The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Kalam unity message from Church stage

Kochi, Nov. 17: President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam today drew to a close national celebration of the 1,950th anniversary of the arrival of St Thomas in India by reiterating his gospel of integration of minds to evolve a universal mind.

Addressing a huge Christian congregation at the Marine Drive grounds in Kochi this evening, Kalam emphasised that integration of minds should facilitate a “confluence of science and spirituality to seek happiness and peace for the individual and prosperity for the community”.

The President underlined how integration of minds works in everyday life by recounting from his personal experiences. He narrated how a Christian parish had agreed to displace hundreds of families, a church and a bishop house to pave the way for the establishment of Isro. Then he spoke about a Brahmin priest of Rameshwaram who used verses from the Quran to explain the value of the Hindu religion. “This is how religious leaders become spiritual leaders,” Kalam said.

Kerala, where Kalam had lived for 20 years during his stint with Isro, was a good model for the integration of minds that led to social and economic development, the President said.

The celebration, which also marked the 450th death anniversary of St Francis Xavier, considered the second Indian apostle after St Thomas, was organised jointly by different sections of the Catholic church in the country. Today, Kalam began a two-day visit to Kerala, his first since becoming President.

Reverend Crescenzio Cardinal Sepe, Pope John Paul II’s emissary, delivered a papal message to the congregation after presenting a gift from the Pope to the President.

Kerala’s agnostic chief minister, A.K. Antony, made a brief speech, pointing out that the warm reception that the two apostles had got in Kerala and elsewhere in those days exemplified the spirit of tolerance that prevailed in our country.

He exhorted all religious communities, and even the different sections of the church, to conquer the aberration of intolerance that they show from time to time.

Despite Kalam’s pitch for the confluence of science and spirituality at the meet, sections of Kerala’s academia consider his very presence here as an irrational action. Their point is that the President, who swears by scientific quest, should not have come for a function, which commemorated the “ mythical” arrival of a compatriot of Jesus to Kerala. “ The fact is “, pointed out Narayanan of the university of Calicut, “ there is no historical evidence to show that St. Thomas actually came to Kerala.

He also added that historians in the west have repeatedly said that that St. Thomas could not have visited India and that the stories of his having converted Namboodiris is improbable because the origins of Namboodiris date to a later period.

But, those who believe that “ Doubting “ Thomas did arrive in Kerala hark back to the oral traditions in history. There are many ballads in Malayalam extolling St. Thomas, points out Prof. George Menachery, a Christian historian, and the folk dance called Maargamkali is devoted to him. So too Rambanpattu, songs written by Maliakal Thomas Ramban, who is considered to be a successor of the first Brahmin convert. Father, A. Mathias Mundadan, eminent church historian and one of the prime organizers of the anniversary celebrations told The Telegraph that Christian Scholars have found similarities between Maargamkali and a dance described in the apocryphal Acts of John, just before crucifixion. The ballads in Malayalam speak about St. Thomas building 'seven and a half' churches in Kerala.

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