I consider it a privilege to associate myself with the national commemoration of the late Fr. Kuriakose Elias Chavara. It is a happy thought that the first public function of Dr. Venkataraman in Kerala after assuming the august office of the president of India should be the present one where a unique honour is being conferred on a saint among men who was blessed and is a blessing.  We thank our beloved Rashtrapathi and extend to him a welcome to Kerala.

             Father Chavara is the pride not only of Kerala, but of entire mankind.  It is rare indeed that so many sterling virtues have blended so perfectly in one individual. Father Chavara was born a mortal, but the good he did over a span of six and half decades cast him in the mould of an immortal of humanity.  Yesterday, today and forever to the last syllable of recorded time this God-realized soul will remain among mankindís most cherished possessions.

Father Chavaraís life is an inspiring and edifying saga.  From the day he was ordained as a priest of the Catholic Church, the father dedicated himself wholly to God and worked piously for the social cultural and educational uplift of his fellow beings.  Unlike lesser mortals he did not seek pomp and fame or worldly riches or acclaim.

Father Chavara was a man of deep vision who thought and acted far ahead of his times.  He had a sure grasp of spiritual verities as well as social realities.  There is the wooden printing press preserved at Mannanam as eloquent witness to the Fatherís pioneering efforts to educate the people through the printed word.  His awakened social conscience would stop nothing short of communicating enlightenment and comprehension to others.  This is the true stamp of those who belong to the blessed community.

The house of charity was started at Kainakary by Father Chavara in 1869 as an institution to receive sick, poor and destitute people.  It was the first of its kind in India.  The Carmelites of Mary Immaculate and the Sisters of the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel are two other organizations inspired by the Blessed Father. The members of these two organizations are doing their founder proud by the dedicated social and educational work they are carrying out in various parts of the country.

            There are today several colleges and schools, technical institutes, homes for the aged, the blind, the deaf and the physically handicapped, and hospitals and clinics, which owe their origin to the Fatherís vision and zeal for the educational and social uplift of the community.  If the test of true faith is the extent to which it transforms the individual and the social order, we must say that Father Chavara and generations of the dedicated band of missionaries he animated have stood this test with eminent success.

            Religion, as Father Chavara exemplifies it, is the fulfilment of life.  Those who are devoid of religion, those who have missed the comforts and consolation of religion, are incomplete human beings.  The aim of a truly religious being is to serve God by serving mankind.  He aims at completeness by enlarging the object of sympathy and compassion.  This is the eternal truth, which has been affirmed by all our seers and saints through the ages. Father Chavara also reaffirmed this verity by his selfless service to the lowly and the lost.

            The Catholic Church has honoured Father Chavara by enlisting him among the holy men of the Church.  It is a fitting gesture on the part of the postal Department to honour the Blessed Father by issuing a commemorative stamp. I would like to utilize this opportunity to congratulate the postal authorities.  The presence of the Rashtrapathi here to release the stamp is yet another token of recognition of the saintliness and greatness           of this son of Kerala.  May I also pay my own tributes to this great servant of the Lord who endeavoured throughout his life to fulfil the real mission of the Church.



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