If you are a Lutheran, your religion was founded by Martin Luther, an ex-monk of the Catholic Church, in the year 1517.
If you belong to the Church of England, your religion was founded by King Henry VIII in the year 1534 because the Pope would not grant him a divorce with the right to re-marry.
If you are a Presbyterian, your religion was founded by John Knox in Scotland in the year 1560.If you are a Congregationalist, your religion was originated by Robert Brown in Holland in 1582.
If you are Protestant Episcopalian, your religion was an offshoot of the Church of England, founded by Samuel Senbury in the American colonies in the 17th century. If you are a Baptist, you owe the tenets of your religion to John Smyth, who launched it in Amsterdam in 1606.
If you are of the Dutch Reformed Church, you recognize Michelis Jones as founder because he originated your religion in New York in 1628. If you are a Methodist, your religion was founded by John and Charles Wesley in England in 1774.
If you are a Mormon (Latter Day Saints), Joseph Smith started your religion in Palmyra, New York, in 1829.If you worship with the Salvation Army, your sect began with William Booth in London in 1865.
If you are Christian Scientist, you look to 1879 as the year in which your religion was born and to Mary Baker Eddy as its founder.
If you belong to one of the religious organizations known as “Church of the Nazarene, Pentecostal Gospel,” “Holiness Church,” or “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” your religion is one of the hundreds of new sects founded by men within the past hundred years.
If you are Roman Catholic, your church shared the same rich apostolic and doctrinal heritage as the Orthodox Church for the first thousand years of its history, since during the first millennium they were one and the same Church. Lamentably, in 1054, the Pope of Rome broke away from the other four Apostolic Patriarchates (which include Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem), by tampering with the Original Creed of the Church, and considering himself to be infallible. Thus your church is 1,000 years old.
If you are a Malankara Orthodox Christian, your Church was founded in India by St Thomas , the Disciple of Lord Jesus Christ in AD.52 as the part of universal Orthodox Church (The one Holy, Catholic(Universal) Apostolic ).The Orthodox Christianity was founded in the year 33 by Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It has not changed since that time. Our church is now almost 2,000 years old. And it is for this reason, that Orthodoxy, the Church of the Apostles and the Fathers is considered the true “one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.” This is the greatest legacy that we can pass on to the young people of the new millennium.
With the reformation Movement of 16th Century led by Martin Luther, a lot of the Christians of Western Europe protested against the teachings of Roman Catholic Church and they moved out of Roman Patronage. Their Churches were called by the name the Protestants. Lutheran Church, Reformed Church, Anglican Church, Presbyterian Church and Methodist Church are the major Protestant Churches of the world. From the Protestant Churches, by the end of the 19th Century or at the beginning of the 20th century a lot of Pentacostal Sectarian groups came into existence, and do not have a sound theological basis.in India we may find representative of almost all protestant groups and new Sectarian Groups. Some of them stay in alliances like the Church of South India (CSI) and the Church of North India (CNI).Even though the Mar Thoma Church is not a member of these alliances it has communion with them as a Protestant Church. Mar Thoma Church is theologically protestant and traditionally a Eastern Church.
We can conclude that, we can classify the Christian Church all over the world in to three Groups under the title Orthodox, Catholic and Protestants. All the denominations come under any of these mentioned groups. With the advent of colonial age the churches of the Western colonial rulers spread in many countries of the world. Thus we have 970 Catholics and 470 million Protestants in the world today. About 275 millions Christians of the world belong to Pentecostal sectarian groups. The Oriental Orthodox Family Comprises of the Churches of Egypt, Ethiopia, Eretria, Syria, Armenia and India. There are Churches in Russia, Greece, Rumania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Check Republic etc which belong to the Byzantine Orthodox Family. Altogether, the Eastern Orthodox Family make up 220 million of the world .
The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, also known as the Indian Orthodox Church, is an autocephalous Oriental Orthodox Church. This Church was founded by St. Thomas, the apostle of Jesus Christ. The primate of this Church is ‘His Holiness the Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan’ who is also the spiritual, temporal and ecclesiastical head of the Church. The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church has parishes within India and across the world, tracing its origin to the first century evangelical activity of St. Thomas, the apostle.
Historically, the Saint Thomas Christians were united in leadership and liturgy, being part of the Church of the East centered in Persia. During the 16th century, the Portuguese Jesuits attempted to forcefully bring the community into the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church. Resentment to these measures led the majority of the community to join the Archdeacon ‘Thomas’, in swearing to never submit to the Portuguese in the Coonan Cross Oath of 1653. The Church that followed Archdeacon Thomas continued as the Malankara Church. Following the arrival of the Bishop Gregorios Abdul Jaleel of Jerusalem, Archdeacon Thomas forged a relationship with the Syrian Orthodox Church and gradually adopted West Syrian liturgy and practices. The 19th century witnessed the formation of the Marthoma Church from the flock of the Malankara Church under the influence of the Anglican missionaries. By the end of the 19th century, relations between the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchs and the local hierarchy soured, particularly after Patriarch Ignatius Peter IV (1872 – 1894) began demanding registered deeds for the transfer of properties. In 1912, the Patriarch Ignatius Abdul Massiah consecrated H.G. Murimattathil Paulose Mar Ivanios as Catholicos of the East with the name ‘Baselios Paulose I’.
The Church is theologically and traditionally a part of the Oriental Orthodox communion of Churches. The Indian Orthodox Church accepts the Alexandrian Christology, as does the Coptic Orthodox Church, and uses the Malankara Rite – a local variant of the West Syrian Rite.
History: Upto 17th century
St. Thomas, the Apostle, is credited by tradition for founding the Indian Church in A.D. 52. The local Church maintained its autonomous character under its local leader. The Church in Kerala was an administratively independent community until the Portuguese established themselves in India during the 16th century. Following the arrival of Vasco de Gama in 1498, the Portuguese came to South India and established their political power in the region. They encouraged missionaries to carry out evangelistic work in order to establish Churches in communion with Rome under the Portuguese patronage.
The missionaries were eager to bring the Indian Church under the authority of the Pope. They succeeded in their efforts in 1599 at the Synod of Diamper. The representatives from various parishes attending the assembly were forced by the Portuguese authorities into accepting the Papal authority. Following the synod, the Indian Church was governed by Portuguese prelates. They were generally unwilling to respect the integrity of the local Church. This evoked great dissatisfaction within the Malankara Church which gave rise to a revolt in 1653 leading to the historic event of ‘The Coonan Cross Oath’. This event demanded autonomy for the local Church. Since the local Church had no bishop, it had to undergo severe hardships. It appealed to several eastern christian Churches for assistance and help during this crisis. Responding to the appeal, the Antiochene Syrian Patriarch sent Metropolitan Mar Gregorios of Jerusalem to India in 1665. He confirmed Mar Thoma I as the bishop and worked together with him inorder to organize the Church. Until 1599, the Malankara Church depended on the prelates of the Assyrian (Persian) Church to ordain its own priests.
