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The role of women in the Church

The role of women in our church has not been clearly defined even though we do confirm that the greatest among the saints and the first evangelist commissioned to convey the resurrection message by Christ, are both women. The Old and New Testaments contain stories of women who were ‘Judges’, Prophets, and Evangelists. The genealogy of Jesus Christ mentions certain atypical women who were not really from among the Children of Israel.

These women played important roles in the salvation story of man. These women co-operated with God’s will and they in turn were blessed and became instruments for others’ blessing. They were truly like the virtuous wife depicted in Proverbs 31, that is, a definite and creative force, what is in today’s jargon called ‘women of substance’ and quite unlike the unusual  wishy- washy door mat and kitchen drudge image that is projected as the ideal woman in the Church until recently. Raising funds through Food counters, kitchen sales etc. and no votingrights. There was a prevalent stress on the image of woman as Eve – irresponsible and unreliable. St. Paul was and is quoted to substantiate this stand. But now matters are changing.

The Church is still an area of male-dominance today, yet the role of woman in our Church is evolving to the image of women as ‘Helen’ as in Jung’s theory of the development of the Anima. With the increasing number of women going out to work and becoming financially independent and part-providers, women are now understood as ‘capable of worldly success and of being self-reliant, intelligent and insightful, even though altogether not virtuous. Now they can vote, attend general body meeting and even become a trustee. But still they are excluded from any kind of public service during the Church’s most important and central work, the Sunday worship.

I understand that the Church has granted or is considering granting permission to allow women to read the Old Testament before the public celebration of the Holy Qurbana. It is being done in some Churches and this would be a very welcome change as this would enable direct participation of women in Sunday worship beyond their role as participating lay-persons. At any point of time, more women than men attend Divyabodhanam and other such courses and there are many who are well-versed with the Bible. Old and young women, who are baptized members of the Parish, may be permitted to read the Old Testament with the consent of vicar and after due practice. This would add depth and meaning to women’s role in the Church.

When considering other roles that women can play in the Church, I am tempted to use my imagination to understand how it might have been in the first century Church. In the beginning. The Church lived as a close knit community, an extended joint family. The physical, mental and intellectual as well as the spiritual talents of each was available for the benefit of all. About fifty years ago, there were more joint families and smaller parishes. The wisdom of the grand-parents and the knowledge and support of neighbourhood were freely shared and received without barriers of the self. Any parish can even now extend the benefits of a joint family under a good vicar, who can co-ordinate the women and use their talents synergistically. The following services can be rendered by the women of the Church without infringing on male bastions.

An important area where women can contribute in a significant way is in guidance/counselling. It comes naturally to women in their role as mothers and care-givers. There are several areas where nurturing and guidance are needed by the lay.

The first of these concerns women who marry into the Church from other denominations. They really need a basic idea about the Orthodox faith, rituals, prayers, etc. to make their integration smoother. Otherwise they may carry their husbands to their old faith or they might be unable to participate meaningfully. A panel of women can be appointed in each parish to identify such newly-weds and to make them feel welcome. They can offer the young women books and gentle and casual guidance regarding the liturgy, the Orthodox calendar, the importance of the day, attitude to saints, the use of incense, bells, etc. The women guides need special training to be effective. A special blue print can be developed by the Church to decide on the areas that are sacrosanct and private as well as those to be covered and the methods to be employed such as one-to-one or group interaction, literature etc. Every parish should have a library with books especially for the new converts. Women can be entrusted with the management of the library.

Women staying in each ward may also be entrusted with the duty of welcoming and acclimatizing new members of the parish in their respective wards. Relevant information regarding the parish, its routine etc. as well as the rates of wages for daily help in the locality, nearest grocery and other markets, medical help, pediatrician etc. would come in the very useful to the new comers to that area. New members must be introduced to the congregation after Sunday Service.

Marriage counseling should go beyond the spiritual. We read stories about young couples who have had stressful and unhappy marriages because of ignorance and guilt regarding the physical aspects of marriage. The necessary details regarding physical relationship, fertility, conception and child birth and possible problems should be explained to the newly married soon after marriage.It can be an optional service where couples can phone in and seek appointments/ advice in private. There are more ignorant couples than promiscuous ones among the young who are unjustly pictured in movies and novels as cohabiting and drinking pleasure-pilgrims. In fact many have hardly any energy after their taxing jobs and the constant pressure of heavy job commitments. The awareness regarding the basics of life that children developed gradually in joint families, growing up with animals and the pets is lacking now. Older women/ doctors/ nurses etc. can do this job, if trained, without embarrassing either side. The Library can also be useful here.

