Kochi: The head of the Syro-Malabar Church, the largest of India’s two Oriental Catholic rites, did a Pope Francis while consecrating what is claimed to be the largest church in the country.
Cardinal George Alencherry minced no words in criticizing what he saw were ostentatious celebrations in the church.
Like Pope Francis, who is a severe critic of luxurious lifestyle of Church people, Cardinal Alencherry urged his people to avoid profligate spending and pomp while constructing new churches.
The prelate, who turned 70 on April 19, consecrated on the same day St George Forane Church at Edappally, a suburb in Kochi, built at the cost of 500 million rupees (US$8.3 million) as thousands of people, including Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, watched.
The new church, which can seat some 5,000 people, was built adjacent to an ancient church.
The church comes under Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese that Cardinal Alencherry heads. The work on the new church began 15 years ago, much before the cardinal came to the archdiocese.
He said the church consecration celebrations had gone overboard.
“It is a sin before the God if the money offered by faithful is used for luxury instead of utilizing it for social welfare projects or to help the needy,” the cardinal asserted.
Solemn prayers marked the consecration attended by Auxiliary Bishops Sebastian Adayanthrath and Jose Puthenveetil of Ernakulam-Angamaly and parish priest Fr Sebastian Vazhappally.
The chief minister later opened a public meeting presided over by the cardinal. Chandy, an Orthodox Christian, shared his memories about the church. “I have been visiting this church right from my childhood,” he said. He also greeted the cardinal on his 70th birthday.
Several ministers and political leaders attended the functions.
The church is built on more than 88,000 square feet. conceived in octagonal shape, the building, has three levels. The ground floor has an area of 19,500 sqft, where a chapel for perpetual adoration, offices, conference facilities and multi-purpose halls are set up. There is a 1,300-sqft garden in front of the church.The consecration ceremony
The construction of the church began in January 2000, after Syro-Malabar Church former head late Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil laid the foundation stone, which was blessed by Saint John Paul II.
The project was initiated as a national-level competition, in which 53 architects from across the country competed.
The first church in Edappay was built in the name of Marth Mariam in 503, some 450 years after Saint Thomas Apostle landed on the Kerala coast. The church now draws thousands of people from various religions. The church celebrates its feast in the last week of April.
An ancient lies in front of the old church and people believe its water has curative power.
In 1080, a new church was built adjacent to the old church. Every year, a grand nine-day festival is celebrated during April – May.