Reign of the Marthoma Metropolitans (1653–1816)
In 1653, following the Coonan Cross Oath the Malankara Church felt the need to have an indigenous bishop. The parish elders (Idavaka Mooppens) of the Church met together and elected Archdeacon Thomas as their leader. This was followed by a general meeting at Aalangad on 22nd May 1653 where Archdeacon Thomas was elevated to the status of bishop with the title Mar Thoma I by laying on of hands of 12 leading priests of the Church.
The other section of Christians under the Roman Catholic Church did not consider Mar Thoma I as a bishop due to the nature of his ordination and many of the revolters returned to the Roman Catholic Church between 1653 and 1665 as a result of the proselytization efforts of the Carmelite missionaries sent by Rome. To confirm this rank, the Metropolitan along with the leaders of the Church wrote letters to the patriarchs of Alexandria and Antioch to send a higher authority to assist in the same. At the end of a twelve year long period of no response from any of the Churches, the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem – ‘Mar Gregorios Abdul Jaleel’ arrived in India in the year 1665. After having understood the situation of the Malankara Church, he regularised the consecration of Mar Thoma I. This started the reign of the Mar Thoma Metropolitans of the Pakalomattom family in Malankara.
After the reign of Marthoma IX, the Metropolitans of the Church came from different families. Now they were more popularly known with the title Malankara Metropolitan than as Mar Thoma. Malankara Metropolitans started to be recognised by the secular rulers of Travancore and Cochin kingdoms by a Royal Proclamation. Nevertheless, the title Marthoma continues to be used by the Catholicos of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church.
In 1795, the British captured the region of Malabar in Kerala. In 1806, Rev. Claudius Buchanan – an Anglican priest visited the ancient Church of St. Thomas in India. The Malankara Church opened a seminary at Kottayam in March 1815 and no sooner the Anglican missionaries joined the institution the very next year. However, the missionaries began to impose Protestant doctrines on the seminarians which resulted in the Malankara Church discontinuing its association with the missionaries.
This gave rise to the division of the community into three bodies:
- One of them set out to bring about major reforms in the liturgy and practices of the Church, but failed. After about half a century of conflict within the Church, this body moved out of the Malankara Church and organized itself as the Marthoma Church.
- A smaller body of the Malankara Church opted to join with the missionaries and got itself absorbed into the Anglican Church.
- A large majority of the community continued as the Malankara Orthodox Church without accepting the reforms.
In 1912, the Catholicate of the East was revived in India. The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church wanted to retain its autocephalous nature and thus appealed the same to Patriarch Ignatius Abdul Massiah II of the Syrian Orthodox Church. The Patriarch consented and consecrated Murimattathil Paulose Mar Ivanios as Baselios Paulose I, Catholicos of the East. In 1912, the consecration ceremony was held at St. Mary’s Church at Niranam – the church established by St. Thomas, the apostle.
Hierarchy and doctrine
The spiritual head of the Church is the Catholicos of the East and the temporal head over Church assets is the Malankara Metropolitan. Since 1934, both the titles vest in one person. The official title of the head of the Church is “the Catholicos of the East and the Malankara Metropolitan“. The present Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan is His Holiness Moran Mar Baselios Marthoma Paulose II, who was enthroned on 1st November 2010, at Parumala Church by the Holy Episcopal Synod. H. H. Paulose II is the 91st Catholicos of the East in the lineage of the Apostle St. Thomas, the 8th Catholicos after its re-instatement in India and the 21st Malankara Metropolitan.
The Church accepts only the first three Ecumenical Synods like all other Oriental Orthodox Churches. The Church in India was connected to the Church of East through the Catholicos of the East which existed in Edessa, Selucia, Tigris and Mosul during various time periods. Primarily, the Church uses the liturgy of Saint James, as does its sister Church – the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch. As of today the Church celebrates liturgy in West Syriac, Malayalam, English, Hindi, Tamil, Konkani and Kannada.
The Church has two theological seminaries located at Kottayam and Nagpur. It has dioceses and churches in most parts of India as well as in nations like the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Western Europe, Africa, Persian Gulf nations, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.
In short, the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church refers to St. Thomas Christians of India who are in obedience to the Catholicate of the East whose supreme head is His Holiness the Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan with its headquarters at Devalokam in the district of Kottayam situated in the state of Kerala in India.
The Constitution of Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church
The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church has her own official constitution which was formulated in the year 1934. Every member of the Church including H. H. the Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan, all diocesan metropolitans, the clergy and the laity are bound by the rules and regulations mentioned in the constitution. All the parishes of Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church whether in India or in other regions of the world are governed by the constitution.
As the Church had no written constitution until 1934, it was governed by consensus, traditions and precedence. The constitution was presented in the Malankara Christian Association Meeting of 26th December 1934 held at M. D. Seminary at Kottayam following which it was adopted and brought to force. The constitution was amended on three occasions to meet specific situations and needs. Though the validity of the constitution was challenged in the Court, the Supreme Court in its final verdict declared, confirmed and upheld the validity of the constitution. The constitution upholds the autonomous and autocephalous nature of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. The constitution enshrines the fundamental features of the Church, provides direction for its internal administration and preserves its integrity and autonomy. The essential features of the Church are provided in the preamble. The first article emphasizes the relationship between the Church of Syria and Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. The second article highlights the foundation of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church by St. Thomas and the primacy of His Holiness the Catholicos of the East. The third article refers to the name of the Church and the fourth about the faith, traditions and so on. The fifth article deals with the canons governing the administration of the Church. The constitution as a whole conceives the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church as self-sufficient in all her requirements, be it temporal, ecclesiastical or spiritual in nature and upholds that the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church is rightly autocephalous in character.
Since the 17th century, the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church uses the Syrian Orthodox Liturgy, which belongs to the Antiochene liturgical tradition. The East Syrian (Persian), Byzantine, Armenian, Georgian, Maronite liturgies also belong to the same liturgical family. In the first half of the 5th century, the Antiochene Church adopted the anaphora of Jerusalem, i.e., the anaphora of St. James, the disciple. During the 4th and 5th centuries, the liturgical language of Jerusalem and Antioch was Greek. Therefore, the original form of the liturgy of St. James was composed in Greek.
Following the Council of Chalcedon (A. D. 451), the Eastern Church was divided into two, one faction accepting the council, while the other opposing it. Both groups continued to use the Greek version of the anaphora of St. James. The Byzantine emperor Justin (518–527) expelled the non-Chalcedonians from Antioch who took refuge in the Syriac speaking Mesopotamia on the Roman-Persian Border (modern Eastern Syria, Iraq and South East Turkey). Gradually, the Antiochene liturgical rites were translated into Syriac. New elements such as Syriac hymns were introduced into it.
Mar Gregorios of Jerusalem came to Malankara in 1665 and introduced Syrian Orthodox liturgical rites. The most striking characteristic of the Antiochene liturgy is the large number of anaphoras (Order of the celebration of the Eucharist) included in it, of which about eighty are known and about a dozen are used in India. All of them have been composed keeping the Liturgy of St. James as a model.
