Principal Orthodox Theological Seminary and a great theologian of international reputation, Justice (Retd) Benjamin Koshy, Mr. Ashok Alexander – Mr. P. C. Alexander’s son (Executive Director of Bill and Milinda Gates Foundation for Public Health and Charities in India), and Navi Mumbai Mayor Mr. Sagar Naik (Nephew of Minister Mr. Ganesh Naik) were the other dignitaries along with the host His Grace Geevarghese Mar Coorilos, the Diocesan Metropolitan.

The programme started at 5.30 p.m. immediately after the arrival of the Governor and other dignitaries. The function started with prayers by His Holiness which was followed by welcome speech by His Grace Geevarghese Mar Coorilos. His Grace said “It is the most blessed occasion for the Diocese of Bombay and this august gathering to extend a very warm welcome to His Holiness the Catholicose and felicitate His Holiness for being elevated to the highest rank of the Malankara Orthodox Church. It is also a great privilege for us to celebrate the Birth Centenary of Late Lamented H.G. Dr. Philipose Mar Theophilus, former Metropolitan and chief architect of the Diocese of Bombay and the Founder Manager of this St. Mary’s School which celebrates its silver jubilee. During the Birth Centenary celebrations, the first prestigious award named after Dr. Philipose Mar Theophilus Metropolitan will be bestowed upon the great personality Dr. P.C. Alexander, former Governor of Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, former principal secretary to the Late Mrs. Indira Gandhi and the Indian High Commissioner in UK”. His Grace welcomed the dignitaries, and each and every one present there and ended the welcome speech with the following touching words “Sri Sachin Tendulkar, the great cricketer after completing the 50th century looked up holding the bat and stretching the hand addressed his father. He said – “Dad this is for you”. This blessed gathering especially me, have a special responsibility to address two persons – whom I consider as my Father Figure – Dr. Mar Theophilus – my Spiritual Father, Dr. Alexander, who is a father figure to me. I utter dad unto them both- this is for you.”

Rev. Fr. Abraham Joseph has presented a brief report on the initial days and growth of St. Mary’s school during the past 25 years. The school had started with 60 students 25 years before and the same has now more than 6,500 regular students till standard 12 and 250 poor students from the slum of Turbhe, near BARC, who are attending the night school till 7th std. These children are provided with free uniforms, books, fees and one time meal.

His Holiness in the speech of blessing said with utmost humility, that the felicitation and respect are given to the Catholicose of the East and not to His Holiness Marthoma Baselios Paulose II. Even if it was some one else, the same felicitation would have been given. The Holy Father appreciated the charity schemes of the Diocese altogether especially expressed the happiness to see the growth of the school during the past 25 years and so also the growth of the Diocese. His Holiness has specifically appreciated the charities by the school for the slum children. Bava Thirumeni expressed the joy that the road adjacent to the Diocesan Centres of Orthodox, Marthoma and other institutions was named as “Mar Theophilus Marg”. The credit for getting the same goes to our present metropolitan, H. G. Geevarghese Mar Coorilos, who worked hard for getting the name approved by the Navi Mumbai Municipality.

Diocese has started an award in the name of late lamented His Grace Dr. Philipos Mar Theophilus as this is His Grace’s birth centenary year. When it was decided, the task of finding out the most ideal recipient was entrusted with (Retd) Justice Benjamin Koshy and Rev. Fr. K. M. George and they both came out successful with the right decision. Justice Benjamin Koshy, Retired chief Justice of Patna High court and chairman of Appellate Tribunal, gave a short speech about the recipient. He revealed that it was easy for both of them to take a final decision, as they got the name of the former Maharasthra and Tamil Nadu Governor. Mr. P. C. Alexander. Mr. P. C. Alexander could not attend the function to receive the award due to his ill health, but his son Mr. Ashok Alexander, represented him and received the citation and the cash award of one lakh rupees. Mr. Ashok Alexander humbly returned the cash award as a return gift, as per his great father’s desire and instruction, to use the same for giving an award to the student who excel in different fields. His announcement was received by the audience with a thundering applause.

Mr. P. C. Alexander has sent his written message and the same was read by Mr. Jacob Varghese – Education Board Member. A part of the same is quoting here- “His Grace Philipose Mar Theophilus’s life was one dedicated to the service of the church till the last breath of his life. His personal contribution to the development of the theological seminary at Kottayam to its present status as one of the most eminent Theological Christian institutions in India and for guiding the Bombay Diocese to rise to its present level of one of the most active Dioceses in the church will always be remembered by the members of the church with gratitude. I consider it a great honour at being selected as the first recipient of this award. I am also grateful to His Grace Mar Geevarghese Coorilos whom I had known closely from his days as Rev. George Kurien, vicar of our church in London where I served in the mid 1980s as India’s High Commissioner. The Bombay diocese is particularly dear to me as I was a member of the diocese for the entire period of 9 ½ years when I was Governor of this State and had participated in the functions of many parishes in Maharashtra.”