Counseling is required urgently in the area of child rearing Pregnancy and Parenting sessions can be arranged in each parish periodically where older women and young mothers can provide informative sessions and lead discussions. Christian parenting sessions should be conducted for prospective and young parents to train them as ‘Listening and praying parents’ without becoming paranoid about it. Importance of quality time with the children to know where the child stands at each moments within his heart, of walking the terrain with their offspring and inculcating the awareness that God walks with them must be stressed. Parents must be ‘watching parents‘as well as ‘listening parents’, but never spying or intimidating parents. Their children’s friends must be encouraged to visit so that the parents have an idea about the company the child keeps. Older women can provides the guidance, acting as foster grandmothers to help young parents and children. Again, training is needed here. A child learns first to love and trust his father and mother and later learns to love the father in heaven. It is agreed by all psychologist that there is a firm link between how children see their fathers and their understanding of God. The role of each parent in shaping a child’s God image and later his own parenting style and vice versa is significant. Obedience comes naturally where there is love. Parents must be taught to moderate their expectations, identify special talents and needs and nurture them. The church can use senior women as well as men and have annual sessions for carrier guidance. The talent that lies dormant in the adult population of the Church is vast and hardly utilized.

Parents of the children with special needs need special assistance and support from others who walked the path before them. It is within our power to train children to face defeat instead of giving up on life out of a sense of inadequacy and unworthiness.

The respect and trust that men have for women must evolve further if women are to be allowed to exercise their full potential and do their maximum for the Church. If considered appropriate, at least on special days such as women’s day, if not oftener and in other meetings, women with the necessary talent can be asked to give messages.

Women can also be formed into teams to keep an eye on sick or old faithful of the area living alone, visit them in hospitals and if possible offer help including help to come to church.

Since ‘Church’ means the people, anything done for the upliftment of the people is also for the Church. Grandparents played an important role in the joint families of yore as story tellers and communicators of moral values. They were close to the heart of the children and formed a bridge between parent and child. Today this blessing is out of our reach but we have many young and healthy grandmothers and grandfathers sitting alone and idle in their homes while in nuclear families with young working parents, children sit alone and listless before the TV during the long vacation, waiting for their parents to come back from work. Many parents try to enroll their children in summer camps or music classes. Some are sent to the grandparents. There is a supply and a lack. But I am not sure how this may be balanced. Already the Church has a Vacation Bible school to engage the young for a week.

Men and women are physically, mentally and psychologically different and this is a God created phenomenon. God made them to complement each other and to compete with each other for prominence or dominance. This difference ensure that each has to depend on the other and nurture the other for maximum welfare. Married life is the first step to learn love, synergy and sacrifice. It is like a river, stormy and turbulent near the source, but serene and calm towards the estuary where it meets with the sea.

Families are the building blocks of society and also of the Church. Men are the natural heads of the family through their physical and psychological attributes while women as in Proverbs 31 form the backbone of the family, the iron hand in the velvet glove, constantly working towards moral, spiritual and physical welfare of the unit. This is the primary role of women in the Church, though not the only one, and while the woman builds the families of the church according to our own faith and tradition, the church builds the woman through its training, worship and other nurturing activities.

Above all, women can and must pray for the church and its leaders as well as for the community as a whole as fervently as they pray for their families.

