100,000 People Mourn Loss of Church Leader in Southern India

Metropolitan Alexander Mar Thoma was head of church since 1976

More than 100,000 people, from a wide range of Christian confessions, attended the funeral January 13 of Metropolitan Alexander Mar Thoma, a highly respected and loved church leader who was head of the (Orthodox) Mar Thoma Syrian church for almost a quarter of a century.The funeral was held at St Thomas Cathedral in Tiruvalla, in the southern Indian state of Kerala, headquarters of the 900,000-member Mar Thoma church. According to church officials, about 200,000 people had also queued up earlier to pay their respects to the Valia (Great) Metropolitan who died in hospital January 11 at the age of 87. As well as the nine bishops of the Mar Thoma church, the mourners included Orthodox and Roman Catholic bishops and leading officials in the Kerala state government. Supreme head of the Mar Thoma church from 1976, Metropolitan Mar Thoma retired last October and became the first "Valia" Metropolitan of the church, which broke away from the Malankara Orthodox Syrian church in 1836. After his ordination as a priest in 1946, the future metropolitan—then known simply as M. G. Chandy, received his doctorate at Hartford University in the United States and was consecrated as bishop in 1953. He was installed as Metropolitan in 1976.

"The number of people who turned up for the funeral shows the Valia Metropolitan's legacy," Metropolitan Mar Chrysostam, Metropolitan Alexander's successor, told Ecumenical News International (ENI) in a telephone interview from Tiruvalla after the funeral.

Metropolitan Alexander had "cared not only for our people but also for the sick, poor and lonely" of other denominations and communities," Metropolitan Mar Chrysostam said. "That's why thousands came for his funeral."

He also pointed out that Metropolitan Alexander ...

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