A celebration of the 175th anniversary of an 1836 reformation in the historic Malankara church in India featured a keynote address by the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit.
The speech was given at the headquarters of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar in Kerala. Among those attending the event were Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Old Catholic church leaders.
In his address, Dr Tveit declared: "Reformation requires a unity in which we challenge one another. Mutual accountability is required for any reformation, so that we do not go our own way for our own benefit, but are mutually accountable to one another for the gifts and the decisions of our churches."
The Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar traces its roots back to the year 52 AD when Saint Thomas, one of the original apostles of Jesus Christ, is reported to have arrived at the ancient port city of Kodungalloor in Malankara, also known as Malabar, in the southern part of India.
According to tradition, Saint Thomas preached the gospel and converted local people to Christianity in Malankara where Jewish settlements also existed at the time.
Recalling the history of the ancient Christian community in Malankara and the unity in Christ that it shares with other churches, Tveit noted that today this church has become a global community scattered in parts of the world that include North America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
"In all these places," he said, "your people are committed to nurturing ecumenism at the local and national levels. The rich traditions of the Malankara church based on the reformation's spirit have equipped your church to see the wider horizons of ecumenism, wherever your people have been based and placed."
Earlier in his stay, the WCC General Secretary, a first-time visitor to India, was received by members of the Holy Episcopal Synod of the Mar Thoma Church and by bishops of the Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Malabar Independent Syrian Church.
The General Secretary was accompanied by Dr Mathews George Chunakara, director of the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs.