Servant of God Mar Ivanios helped bring a section of the Jacobite Church to the Catholic fold.
An unprecedented 20,000 people concluded a five-day "walking pilgrimage" to remember Servant of God Mar Ivanios who helped bring a section of the Jacobite Church to the Catholic fold.
"He is father of our Church. It is part of the Eastern spiritual practice to walk in pilgrimage to the tomb of our fathers,” said Father Thomas Kayyalackal, chief organizer of the pilgrimage that ended July 15 in southern Indian Kerala state.
When the pilgrimage started 37 years ago less than 20 people participated but now the numbers have increased phenomenally, said Father Kayyalackal.
The Catholic Church in India comprises the Latin rite and two Oriental rites called Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara.
The Latin rite follows the Roman liturgy introduced by European missioners in the 15th century, while the two Oriental rites, both based in Kerala follow Syrian Church traditions and trace their origins to St. Thomas the Apostle.
The Syro-Malankara Church began in 1930 when a section of the Christian Jacobite Church joined the Catholic fold while retaining their liturgical customs. Servant of God Mar Ivanios is considered the architect of this rite. He died 62 years ago and was declared a Servant of God in 2007.
Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, head of the Church, led the 130 kilometers walk from Mar Ivanios' birthplace to his tomb in the state capital Thiruvananthapuram, where the Syro-Malankara Church also is headquartered.
Mar Ivanios “always worked for religious and spiritual harmony," he said.
Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, president of Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace was chief guest for this year's programs. In his address, he described Mar Ivanios as the “modern Moses who led his faithful to the promise land.”
Less than 10 people joined Mar Ivanios when he came to Catholic fold, but the Church today has some 500,000 Catholics in eight dioceses and two archdioceses.