Ecker, spiritual leader find common ground Visit arranged by mutual friend

April 08, 1993|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

His Holiness Moran Mar Baselios Marthoma Mathews II and County Executive Charles I. Ecker found a little harmony yesterday.

Two days ago, neither the spiritual leader of 1.5 million Christians worldwide nor the political leader of Howard County's local government had ever heard of each other.

Yesterday, however, they sat in Mr. Ecker's office talking about the meaning of Lent. Actually, it was Metropolitan Matthews, of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church in India, who was talking.

Mr. Ecker, attired in a blue blazer and stripped tie, was listening. He sat on the edge of his chair intently, as though hearing the story and meaning of Lent for the first time.

The metropolitan, who has a long gray beard and was wearing a conical biretta and black cassock adorned by a pectoral cross, spoke as though he was explaining Lent to people who had never heard of it. He compared his visit to that of Jonah in the Old Testament who had been ordered to Nineveh to convert the pagans. The point of the Jonah story, he told Mr. Ecker, is that people should live in harmony.

"I believe in harmony," Mr. Ecker said. "I believe you should treat other people as you would like to be treated."

"Yes, that is right," the metropolitan said. "Harmony, love and peace. People of all religions should live in harmony. The fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man. That is what we preach."

Ellicott City resident Raju Varghese, who arranged the visit between Mr. Ecker and the metropolitan, broke into the conversation to point out that harmony is indeed the hallmark of his home in India, where he served as altar boy to the metropolitan years ago when the metropolitan was still a priest.

Hindu, Islamic and Christians live and worship side by side, Mr. Varghese said. He pointed with pride to the high literacy rate and the low infant mortality rate there -- lower than in the United States, he said.

Mr. Ecker gave the metropolitan a souvenir -- a miniature county flag and a small lapel pin bearing the county seal.

Mr. Varghese, who was appointed by Mr. Ecker to the county Social Services Board in July 1991, arranged the visit between Mr. Ecker and the metropolitan as a courtesy to each after learning that the metropolitan would be in the United States for surgery.

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