The global head of a church has visited Swindon to meet and worship with the local congregation.

Baselios Marthoma Mathews III, is the supreme leader of The Indian Orthodox Church.

The Catholicos came to meet church members in an intimate meeting on May 29 with around 35 Orthodox families in and around Swindon.

Binu Chandapillai, a Swindon congregation trustee, said: “It was a one-off special occasion.

“People do not normally have the chance to meet the head of the Church. People see him at a great distance with a large crowd, whereas this was only the congregation spending the evening together, so everyone could speak to him.”

The Indian Orthodox Church, also called the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, has 2.7 million worldwide members as of 2015.

It is headquartered in Kerala, India, where many of the believers live. 

In Swindon, an average of 100 come to mass twice a month at Tanwood School For Performing Arts.

The Church traces its history back to the 1st century when it is said that Christianity first arrived in India with Thomas the Apostle.

Chandapillai says the church is growing in Swindon: “We started in 2022 with just five or six families.”

The Catholicos prayed with worshippers and delivered a speech.

He said that life in this world is short and we should lead our lives with love and compassion irrespective of religion or caste. 

Chandapillai said: “His Holiness has reminded the congregation that to be a good Christian means you will be a good dutiful citizen of the country as well.

He also taught: “Every religion teaches love, so people should lead their lives in love and compassion.”

The Catholicos is continuing his two-week UK tour, called a Sangamam and he is currently in Ireland.

According to the Church, "Catholicos" means "the general head", and can be considered equivalent to "universal bishop."

The Catholicate of the East was relocated to India in 1912. The headquarters of the Catholicos of the East is the Catholicate Palace at Devalokam, Kottayam, Kerala, which was consecrated on 31 December 1951.