Catholicate of the East
The word “Catholicos” means “The General Head”. It can be considered as equivalent to “Universal Bishop”. There were only three ranks of priesthood in the early Church, viz., Episcopos (Bishop), Priest and Deacon. By the end of the 3rd century, bishops of certain important cities in the Roman empire gained eminence over other bishops and came to be known as Metropolitans. The Ecumenical councils of the 4th century recognized the supreme authority of these Metropolitans. By the 5th century, the bishops in major cities like Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria and Antioch gained control over the churches in the surrounding cities. Gradually they became the heads of each independent regional Church and were called Patriarch which means common father. The same rank in the Churches outside the Roman Empire was called Catholicos. There have been three ancient Catholicates in the Church before the onset of the fifth century, viz., the Catholicate of the East, the Catholicate of Armenia and the Catholicate of Georgia. None of these ranks and titles has been the monopoly of any particular Church. Any apostolic and national Church has the authority to declare and call its head – Catholicos or Pope or Patriarch.
St. Thomas established the Church in India and is recognized as its first Head or Catholicos.
The reign of the Archdeacons lasted from the 4th century till the 16th century. A renewed chapter began in the history of the Church when the archdeacon was elevated by the community to the position of a Bishop with the name Mar Thoma I in 1653. Since then, the head of the community was the Marthoma Methran whose position evolved into that of the ‘Malankara Metropolitan’ with greater recognition.
In 1912, the Catholicate of the East got relocated to India and His Holiness Moran Mar Baselios Paulose I was enthroned on the Apostolic Throne of St. Thomas as the Catholicos of the East.
Sanctuary of Catholicos
The headquarters of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church got permanently based at Devalokam on 31st December 1951 at Kottayam in Kerala. It is the official headquarters of the Catholicos of the East who reigns on the Supreme Throne of St. Thomas, the Apostle.
The new aramana built in 1961 was inaugurated by the visiting Armenian Catholicos Vazgen I. A portion of the holy relics of St. Thomas, the Apostle, has been kept in the Catholicate Chapel. The mortal remains of His Holiness Moran Mar Baselios Geevarghese II, His Holiness Moran Mar Baselios Augen I, His Holiness Moran Mar Baselios Marthoma Mathews I and Metropolitan Dr. Thomas Mar Makarios are entombed in this Chapel.
The lineage of the Catholicos starts with the Apostle St. Thomas, continuing with the bishops of Edessa and Archbishops in Selucia-Ctesiphon. In A.D. 410, Isaac first used the title Catholicos. Since then, the Catholicos has claimed jurisdiction over all Christians of the East outside the Roman Empire. This Catholicate resided in Persia until the end of the 19th century. In 1912, the senior Patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch relocated the Catholicate of the East to India. His Holiness Moran Mar Baselios Marthoma Paulose II is the 91st Catholicos enthroned on the throne of Saint Thomas.
Further Divisions in the West
During the centuries after A.D 1054, the growing distinction between East and West was becoming indelibly marked in the history. The Eastern Church (Both Oriental and Byzantine Orthodox Churches) maintained the full stream of New Testament faith, worship, and practice-all the while enduring great persecution from both Islamic forces and also from her western counterpart.( See the crusades, I will narrate about crusades latter).The Roman Catholic Church(Western Church) bogged down in many problems. Then, less than five centuries after Rome committed itself to its unilateral alteration of doctrine and practice, another upheaval occurred-this time inside the western gates.
Although many in the west had spoken out against Roman domination and practice in earlier years, now a little-known German monk Martin Luther inadvertently launched an attack against Roman Catholic practices which ended up affecting world history. His list of Ninety Five Thesis was nailed to the Church door at Wittenberg in 1517, signaling the start of what came to be called the protestant Reformation. Luther had intended no break in Rome, but he could not be reconciled to its papal system of government as well as other doctrinal issues. He was excommunicated in 1521, and the door to future unity in the West slammed shut with a resounding crash.
The reforms Luther sought in Germany were soon accompanied by demand of Ulrich Zwingli in Zurich, John Calvin in Geneva, and hundreds of others all over Western Europe. Fueled by complex political, social, and economic factors in addition to the religious problems, the Reformation spread like a ranging fire into virtually every nook and cranny of Roman Catholic Church. The ecclesiastical monopoly to which it had grown accustomed was greatly diminished, and massive division replaced unity. The ripple effect of that division impacts even today as the Protestant movement continues to split.
If trouble on the European continent were not trouble enough, the Church of England was in a process of going its own way as well. Henry VIII, amidst his marital problems, replaced the Pope of Rome with himself as head of the Church of England. As a decade followed decade in the West, the branches of Protestantism continued to divide. There were even branches that insisted they were neither Protestant nor Roman Catholic. All seemed to share a mutual dislike for the Bishop of Rome and the practices of his Church, and most wanted far less centralized forms of leadership. While some, such as the Lutherans and Anglicans, held on to certain forms of liturgy and sacrament, others, such as the Reformed Churches and the even more radical Anabaptists and their descendants, questioned and rejected many ideas of hierarchy, sacrament, historic tradition, thinking they were freeing themselves of only Roman Catholicism. To this day, many sincere, modern, professing Christians will reject even the biblical data that speaks of historic practices are “Roman Catholic”. To use the old adage, they threw the baby out with the bathwater without even being aware of it.
Thus, while retaining in varying degrees portions of foundational Christianity, neither Protestantism nor Catholicism can lay historic claim to being the true New Testament Church. In dividing from the Orthodox Christianity (Eastern Christianity), Rome forfeited its place in the Church of the New Testament. In the divisions of the Reformation, the Protestants-as well-meaning as they might have been –failed to return to the New Testament Church.
During the Middle ages there were frictions within the Chalcedonian group and ultimately it led to a division of the Chalcedonians in1054; the Church of Rome (Roman Catholic Church) stood against the Eastern Christianity (Churches of the Eastern provinces of the Roman Empire).Numerous doctrinal, political, economic, and cultural factors were working to separate the Church into East-west division, two major issues ultimately emerged.
- That one man, the Pope of Rome, considered himself the universal bishop of the Church, and
- The addition of a novel clause to the Nicene Creed.
- Papacy: Among the twelve, St.Peter was early acknowledged as the leader. He was the spokesperson for the twelve before and after Pentecost. He was the first bishop of Antioch and later bishop of Rome. No one challenged his role.
After the death of the apostles, as leadership in the Church developed, the bishop of Rome came to be recognized as first in honor, even though all bishops were equals. But after nearly three hundred years, the bishop of Rome slowly began to assume a role of superiority over the others, ultimately claiming to be the only true successor to Peter. The vast majority of the other bishops of the Church never questioned Rome’s primacy of honour, but they patently rejected the Roman bishop’s claim as the universal head of the Church on earth. This assumption of papal power became one major factor in rending the Roman Church, and all those it could gather with it, from the historic Orthodox Church.