 

Written by

Susan Eapen

Family Meet at Nashik Church held today

Rev.Fr.Geevarghese Vallikkattil and Team, Sukhada Retreat Centre, Kolencherry, leading family meet at Nashik Orthodox Gospel Convention 2015

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Very Rev. Thomas Kurian Cor Episcopa

 

Very. Rev. Thomas Kurian Cor Episcopa
Diocese Bombay
Parish 1 Mulund St. George
Home Diocese
Home Parish
Seminary The Orthodox Theological Seminary, Kottayam
Status Priest
Important Dates:
Date of Birth Mar 19 1947
Date of Ordination
Priestly Ordination by
Priest Mar 4 1978
Personal Details:
Marital Status Married
Education
Permanent Address Kakkanattil Hill Gardens, Kadamankulam, Kallooppara, Pathanamthitta 689 583
Present Address Flat No. 95/96, Bldg.No.10, Kamdhenu Complex, Hari Om Nagar, Mulund (E ) , Mumbai-400 081
Phone 022 25320211
Mobile 9820 545352
Email kurienachen@gmail.com
Website
Name and Occupation of Wife
Children
Other Details:
Spouse Name: Mrs Susan Thomas B.A.,B.Ed. (Teacher)
Son: Toby Thomas
Daughter:Mrs Teena ThomasEducation : M.A.,B.D.,DHE
Positions Held (Previous & Present):

History of Catholicate

The Catholicate of the Malankara orthodox Syrian Church

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Introduction

The word ‘Catholicos’ means “the general head” or “general bishop”. It can be considered as equivalent to “universal Bishop”. This title and rank is much more ancient than the title Patriarch in the church.

In the ministry of the early church there were only three ranks namely; Episcopos (Bishop), Priest and Deacon. By the end of the third century or by the beginning of the  fourth century certain bishops of certain important cities or provincial capitals in the Roman empire gained pre- eminence than other bishops and they came to be known as Metropolitans. The Ecumenical councils of the fourth century recognized the authority of these Metropolitans.By the fifth century the Bishops in major cities like Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch etc. gained control over the churches in the surrounding cities. Gradually they became the heads of each independent regional church and were called Patriarch which means ‘common father’.

The same rank in the Churches outside the Roman Empire was called Catholicos. There were three ancient Catholicates in the Church before the fifth century. They were the  Catholicate of the East (Persia), the Catholicate of Armenia and the Catholicate of Georgia. None of these ranks and titles are the monopoly of any church. Any Apostolic and national church has the authority to declare and call its head, Catholicose, Pope, or Patriarch.Even though the title Catholicose had not existed in India before the 20th century, the idea behind the Catholicate or Patriarchate  as the head of  a national independent Church  was there from the early centuries and there was similar native position or authority in the Indian Church.  As we say that St. Peter was the first Pope of Rome, St. Thomas was the first  Head or the Catholicos of India. As all other Apostles did, he also established Church in India and made a set up to continue its administration in India.That was the Apostolic authority existed in India throughout the centuries.

In India the position and authority of the catholicose is development in the history of the Church throughout the past centuries.The first stage of the apostolic ministry in the Malankara Church is from the time of St.Thomas till the middle of the fourth century when the authority of the Church was vested in the hands of the Archdeacon.The second stage is the period of the reign of the Arcdeacons which started from the middle of the fourth century and lasted till the sixteenth century.The third stage started when the archdeacon was elevated to the position of a Bishop by the community  with the name Marthoma I in  1653.Since then the head of the community was the Marthoma Metrans and later  the position was developed to Malankara Metropolitan with more recognition. When in a religious turmoil the Patriarch of Antioch interfered and suspended the Malankara Metropolitan demanding complete surrender, in 1912 the Church consecrated the senior Metropolitan as the Catholicose and head of the Church.

In 1934,through the meeting of the Malankara Association  the authority  and powers of the Malankara Metropolitan was entrusted  to the Catholicose. Thus both the spiritual and temporal authorities of the Church was vested in one person who is the Catholicose cum Malankara Metropolitan  and the development of authority in that direction was completed in the Church.

Historical Development of Catholicate in India

Archdeacons     

In India St.Thomas founded the church and appointed prelates to continue apostolic ministry in the church. It is believed that the prelates were appointed from for ancient families namely, Pakalomattom, Sankarapuri, Kalli, and Kaliankal. Gradually the Pakalomattom family gained prominence in the ministry and chief prelates of the community where hailed from that family.During the reign of Marthoma VIII, the metropolitan of the community in the early 19th century, the Madras government once asked him a review of the history of the Malankara church and gave him seventeen questions to answer. On the 20th of April 1812 he gave written answer to all the questions. The last question was about the position and authority of the Malankara Metropolitan in the church. In his answer, he said, that from 335 AD for 1308 years ie. Till the coonan cress oath, the church was ruled by the  Archdeacons of  Pakalomattom family. He also said that after the coming of the Portuguese the church had, besides him six Metrans and one metropolitan. The Metran or Malankara Metropolitan of the community was the continuation of the apostolic authority in the Malankara Church. Our historical evidences say that in the early time, the title of the head of the community was Arch deacon. Sometimes the title was known as the Arch deacon of whole Indian. The native language it was usually called Jathikku Karthavyan. The Arch deacon of the community was the unquestioned social and political leader and he got even local soldiers under his command to protect himself and protect the interest of the community. The Arch deacon was the unquestioned leader of the community when the Portuguese arrived Malabar in the 16th century.

