(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) A church, that was established even before the formation of the UAE, began a year-long golden jubilee celebration of its congregation in Dubai on Friday.
The St Thomas Orthodox Cathedral in Oud Metha was established on December 2, 1968, when Fr K. K. Punnoose, vicar of Bahrain Orthodox Church, visited Dubai and conducted a holy mass.
The 50th-anniversary celebrations of the cathedral were inaugurated by its supreme head, Baselios Marthoma Paulose II Catholicos on Friday. The inaugural ceremony was also attended by Abdullah Al Suwaidi from the Dubai Economic Council, and Navdeep Singh Suri, Indian ambassador to the UAE.
More than 1,000 people attended the first day of the public golden jubilee celebrations. A public meeting was also held as guests were welcomed traditionally, and a one-minute silence was held for the martyrs of the UAE.
"The highlight of the meeting was the 100-member, strong choir specially constituted for the jubilee programme. Also, a performance by Ethiopean Twahando Orthodox Church, our sister church. The celebrations began as early as 6.30 am with a holy mass, and in the evening, Sunday school students performed cultural programmes," vicar Fr Ninan Philip Panackamattom told Khaleej Times.
Recollecting the initial days, he said: "From a humble beginning of four families in 1958, it reached to 35 families in 1968 forming St Thomas Orthodox Association which eventually turned into a congregation. Today, it has more than 3,000 families."
Fr Ninan added: "The year-long celebrations will include several humanitarian activities that will provide aid and support to the poor and needy, across the world. Last year, we set up a 24/7 fully-furbished food supplies refrigerator outside the cathedral, we will continue doing that," added Fr. Ninan.
A brief history of the church St.Thomas Orthodox Cathedral is a part of the Malankara Orthodox Church in India founded by St Thomas, one of the apostles of Jesus Christ, in the year AD 52.
Fr. K.K. Punnoose was the first vicar of the cathedral, which was formed in 1968. In December 1969, a historical meeting between the then ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum and the former Metropolitan of Kollam Diocese Mathews Mar Coorilos led to the development of the church. In May 1972, the former outside Kerala Diocese Bishop Mathews Mar Athanasius met with Dubai authorities.
As a result of both meetings, the late Sheikh Rashid magnanimously gifted the church 68, 000 sq. feet land and on June 20 1974, Fr. M.V. George laid the foundation stone for the church. On December 31, 1976, H.G. Joseph Mar Pachomios Metropolitan consecrated the church building.
On December 22 2006, Baselios Didymos I Catholicos elevated it to the status of a cathedral.
The Dubai St Thomas Orthodox Cathedral is the mother church of Sharjah St Gregorios Church, Ras Al Khaimah St Mary's Church, Fujairah St Gregorios Church and Jebel Ali St Gregorios Church."
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