- Addition to the Nicene Creed: A disagreement concerning the Holy Spirit also began to develop in the Church. Does the Holy Spirit proceed from the Father or does He proceed from the Father and the Son?
Our Lord Jesus Christ teaches, “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me” (St.John 15:26).This is the basic statement in the New Testament about the Holy Spirit “proceeding”, and it is clear : He “proceeds from the Father”. Thus, when the ancient council at Constantinople (A.D 381) reaffirmed the Creed of Nicea (A.D 325), it expanded that Creed to proclaim these familiar words: “And in the one living Holy Spirit, the life giving Lord of all, who proceeds from the Father, and who with the Father and Son is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets and the apostles”.
Centuries later, in the 9th Century, in a politically motivated move, the Pope of Rome unilaterally changed the universal creed of the Church (The Nicene Creed), without an ecumenical Council, regarding Holy Spirit into “Holy spirit proceeds from the Father and Son”. Though this change was initially rejected in both East and West even by some of Rome’s closest neighboring bishops, the Pope managed to eventually get the West to capitulate. The consequence, of course, in the Western Church has been the tendency to relegate the Holy Spirit to a lesser place than God the Father and God the Son. The change may appear small, but the consequences have proven disastrously immense. This is issue, with the Pope departing from the Orthodox doctrine of the Church, became another instrumental cause separating the Roman Church from the historic Orthodox Church, the New Testament Church.
Conflict between the Roman Pope and the East mounted-especially in the Pope’s dealings with the Patriarch of Constantinople. The Pope even went so far as to claim the authority to decide who should be the bishop of Constantinople in marked violation of historical precedent, No longer operating within the government of the New Testament Church, the Pope appeared to be seeking by political means to bring the whole Church under his dominion.
Bizarre intrigues followed, one upon the other, as a series of Roman popes pursued this unswerving goal of attempting to control all Christendom. Perhaps the most incredible incident of these political, religious, and even military schemes occurred in the year 1054.A cardinal, sent by the Pope, slapped a document on the altar of the Church of Holy Wisdom in Constantinople during the Sunday worship, excommunicating the Patriarch of Constantinople from the Church.
The Pope, of course, had no legitimate right to do this, but the repercussions were staggering. Some dismal chapters of Church history were written during the next decades. The ultimate consequence of the Pope’s action was that the whole Roman Catholic Church ended up divided from the New Testament faith of Orthodox Christianity. The schism has never been healed. As the centuries passed, conflict continued. Attempts at reunion failed, and the Roman Church farther from its historical roots.
The ancient Church used the title “Orthodox” against the Gnostics, Montanists, Arains and Nestorians to qualify it as the Church having the undefiled faith and their opponents are the heretics. This Church had five main centers at Antioch, Alexandria, Constantinople, Jerusalem and Rome. Today the heads of these Churches are called either Patriarch (Antioch, Constantinople, and Jerusalem) or Pope (Alexandria and Rome).
The ancient Church was divided into two kinds of Christians as a result of the Council of Chalcedon ( AD451).The councils main agenda was to discuss about the Person of Jesus Christ, i.e to say how the divinity and humanity were united in Jesus Christ. The council adopted a doctrinal thesis, which was accepted one group and rejected by the other group. Those who rejected the Council’s decision were called the Non-Caledonians and even today the Churches of Egypt, Syria, Ethiopia, Erithrea, Armenia and India are known by this name; they are also called the oriental Orthodox Christians. On the other side the Christians of the major portion of the Roman Empire accepted the Council of Chalcedon and they were referred to as the Caledonians.
The Catholicate of the Malankara orthodox Syrian Church
The word ‘Catholicos’ means “the general head” or “general bishop”. It can be considered as equivalent to “universal Bishop”. This title and rank is much more ancient than the title Patriarch in the church.
In the ministry of the early church there were only three ranks namely; Episcopos (Bishop), Priest and Deacon. By the end of the third century or by the beginning of the fourth century certain bishops of certain important cities or provincial capitals in the Roman empire gained pre- eminence than other bishops and they came to be known as Metropolitans. The Ecumenical councils of the fourth century recognized the authority of these Metropolitans.By the fifth century the Bishops in major cities like Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch etc. gained control over the churches in the surrounding cities. Gradually they became the heads of each independent regional church and were called Patriarch which means ‘common father’.
The same rank in the Churches outside the Roman Empire was called Catholicos. There were three ancient Catholicates in the Church before the fifth century. They were the Catholicate of the East (Persia), the Catholicate of Armenia and the Catholicate of Georgia. None of these ranks and titles are the monopoly of any church. Any Apostolic and national church has the authority to declare and call its head, Catholicose, Pope, or Patriarch.Even though the title Catholicose had not existed in India before the 20th century, the idea behind the Catholicate or Patriarchate as the head of a national independent Church was there from the early centuries and there was similar native position or authority in the Indian Church. As we say that St. Peter was the first Pope of Rome, St. Thomas was the first Head or the Catholicos of India. As all other Apostles did, he also established Church in India and made a set up to continue its administration in India.That was the Apostolic authority existed in India throughout the centuries.
In India the position and authority of the catholicose is development in the history of the Church throughout the past centuries.The first stage of the apostolic ministry in the Malankara Church is from the time of St.Thomas till the middle of the fourth century when the authority of the Church was vested in the hands of the Archdeacon.The second stage is the period of the reign of the Arcdeacons which started from the middle of the fourth century and lasted till the sixteenth century.The third stage started when the archdeacon was elevated to the position of a Bishop by the community with the name Marthoma I in 1653.Since then the head of the community was the Marthoma Metrans and later the position was developed to Malankara Metropolitan with more recognition. When in a religious turmoil the Patriarch of Antioch interfered and suspended the Malankara Metropolitan demanding complete surrender, in 1912 the Church consecrated the senior Metropolitan as the Catholicose and head of the Church.
In 1934,through the meeting of the Malankara Association the authority and powers of the Malankara Metropolitan was entrusted to the Catholicose. Thus both the spiritual and temporal authorities of the Church was vested in one person who is the Catholicose cum Malankara Metropolitan and the development of authority in that direction was completed in the Church.