The Portuguese tried to bring the Archdeacon under their control. Through the Synod of Udayamperur (1599) they tried their level best to control the Archdeacon  and for a short period they brought him under the authority of the Roman Arch bishop. The community revolted against this through the coonan cross oath of 1653.

The Archdeacon as Bishop

After the coonan cross oath the Church ordained the Arch deacon as a bishop with the name  Mar Thoma I. This ordination of the archdeacon as a bishop was a very important turning point in the history of the development of authority in the Malankara Church. All the powers of the century old arch deacon with some more spiritual authority was given to the  Archdeacon when he was elevated to the position of a bishop.The Marthoma Metrans continued in succession till the early 19th century with the names Mar Thoma I,II,etc. till Mar Thoma VIII. and they ruled the church  from 1653 to 1816.The spiritual as well as the administrative authority of the community were vested on the Mar Thoma Metrans during this period.

Malankara Metropolitan

In 1816 Pulikottil Joseph Mar Dioysius became a bishop and he got an approval letter known as the Royal Proclamation  from the Travancore government to function as the Metropolitan of the community. Now on wards the head of the  Church came to be known as Malankara Metropolitan.   The position of the Malanakara Metropolitan in the 19th century is a growth from the position of the Marthoma Metrans.  The power and authority of the Malanakara Metropolitan got more recognition than the power and authority of the Archdeacons and Marthoma Metrans because of some political changes in the country through the establishment of British rule.From 1816, DionysiusII, DionysiusIII, DionysiusIV, Mar Athanasios and  DionysiusV  were the Malanakara Metropolitans in the 19th century. Among these Mar Athanasios and Mar Dionysius V exercised enormous spiritual as well as temporal powers inside and outside  the community.

Mar Dionysius V was the Malankara Metropolitan at  the time of the Synod of Mulanthuruthy (1876).  During the later half of the 19th century there occurred a split in the community because of the works of the CMS missionaries and the reformation supported by them.  This invited a closer interference of the Patriarch of Antioch.To get over the difficulties caused by the reformation and to support Mar Dionysius V against the reformers the Church invited the Patriarch to come over to India.

The Patriarch Peter III of Antioch  came here in  1875. Instead of healing the division in the community the Patriarch tried to make use of the situation to establish his authority in the church by suppressing the authority of the Malanakra Metropolitan.He strongly stood with Mar Dionysius and  called the Synod of Mulanthuruthy.The Patriarch presided over  the synod and directed its proceedings and took some decisions justifying the actions of the Patriarch in the Malankara Church. After the Synod he divided the church into seven dioceses and consecrated six new bishops to rule each diocese. By these actions the Patriarch was trying to reduce the authorities of the Malankara Metropolitan.

The way to Catholicate

After the synod of Mulanthuruthy  the Church became more  conscious about establishing a Catholicate (Maphrianate)  in the Malanakra Church mainly to avoid unnecessary interference of the Patriarch of Antioch in the internal affairs of the Church.The patriarch himself  directed the Synod of Mulanthuruthy and attained more powers through its decisions. He claimed as the spiritual and temporal head of the Church.The Malankara Church which was in dare need of the Patriarch  to fight against the reformers yielded to all  the demands of the Patriarch. The legal fights against the reformers ended up in the final judgment of the Travencore Royal court in 1889.The Royal Court judgment was a success to both the Patriarch and Mar Dionysius V in various  aspects. The court declared that the Patriarch got spiritual supervisory powers over the Malanakara Church. But it also declared that the Patriarch does not have any temporal authority in the Church.  The Patriarch was not satisfied about this decision.The Patriarch used all his ways and means to establish his spiritual and temporal authority in the Church.Mar Dionysius V died in 1909 and Mar Dionysius VI became the Malankara Metropolitan.

