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Families stay in the church for a few days; following custom, the afflicted child will often parade around either church, ringing a small bell from time to time. “There have been many miracles in curing children, which I have indeed witnessed myself,” Father James told me.

The tiny, decaying sanctuary of Sts. Gervasius and Protasius was demolished a few years ago and in its place a large, striking building is nearing completion. Built with support from CNEWA, the church is a hybrid style with overhanging tile roofs, Byzantine windows and a marble floor; it should amply hold the congregation of some 2,000 faithful.

My final and lasting image of the twin churches of Akkarparambu was of the two priests, Father James and Father Varghese, standing in front of the ancient Malankara Syrian Orthodox church. The Catholic priest wore his white cassock while his Orthodox colleague wore black. Parishioners from both communities gathered around them amicably. Past differences seem to have been resolved with the help of time and pragmatism. Twin churches honoring two sets of twins set a progressive model for Christian communion both in India and the world.

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Based in Wales, Sean Sprague is a frequent traveler to India.

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Tags: Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Syro-Malankara Catholic Church