Historical Development of Catholicate in India
In India St.Thomas founded the church and appointed prelates to continue apostolic ministry in the church. It is believed that the prelates were appointed from for ancient families namely, Pakalomattom, Sankarapuri, Kalli, and Kaliankal. Gradually the Pakalomattom family gained prominence in the ministry and chief prelates of the community where hailed from that family.During the reign of Marthoma VIII, the metropolitan of the community in the early 19th century, the Madras government once asked him a review of the history of the Malankara church and gave him seventeen questions to answer. On the 20th of April 1812 he gave written answer to all the questions. The last question was about the position and authority of the Malankara Metropolitan in the church. In his answer, he said, that from 335 AD for 1308 years ie. Till the coonan cress oath, the church was ruled by the Archdeacons of Pakalomattom family. He also said that after the coming of the Portuguese the church had, besides him six Metrans and one metropolitan. The Metran or Malankara Metropolitan of the community was the continuation of the apostolic authority in the Malankara Church. Our historical evidences say that in the early time, the title of the head of the community was Arch deacon. Sometimes the title was known as the Arch deacon of whole Indian. The native language it was usually called Jathikku Karthavyan. The Arch deacon of the community was the unquestioned social and political leader and he got even local soldiers under his command to protect himself and protect the interest of the community. The Arch deacon was the unquestioned leader of the community when the Portuguese arrived Malabar in the 16th century.
The Portuguese tried to bring the Archdeacon under their control. Through the Synod of Udayamperur (1599) they tried their level best to control the Archdeacon and for a short period they brought him under the authority of the Roman Arch bishop. The community revolted against this through the coonan cross oath of 1653.
The Archdeacon as Bishop
After the coonan cross oath the Church ordained the Arch deacon as a bishop with the name Mar Thoma I. This ordination of the archdeacon as a bishop was a very important turning point in the history of the development of authority in the Malankara Church. All the powers of the century old arch deacon with some more spiritual authority was given to the Archdeacon when he was elevated to the position of a bishop.The Marthoma Metrans continued in succession till the early 19th century with the names Mar Thoma I,II,etc. till Mar Thoma VIII. and they ruled the church from 1653 to 1816.The spiritual as well as the administrative authority of the community were vested on the Mar Thoma Metrans during this period.
In 1816 Pulikottil Joseph Mar Dioysius became a bishop and he got an approval letter known as the Royal Proclamation from the Travancore government to function as the Metropolitan of the community. Now on wards the head of the Church came to be known as Malankara Metropolitan. The position of the Malanakara Metropolitan in the 19th century is a growth from the position of the Marthoma Metrans. The power and authority of the Malanakara Metropolitan got more recognition than the power and authority of the Archdeacons and Marthoma Metrans because of some political changes in the country through the establishment of British rule.From 1816, DionysiusII, DionysiusIII, DionysiusIV, Mar Athanasios and DionysiusV were the Malanakara Metropolitans in the 19th century. Among these Mar Athanasios and Mar Dionysius V exercised enormous spiritual as well as temporal powers inside and outside the community.
Mar Dionysius V was the Malankara Metropolitan at the time of the Synod of Mulanthuruthy (1876). During the later half of the 19th century there occurred a split in the community because of the works of the CMS missionaries and the reformation supported by them. This invited a closer interference of the Patriarch of Antioch.To get over the difficulties caused by the reformation and to support Mar Dionysius V against the reformers the Church invited the Patriarch to come over to India.
The Patriarch Peter III of Antioch came here in 1875. Instead of healing the division in the community the Patriarch tried to make use of the situation to establish his authority in the church by suppressing the authority of the Malanakra Metropolitan.He strongly stood with Mar Dionysius and called the Synod of Mulanthuruthy.The Patriarch presided over the synod and directed its proceedings and took some decisions justifying the actions of the Patriarch in the Malankara Church. After the Synod he divided the church into seven dioceses and consecrated six new bishops to rule each diocese. By these actions the Patriarch was trying to reduce the authorities of the Malankara Metropolitan.
The way to Catholicate
After the synod of Mulanthuruthy the Church became more conscious about establishing a Catholicate (Maphrianate) in the Malanakra Church mainly to avoid unnecessary interference of the Patriarch of Antioch in the internal affairs of the Church.The patriarch himself directed the Synod of Mulanthuruthy and attained more powers through its decisions. He claimed as the spiritual and temporal head of the Church.The Malankara Church which was in dare need of the Patriarch to fight against the reformers yielded to all the demands of the Patriarch. The legal fights against the reformers ended up in the final judgment of the Travencore Royal court in 1889.The Royal Court judgment was a success to both the Patriarch and Mar Dionysius V in various aspects. The court declared that the Patriarch got spiritual supervisory powers over the Malanakara Church. But it also declared that the Patriarch does not have any temporal authority in the Church. The Patriarch was not satisfied about this decision.The Patriarch used all his ways and means to establish his spiritual and temporal authority in the Church.Mar Dionysius V died in 1909 and Mar Dionysius VI became the Malankara Metropolitan.
When Mar Dionysius VI became the Malankara Metropolitan, the Patriarch demanded a registered deed from Mar Dionysius declaring perfect allegiance to the patriarch. Mar Dionysius strongly refused to yield to the demands of the Patriarch.The Patriarch excommunicated Mar DionysiusVI on 31st May 1911.The excommunication of Mar Dionysius created lots of confusions and divisions in the Malanakara Church.Most of the influential lay leaders and many clergy in the Church supported Mar Dionysius and stood firm with him.
The Malankara Metropolitan was the supreme authority in the Church throughout the past years and the Patriarchs were always trying with all their means to exterminate that position from the Church.The Church clearly understood the intention of the Patriarch when he excommunicated Mar DionysisVI.
The consecration of the Catholicose
When the Patriarch excommunicated mar Dionysius VI, there were two Patriarchs of Antioch; one was Abdulla who had powers according to the legal documents knows as Firman of the Turkish government and the other was Abdedmassiah who was senior and at the same time inactive at Turkey since the government withdrew his firman.Abdulla was the one who excommunicated the Malanakara Metropolitan Mar Dionysius. The Malankara Church contacted Abdedmassiah and invited him to Malankara. The patriarch came and presided over the meetings of the Episcopal Synod of the Malankara church that decided to consecrate a Catholicose for the Malankara Church. Mar Ivanios Metropolitan of the Kandanadu Diocese was unanimously proposed to the post of Catholicose.
On 15th September 1912, at St. Marys Church founded by St.Thomas in Niranam, Mar Ivanios Metropolitan was consecrated with the name Mar Baselios Paulose First as the first Catholicose of Malankara Church. The chief celebrant of the consecration ceremony was the Patriarch Mar Abdedmassiah himself. After the consecration the Patriarch issued two Kalpanas declaring the importance, privileges, powers and functions of the Catholicose.All the authorities and privileges enjoyed by the Patriarch in the Church as its head was given to the Catholicose also.
By the consecration of the Catholicose the Indian Church asserted and declared its full autonomy and became a full autocephalous (having its own head) Church.After the demise of the Catholicose Baselicose Paulose I, the Bishops in Malankara together with Mar Dionysius VI consecrated Mar Philoxenos of Vakathanam as the second Catholicos with the name Baselius Geevarghese I. When he died in 1928, Mar Gregorios was elected as his successor. He was consecrated by the Indian Bishops in February 13, 1929 with the title Baselius Geevarghese II .
