A new spiritual leader of India's main orthodox church was named Monday after the resignation of the previous church head.Thomas Mar Themothios, 85, was consecrated as Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan, said the church's spokesman Jose Parakadavil. On taking up the position, he chose the name of Baselios Marthoma Didimus I, Parakadavil said. Catholicos Baselios Marthoma Mathews II, 92, resigned as church head on Sunday, citing old age and poor health, Parakadavil said.
The Malankara community trace their origins to families evangelized by the apostle St. Thomas nearly 2,000 years ago, "An era has ended as Father Mathews was a very popular Catholicos," Parakadavil told The Associated Press by phone from church headquarters in the southern city of Kottayam.
The Malankara church has 2.5 million members, most of them in the southern state of Kerala, on whose shores St. Thomas arrived around 50 A.D., according to Christian tradition.
The Malankara church is a successor of India's oldest church, the St. Thomas Christians. While many factions broke away to embrace Catholicism or Protestantism during Portuguese and British colonial rules, Malankara remained independent.
The church also has dioceses in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Kottayam is 650 kilometers (403.91 miles) southwest of Bangalore. A.M.