When Mar Dionysius VI became the Malankara  Metropolitan, the Patriarch demanded a registered deed from Mar Dionysius declaring perfect allegiance to the patriarch. Mar Dionysius strongly refused to yield to the demands of the Patriarch.The Patriarch excommunicated Mar DionysiusVI on 31st May 1911.The excommunication of Mar Dionysius created lots of confusions and divisions in the Malanakara Church.Most of the influential lay leaders and many clergy in the Church supported Mar Dionysius and stood firm with him.

The Malankara Metropolitan was the supreme authority in the Church throughout the past years and the Patriarchs were always trying with all their means to exterminate that position from the Church.The Church clearly understood the intention of the Patriarch when he excommunicated Mar DionysisVI.

The consecration of the Catholicose    

When the Patriarch excommunicated mar Dionysius VI,  there were two Patriarchs of Antioch; one was Abdulla who had powers according to the legal documents knows as Firman of the Turkish government and the other was Abdedmassiah who was senior and at the same time inactive at Turkey since the government withdrew his firman.Abdulla was the one who excommunicated the Malanakara Metropolitan  Mar Dionysius. The Malankara Church contacted Abdedmassiah and invited him to Malankara. The patriarch came and presided over the meetings of the Episcopal Synod of the Malankara church that decided to consecrate a Catholicose for the Malankara Church. Mar Ivanios Metropolitan of the Kandanadu Diocese was unanimously proposed to the post of Catholicose.

On 15th September 1912, at  St. Marys  Church founded by St.Thomas in  Niranam,  Mar Ivanios Metropolitan was consecrated with the name Mar Baselios Paulose First as the first Catholicose of  Malankara Church. The chief celebrant of the consecration ceremony was the Patriarch Mar Abdedmassiah himself.  After the consecration the Patriarch issued two Kalpanas declaring the importance, privileges, powers and functions of the Catholicose.All the authorities and privileges enjoyed by the Patriarch in the Church as its head was given to the Catholicose also.

By the consecration of the Catholicose the Indian Church asserted and declared its full autonomy and became a full autocephalous (having its own head) Church.After the demise of the Catholicose Baselicose Paulose I, the Bishops in Malankara together with Mar Dionysius VI consecrated Mar Philoxenos of Vakathanam as the second Catholicos with the name Baselius Geevarghese I. When he died in 1928, Mar Gregorios was elected as his successor. He was consecrated by the Indian Bishops in February 13, 1929 with the title Baselius Geevarghese II .

The Patriarchal group questioned the validity of the Catholicate in law courts and the litigation went on up to the Supreme court. In September 12, 1958, the constitutional bench of the supreme court of India recognized the validity of the Catholicate and unanimously declared that the Patriarch of  Antioch does not have any authority over the Malankara church and that the Indian church is completely free under the Catholicos of the East. Without doubt the judgment stated that all the parishes and properties of the Malankara church are under the authority of the Catholicos.

Moved by the final judgment of the Supreme Court of India, the Patriarch’s group unanimously recommended to the Patriarch Ignatius Yacob III to accept the Catholicos as the head of the Indian church. In December 1958, the Patriarch and the Catholicos subjected to the constitution of the Malankara church and accepted each other by exchanging letters.

The peace in the Indian Orthodox church which started with the mutual acceptance of the Catholicos and the Patriarch continued without much problem till the demise of the Catholicose Geevarghese II in 1964. The Malankara Association (representative body for the church) elected Mar Augen Thimothios as the next Catholicose, According to the constitution  of the church, the Syrian Patriarch who was on friendly terms with the Malankara church, was also invited officially to participate in the consecration of the Catholicose. The Patriarch accepted the invitation of the Malankara church and came down to India and co-operated with the Malankara synod  to consecrate the Catholicose. Conclusion

In all the Churches the position of the Patriarch or the Catholicose was a development of authority  in their  history. In Rome, Alexandria, Antioch and Constantinople and in  the Persian Church  it achieved almost full development and recognition in the 4th century  itself. Jerusalem became a Patriarchate at the council of Chalcedone in 451. The Georgian and Armenian Catholicose were also developed in the same period.