The Patriarchal group questioned the validity of the Catholicate in law courts and the litigation went on up to the Supreme court. In September 12, 1958, the constitutional bench of the supreme court of India recognized the validity of the Catholicate and unanimously declared that the Patriarch of Antioch does not have any authority over the Malankara church and that the Indian church is completely free under the Catholicos of the East. Without doubt the judgment stated that all the parishes and properties of the Malankara church are under the authority of the Catholicos.
Moved by the final judgment of the Supreme Court of India, the Patriarch’s group unanimously recommended to the Patriarch Ignatius Yacob III to accept the Catholicos as the head of the Indian church. In December 1958, the Patriarch and the Catholicos subjected to the constitution of the Malankara church and accepted each other by exchanging letters.
The peace in the Indian Orthodox church which started with the mutual acceptance of the Catholicos and the Patriarch continued without much problem till the demise of the Catholicose Geevarghese II in 1964. The Malankara Association (representative body for the church) elected Mar Augen Thimothios as the next Catholicose, According to the constitution of the church, the Syrian Patriarch who was on friendly terms with the Malankara church, was also invited officially to participate in the consecration of the Catholicose. The Patriarch accepted the invitation of the Malankara church and came down to India and co-operated with the Malankara synod to consecrate the Catholicose. Conclusion
In all the Churches the position of the Patriarch or the Catholicose was a development of authority in their history. In Rome, Alexandria, Antioch and Constantinople and in the Persian Church it achieved almost full development and recognition in the 4th century itself. Jerusalem became a Patriarchate at the council of Chalcedone in 451. The Georgian and Armenian Catholicose were also developed in the same period.
The Patriarchate was developed in Russian Orthodox Church between 1448 and 1589. In Rumenia it was established in 1885. The Serbian Patriarcahte was established in 1879 and the Bulgarian patriarchate was established in 1883. The patriarchate of Ethiopea was established in 1958 only. It happened in the Malankara Orthodox Church in 1912.The Catholicate in India was a growth and development through centuries within the Malankara Church. Of course the developments in other churches like Persia, Antioch Rome and external interferences has influenced the growth in different stages.It should always be considered as a symbol of Apostolic origin, authority and heritage as well as nationality and independence of the Malankara Orthodox Church.
Throughout centuries the Metropolitan heads of the Thomas Christians were known as the apostolic successors of St.Thomas, the founder of the Indian church. The Vatican Syriac codex 22 written in 1301 at Kodungalloor refers to the Metropolitan of the church as “The Metropolitan Bishop of the See of St. Thomas, and of the whole church of Christians in India”. The church always asserted that St. Thomas had his apostolic throne in India as St. Peter had it in Rome or Antioch. When the Catholicate was established the catholicose as the head of the Malankara church, took the title
“The successor of the Apostolic throne of St. Thomas”
Courtesy : MOSC
Three score years ago in a small village called Mangad near Kunnamkulam was born Paul on 30th Aug 1946 in the ancient Syrian Christian family of Kollannur to K. I. Ipe and Kunjeetty. Paul’s mother hails from the famous family of Pulikkottil and Paul was baptized at St. mary’s orthodox church, pazhanj. Groomed by his parents and grand parents, Paul had his LP and UP education at Mangad schools.
He had his secondary education at Govt. H. S, Pazhanji, Paul moved to the city of Trissur for his pre-university and undergraduate studies at St. Thomas college, Trissur from where Paul passed in flying colours. He had his postgraduate studies in sociology at CMS College, Kottayam.
From his childhood Paul showed keen interest in spiritual matters. His parish church, St. Marys Orthodox church was the nerve centre of his spiritual growth. At the age of 13, he was selected by his parish priest to be vast in the ‘washing of feat’ service celebrated by H G Paulose Mar Severios Metropolitan. This marked a turning point in the life of young Paul when the metropolitan invited him to the priesthood. The influence of his parents especially that of his mother who hails from the famous Pulikkottil family played a great role in moulding his early life. Even from his childhood, he use to learn Syriac chants and prayers and was very keen in attending the church service. Young Paul joined the Orthodox Theological Seminary from where he secured GST and took BD from the Serampore University.
H G the late Yuhanon Mar Severios, Metropolitan of Kochi diocese ordained him as sub deacon at Parumala seminary on 8th April 1972 and as deacon at Sion seminary, Koratty on 31st May 1973. He was ordained as priest by H G the late Yuhanon Mar Severios at Sion Seminary, Koratty on 2nd June 1973. Fr K I Paul celebrated his fist Holy Qurbana at Mar Gregorius Orthodox Chapel Mangad.
Fr Paul served as a model shepherd of St. Marys Orthodox Church Ernakulam, Moolepat Orthodox church Pazhanji, St. Marys Magdalene Convent Adappotty, Kummanmkulam and Medical College Chapel Kottayam. The malankara Syrian Christian association held at MGM Thiruvalla on December 28th 1982 elected Fr Paul as metropolitan. H G the late Mathews Mar Coorilos (later H H Moran Mar Baselius Mar Thoma Mathews II) professed him Ramban on 14 May 1983 at Parumala Seminary. On 15th May 1985 H H Moran Mar Baselius Marthoma Mathews I consecrated Paul ramban as Episcopa with the name Paulose Mar Milithios.
H G Paulose Mar Milithios had the privileged of becoming the first bishop of newly formed Kunnamkulam diociese on 1st August 1985. His Grace was elevated as Metropolitan on 25th Oct 1991. besides shepherding the kunnamkulam dioceses His Grace serves as the president of orthodox Syrian Sunday school association of the east (OSSAE), MBCH Mannapra Vadavucode, Pulikottil Mar Divannasius Bhavan Kottapady. His Grace is the vice president of Mar Gregorios Orthodox Christian Student Movement of India, MMM hospital, Kunnamkulam and manager of M. D. college Pazhanji. His grace has also served as the president of the Orthodox Youth Movement.
The Holy Episcopal synod and the Managing committee nominated His Grace as the successor to the Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan on 27 Sep 2006. Elevated to the throne of The Catholicos of The East and Malankara Metropolitan on 1 Nov 2010.
His Holiness was consecrated as Bishop on August 24, 1966 and has been serving as Metropolitan of the Malabar Diocese of the church. He is the seventh Catholicos since the Catholicate of the East was relocated to India and 90th in the lineage of Catholicoi of the East in the Apostolic throne of St. Thomas. He is also the 19th Malankara Metropolitan of the Church.
His Holiness Baselios Marthoma Didimos I was born on 29 October 1921 to Ittyavira Thomas of Mulamootil House in Nedumbram near Thiruvalla and Sosamma of Chiramel House in Mavelikara. He joined the Tabor Dayara in Pathanapuram in 1939 and completed his high school education. He passed his Intermediate from C.M.S College, Kottayam in 1945, his B.A from National College, Tiruchirapalli in 1951, his B.T from Maston Training College, Madras in 1954, and his M.A from Christ Church College, Kanpur in 1961. He completed his training for priesthood under the disciplined guidance of Thoma Mar Dionysius and His Holiness Baselios Oughen, Catholicos of the East. He received from His Holiness Geevarghese II Catholicos of the East the order of Korooyo on 11 March 1942, full deaconship on 22 May 1947 and priesthood on 25 January 1950. He Has served as headmaster of Ponnayya High School, Thiruchirapalli and St. Stephen’s High School, Pathanapuram, as Professor of English in St. Stephens College Pathanapuram and President of the Orthodox Youth Movement.
