Metropolitan Tikhon was invited by the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church to Kerala India for the 200th anniversary of their Seminary in Kottayam. Metropolitan Tikhon in turn invited Archpriest John Behr, Dean of St. Vladimir's Seminary, and Archpriest Steven Voytovich, Dean of St. Tikhon's Seminary to accompany him. To see the official write-up of this visitation, please click here to be redirected to our OCA website.
The hospitality extended to us was quite extraordinary! What follows will be a brief daily log of events, some of which occurred before and after the official events related to the bicentennial celebration, to capture and share more informally the events of our journey.
In the very early morning of Sunday, November 22nd, our delegation arrived at Kochi International Airport. We were immediately met by Fr. Abraham Thomas and Fr. Aswin Fernandis, who accompanied us throughout the course of the week. Fr. Abraham represents the External Affairs Department of the Diocese. After some rest at our hotel, we made some initial excursions. Joining us was Metropolitan Nicholovos who also has offices in Muttontown, NY, almost neighbor to Metropolitan Tikhon in Oyster Bay Cove! All three were so generous of their time and energy with us during the course of the week.
Our first stop was near an existing synagogue. As we got out of our vehicle, we were nearly surrounded by young people who were marching and beating drums very enthusiastically. As we watched, an open-air vehicle revealed a newly married couple. Those before them were announcing their passage through the town!
According to local tradition, when the Jewish Temple was destroyed in Jerusalem in 70 AD, some of the local Jewish community traveled as far as Kerala to re-establish their homes. The synagogue was thriving at one time, but most of the Jews have since relocated away from this area. Our delegation had the opportunity to see some of the history, and walk through the synagogue. After some refreshments at a Chinese restaurant and repository of antique wooden carvings, we headed off in cars again.
Later in the afternoon we visited St. John Orthodox Church in Pampakuda. The Rev. Dr. Johns Abraham Konat is the pastor (second from the right in the church photo). He in turn showed us a repository of Syriac manuscripts kept onsite. Some of these manuscripts were created by Fr. Konat's ancestors, as he is the 23rd generation of clergy in his family serving this church! Some family lineage and other writings are preserved on palm leaves between wood bindings! Some of the manuscripts have historical value that is difficult to measure.
Upon returning to our hotel we had dinner together. Incredible first day.