The Patriarchate was developed in Russian Orthodox Church between 1448 and 1589. In Rumenia it was established in 1885.  The Serbian Patriarcahte was established in 1879 and the Bulgarian patriarchate was established in 1883. The patriarchate of Ethiopea  was established in 1958 only. It happened in the Malankara Orthodox Church in 1912.The Catholicate in India was a growth and development through centuries within the Malankara Church. Of course the developments in other churches like Persia, Antioch Rome and external interferences  has influenced the growth in different stages.It should  always be considered as a symbol of Apostolic origin, authority and heritage as well as nationality and  independence of the Malankara Orthodox Church.

Throughout centuries the Metropolitan heads of the Thomas Christians were known as the apostolic successors of St.Thomas, the founder of the Indian church. The Vatican Syriac codex 22 written in 1301 at Kodungalloor refers to the Metropolitan of the church as “The Metropolitan Bishop of the See of St. Thomas, and of the whole church of Christians in India”. The church always asserted that St. Thomas had his apostolic throne in India as St. Peter had it in Rome or Antioch. When the Catholicate was established the catholicose as the head of the Malankara church, took the title

“The successor of the Apostolic throne of St. Thomas”

Courtesy : MOSC


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H.G. Geevarghese Mar Coorilos

Mar Coorilos was born on 7 October 1949 at Kollad, near Kottayam, to Mr PK Kurian and Mrs Mary Kurian of the Puliyeril family. After his schooling, young George had his pre-degree studies at CMS College Kottayam. He took his bachelors in arts from the Calicut University and MA from Sree Venkateshwara University. He did his BD from Orthodox Theological Seminary, Kottayam, and got post-graduate diploma in Pastoral Theology from Heythrop College London University and post-graduate diploma in Theology and Mission from Urban Theology Unit, Shefield, UK.
He was ordained a sub-deacon in 1970 and a deacon in 1974 by Catholicos HH Baselios Mathews I. Dn George became a priest in 1975 and served as Vicar, St Gregorios Church, London. He is known for his works among students and thus was serving the MGOCSM as general secretary for almost a decade. This paved way for Fr George to visit many foreign countries.

He was elected to the Episcopal rank in 1989 and thus became a monk in 1990 and was subsequently ordained in 1991. Soon, he was appointed as the Assistant Metropolitan, Mumbai Dioceses, and worked steadfast with late Dr Philipose Mar Theophilus for the progress of the Mumbai Diocese.
His Grace has held many positions in the church and other Christian societies. He had attended many international conferences and interacted with many communities such as NCCI, CASA, WCC, and CMAI.
Gregorian Community
The dream of His Grace Mar Coorilos Metropolitan is taking shape with the establishment of the Gregorian Community-at Roha, about 120 kms from Mumbai. The vision is to create a caring, sharing, and loving community of individuals rooted in the love of God and having a zest for serving its neighbors. The motto of the community is worship, study and service. It is indeed a religious community to work under the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, the Patron being the Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan, the Supreme Head of the Orthodox Syrian Church in India.
The community is named after St. Gregorios of Parumala. About 77 acres if land has already been purchase at Roha and project work and infrastructure are under progress. A Community Chapel is constructed on the Gregorian Hill and temporary structures are made to accommodate people. An Old Age Home has been started on 7th February 2006 and 3 inmates are already admitted. An Orphanage and Primary-School are going to be opened soon.
The Gregorian Community stands to promote value system by treating everyone made in the image of God helping and serving to build up the community and rejuvenating the talents and strengths in each individual It nurtures facilities for families to come together, serve each other irrespective of age, sex, caste, or creed. The Community wants to usher in spiritual awakening among professionals and also to foster inter religious dialogue thereby further tolerance and communal harmony.
Diocese: Mumbai
Original Name: George
Date of Birth: 7 Oct. 1949
Ordination (Deacon): 1970
Ordination (Priest): 1975
Ordination (Episcopa): 1991
Ordination (Bishop): 2002

Present Address:
Orthodox Church Centre, Sector X, Vashi, Navi Mumbai – 400 703
Tel.: 022-27663427
Fax: 022-2765087
E-mail: orthodox77@hotmail.com