On 16 May 1965 His Holiness Baselios Oughen made him Ramban. The Malankara Syrian Christian Association, which met on 28 December 1965 at M.D Seminary, Kottayam, elected him to the high offer of Metropolitan. On 24 August 1966 at Kolencherry His Holiness Baselios Oughen Bava consecrated him as Metropolitan Thomas Mar Timotheos..
He became the Metropolitan of Malabar on 11 November 1966. He continues to serve as the General Superior of Mount Tabor Dayara and Convent in Pathanapuram. On 10 September 1992, the Malankara Association, which met at Parumala, elected him as successor- designate to the Malankara Metropolitan and Catholicos of the East.
His Holiness started his service to the Church as a monk when he was a teenager. He was called to the monastic life by the late Metropolitan Mar Dionysius of Niranam. He went through a rigorous monastic life that tuned up his body through hard work and his mind through intense discipline and his spirit through spiritual exercise. This writer believes Mor Baselios Didimos I is an exemplification of eastern monastic life. Our tradition of selecting bishops from the monastic ranks has a long history. Unfortunately due to discontinued monastic communities, we could not always select our bishops from thorough-bred ascetics period. Mor Didimos is an exemption to our recently fabricated monasticism as a preparation to receive the episcopate. He has been deeply rooted in his monastic practices and exercises long before he became a priest and a bishop. He has witnessed many late nights during which our new Shepherd kept vigil in the chapel of Mount Tabor Monastery. Yes, indeed the church of Malankara is blessed to be shepherded by a monk of prayer.
Mar Didimos is not just a monk, who is enamored of some primitive practices of monasticism. He is endowed with erudition which he derived from his long career as a student of theology, mathematics and English literature. Prior to his consecration to the episcopate he had been a professional educator holding various positions in the academia. He was a mathematics instructor for many years, and was a high school headmaster for more than a decade. After receiving his post graduate degree in English literature he held his lectureship in English literature when St. Stephen’s college of Pathanapuram came into existence. His Holiness is also rightly credited with his musical skills; his divine liturgies are musically mellifluous to the ears of the participants. Didymos I abdicated on October 31, 2010, at the age of 89. The following day his holiness enthroned his successor Baselios MarThoma Paulose II as the Catholicos of the East. H.H. Didymos I spent the rest of his life at the Catholicate Palace. On 21 February 2014 he was given the Holy Anointing Service by Paulos II; His Holiness entered heavenly abode on 26 May 2014 and was buried on 28 May at Mount Tabor Dayara, Pathanapuram, the monastery which he called his home.
We are commemorating the 15th Death Anniversary of late lamented Dr.Philipose Mar Theophilus on September 28th, who was the former metropolitan of Bombay and Ankamaly dioceses and served as the President of MGOCSM for more than 30 years.His Grace was known as the Foreign Minster or Ambasidor of Malankara Church, and served our church in different capabilities such as Old Seminary Principal, Inter church relation committee chairman of our church etc…His Grace was man of definite vision, mission and commitment and helped our Church become the present status.Here I am trying to a detailed life history of His Grace.
1.Childhood and Academics
Dr. Philipose Mar Theophilose Metropolitan was born on 9 May 1911 as the sixth son of Korah and Mariamma of Kallupurakkal, Puthanangadi, Kottayam. He took his B.A degree from Cochin Maharaja’s College. He studied M.A in St.Augustine of Canterbury in England, T.H.M in Cardiff University, UK, and D.D from Harward University in Chicago, USA.
4. Priestly Ministry and Ordinations
He became as a deacon in 1929, received from St.Vattasseril Mar Dionysius Metropolitan and anointed as a priest in 1944 by His Holiness Baselios Geevarghese II, the Catholicos of the East. On 24 August 1966, at Kolencherry His Holiness Baselios Augen Catholicose consecrated Philipose Mar Theophilos as Metropolitan.
3. Metropolitan of Ankamali Diocese
Then he was appointed as the head of the Ankamali Diocese. Many new schools, orphanages, hospitals etc. were started by him. He laid stones for hospitals at Kothamangalam, Chalad, and Pothanicad. Self employment projects for poor and School for blind at Alwaye were some of his ambitious projects in Ankamali.
3. Metropolitan of Bombay
On 1979 February 1 he took over the charge of Mumbai Diocese too. He initially established his headquarters near St. Gregorios Church, Chembur in Mumbai before moving out in the year 1988 to the present headquarters at the Orthodox Church Centre, Vashi, Navi Mumbai. This Diocese was spread over the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Goa, a tail portion of Karnataka, Bahrain, Qatar and Suadi Arabia. Three years back a portion of Gujarat separated from Bombay and become the part of Ahmedbad Diocese and Goa was attached to Brahmawar Diocese.At the same year on October 5 His Grace took initiative to transfer the Holy Relics of Blessed Alvares mar Julius Metropolitan from the secluded corner of St. Inez Cemetery to the St. Mary’s Orthodox Church, Ribander in Goa.
4. The Architect of Old Seminary.
He served as the Principal of the Orthodox Theological Seminary, Kottayam (Old Seminary). And he was the architect of the revamped Seminary.During His Grace period as the Pricipal, the Seminary entered its modern period. A systematized course of studies was introduced. A new generation of qualified professors of theology and biblical studies took responsibility for running the Seminary. Classes and students’ residence were moved to the new buildings in the campus of the M.D. Seminary at Kottayam. When the Catholicos moved his residence from the Old Seminary to the present Devalokam, theological education was once again brought back to the “Old Syrian Seminary “. In 1964 the Seminary became affiliated to the Serampore University for its B.D. degree course. 1965, the 150th year of its founding, was celebrated on a grand scale in the presence of ecclesiastical dignitaries and church leaders from abroad.
5. As the President of MGOCSM
The Metropolitan ministered among student Community as the President of the Mar Gregorios Orthodox Christian Students Movement (MGOCSM).His Grace period Presidential period is known as the Golden Period of MGOCSM. In his tenure, His Grace established student centres at Trivandrum, Kothamangalam and Alwaye.This helped the movement to become self-sufficient. His Grace also started a Charitable project Mar Gregorios Rehabiliation Centre for the blind under the banner of MGOCSM. It is very pleasant see that two of his diciples and coworkers of MGOCSM became the Metropolitans of our Church. Fr.George Kurian, who was the Warden of Student Centre Trivandrum, and former General Secretary of MGOCSM, elevated to the position of Metropolitan under the name Geevarghese Mar Coorilos, and became His Grace successor in Bombay Diocese.H.G.Geevarghese Mar Coorilos is the present president of MGOCSM. Fr.Dr.M.C.Cherian , who was the warden and General Secretary of MGOCSM, became Dr.Zachariah Mar Theophilus, and at present His Grace is the Metropolitan of Malabar Diocese.