Mr. Ashok Alexander in his thanksgiving reply speech mentioned about an incident which his father has told him. Once while his father was the Maharashtra Governor, he was traveling to Pune from Bombay in a Government helicopter, and at the airport he came to know that our former metropolitan late lamented Dr. Philipos Mar Theophilus was at the airport lounge. Knowing this, Mr. P. C. Alexander went to Thirumeni. While going back Thirumeni accompanied him. Mr. P. C. Alexander felt bad that Thirumeni is accompanying him and politely requested Thirumeni to go back. Then Thirumeni replied that “it is my pride to see one of Orthodox Church’s son traveling in a Government helicopter and it gives joy to me to see him off”.

Rev. Fr. K. M. George’s felicitation speech was a thought provoking one and as usual an awesome one. He too has given a brief report about how they selected Mr. P. C. Alexander as the right person for the award. Respected Achan expressed his joy to see such a big gathering for the reception of His Holiness.

His Grace Yuhanon Mar Chrisostomos during the felicitation speech said the award was given to the right person as Mr. P. C. Alexander was Theophilos Thirnieni’s affectionate ‘Kunju’.

State Excise Minister, Mr. Ganesh Naik who is a Navi Mumbaite, is always happy to be in the functions arranged/hosted by His Grace Mar Coorilos and he expressed the same in his speech. He did not hide his admiration and adoration to our Metropolitan, Mar Coorilose. He has expressed his appreciation towards the Christian community, as the Orthodox Christian Educational Institutions are playing a major and remarkable role in Maharashtra. He also thanked the school authorities for the charities they are doing for the slum children.

Prizes were distributed to the following out standing students:- Best athlete from the school level – Vishal Salian, best athlete from the college section -Ria Jain, best St. Marian Harshata Naik, SSC Topper Kupal Sneha Bhimrao who scored 96.91%, HSC commerce topper – Raikar Kajal C. scoring 87.16%, science stream topper -Rane Ameya Ashok who scored 95.67%. Best House is Yellow House and the captains Abhinandan Mishra and girls’ captain Khyati Shah proudly received the trophy for the house. The assistant Head Mistress, Ms. Geeta Khatal, was felicitated for her talented and sincere years she had put in for St. Mary’s school for the past 25 years.

The school magazine was released by His Holiness and the Jubilee memento was released by His Excellency. Also the ex-principals, Rev. Fr. Thomas Varghese, Rev. Fr. T. E. Isaac were felicitated. They thankfully mentioned that Rev. Fr. Lazurus was also one of the former principals.

His Excellency, the Governor addressed the audience, especially the students first, in English and later to the audience in Malayalam. He said the Indian Population has a majority of youth and they are the future builders of country. Hence they have to be given the best education and the educational institutions must keep this in mind to frame the best students. Governor appreciated the commendable contribution of the Diocese in the field of education as well as in the field of charity. He has expressed his joy to know that Mr. P. C. Alexander is the recipient of the award as Mr. P. C. Alexander himself is an institution and not a person. When he started his speech in Malayalam, the joyful crowd gave a loud applause. Governor expressed his joy to attend such Keralite functions. With much humour he has added that wherever we go, we find a ‘Malayalee’ and the fact is that being brilliant they are excelling in every walk wherever they are and they are very good in getting adjusted with the culture and practices of the place where they live.

Mementos were presented to all the chief guests. Dr. C. J. Samuel, Director of Diocesan Education Board thanked one and all who attended the function. Dr. Sunny Pariyaram – Mumbai Diocese Sunday School Director and St. Mary’s School teacher Ms. Saroj Tiwari did a laudable and wonderful compeering which added magnificence to the functions. The functions ended with the variety entertainment programmes presented by the highly talented school children. We could clearly make out the pains/strains taken by the teachers and students to present such creditable/commendable programmes to make the functions a grand success. All the ones who worked hard to make these two functions to a memorable one can be proud that they have succeeded 100% to attain their aim. Praying for one and all of them to strengthen them more and more to work selflessly for the growth of the Diocese and of the school.

By Mrs. Sabu George, Powai, Mumbai