6.As the Ambassador of the Malankara Church and his works in Ecumenical Field.
Dr. Philipose Mar Theophilos was known as the Ambassador of the Malankara Orthodox Church during his life time. Mar Theophilos was one of the one of the associated with the founding of the World Christian Council (WCC). He worked as Secretary of Faith and Order division and central committee member of the WCC. He was the first person from the rank and file of WCC to visit eastern orthodox churches, which bore fruit when those churches took WCC’s membership. Dr.Mar.Theophilos was highly honored by Eastern Orthodox churches. He was the only one special invitee to attend the selection of His Holiness Peeman Patriarch of Russian Orthodox Church. He was given a grand honor when he was invited to attend the Republic day parade of Romania as chief guest along with Romanian President and Romanian Patriarch.
I am very blessed because I got many opportunities to closely interact with Valiya Thirumeni during my MGOCSM Days…I am one of His Grace last appointee as the office bearer of MGOCSM. His Grace appointed me as the regional Secretary of MGOCSM, Trivandrum, in the first week of September, when His Grace was spending his last days in Kolencherry Hospital. I continued in that post till May 2001. H.G.Philipose mar Theophilos passed away on 28 September 1997 and was laid to rest in Thrikunnath Seminary, Aluva in Kerala.
Fr. Thomas Philipose
Alvares Mar Julius Thirumeni: A Patriot A Saint A Martyr
“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” -Ephesians 4:12
A Martyr’s Journey
Alvares Thirumeni had a firm faith in the Orthodox Church. Leaving his fortune in the Catholic Church, he embraced the Orthodox Church.
He was excommunicated and persecuted. He was falsely abdicated, arrested, stripped off his Episcopal vestments and taken through the street, only with his underwear, to the police lockup. There he was put in a filthy room without a bed or chair wherein the floor smelt of urine and faeces. He was also forcibly deprived off his cross and the ring, the episcopal insigne he was wearing. He was beaten and presented in the Court. But the Government could not prove the allegations and he was acquitted. After few days he was caught again on alleged charges of high treason but this time too the Justice found him innocent. He was not allowed to use his Episcopal Vestments till his death, he used only a black robe.
He suffered alone as forsaken by everybody, just like his own Master, Jesus. As a true Christian, Alvares Mar Julius Thirumeni suffered like the Disciples and Martyrs of the early Christianity.
Antonio Francisco Xavier Alvares (Alvares Mar Julius) was born on April 29 1836 to a Goan Catholic family in Verna, Goa, India. He was initially appointed as a priest of the Roman Catholic Church in Goa.
Alvares thirumeni was appointed by the Archbishop of Goa to minister to Catholics in territories of British India. The Portuguese Crown claimed these territories by virtue of old privileges of Padroado (papal privilege of royal patronage granted by popes beginning in the 14th century). The more modern Popes and the Congregation of Propaganda Fide separated these areas and re-organized them as Vicariates Apostolic ruled by non-Portuguese bishops, since the English rulers wished to have non-Portuguese bishops.
Successive Portuguese governments fought against this, terming this as unjustified aggression by later Popes against the irrevocable grant of Royal Patronage to the Portuguese Crown, an agitation that spread to the Goan patriots, subjects of the Portuguese Crown.
When, under Pope Pius IX and Pope Leo XIII, the hierarchy in British India was formally re-organized independently of Portugal but with Portuguese consent, a group of pro-Padroado Goan Catholics in Bombay united under the leadership of the scholar Dr. Lisboa e Pinto and Fr. Alvares as the Society for the Defense of the Royal Patronage and agitated with the Holy See, the British India government and the Portuguese government against these changes.
Orthodox Church and Thirumeni
Their agitation failed to reverse the changes. While he was a priest of the Catholic Church he was in search of the true Biblically Christian One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. He was against the false devotion and religious exhibitionism. He objected to the ‘Concordot’ of the Pope and interference of the Government in the Church Administration. He could not withstand the harassment meted out to him by the ecclesiastical and civil powers. He went to Western and Eastern Churches and finally came to Malankara and joined the Orthodox Church. Being pious and considering his faith, his way of life and attitude towards his fellow being, he was consecrated as Bishop by Mar Joseph Dionesious (Pulikkottil), Geevarghese Mar Gregorios of Parumala, Mar Paulose Evanios of Kandanadu and Mar Athanasios (Kadavil) at Kottayam Old Seminary on 29 July 1889.He was elevated to the position of Metropolitan (Arch Bishop) with the jurisdiction of Goa, India (excluding Malabar) and Ceylon.
Alvares Thirumeni with Parumala Thirumeni
Thirumeni lived at Colombo and Brahmavar-Calianpur (Kalyanpur), a village near the town of Udipi in the Canara Coast till 1913, and then moved to Goa.
Alvares thirumeni was the first bishop in the Orthodox Church to celebrate according to the Latin rite for centuries and the founder of Latin rite Orthodoxy
Patriot and saint
This designation was given to Alvares Thirumeni by Goan historians. After joining the Orthodox Church Thirumeni was excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church. He was persecuted by the Catholic Church and the Portuguese Government. Though he was advised by some off his old friends to reunite with the Catholic Church, especially when he was very sick, he refused and stuck to his Orthodox faith.
Since Thirumeni was not allowed by the rulers to work freely in Goa he was mostly based in Canara region of Karnataka with the main base at Brahmawar. He along with Fr. Noronha a dear friend of Thirumeni worked among the people along the west coast of India from Mangalore to Bombay. About 5000 families joined the Orthodox Church from this region . The region now falls under the newly formed Brahmavar Diocese and has strong Orthodox Christian population.
Mar Alvares Thirumeni had ordained two priests and a deacon from Travancore-Cochin area for Malankara Church. Besides Rev. Fr. Kanianthra Joseph Alexander, Rev. Fr. Lukose of Kannamkottu and Rev.Dn. David Kunnamkulam were the ones ordained by Mar Alvares. Fr. Kanianthra Joseph later became a Cor-Episcopa and was the Vicar General [from 1949 till his death in 1955] of the Niranam Diocese of late Thoma Mar Dionysius of Malankara Orthodox Church.
In 1892, Mar Alvares consecrated an American Priest, Joseph Rene Vilatte, a native from Paris, who was titled as Mar Timotheus, Archbishop for the Church of the Mother of God in Wisconsin of the Archdiocese in America, with consent of Jacobite Patriarch H.H. Peter III of Monastery of Sapran at Mardin of the border of Syria and Kurdistan.
Journalist and writer
He started a number of periodicals including “A Cruz”(The Cross), “Vardade”(The Truth), O Progress De Goa”, “O Brado Indiano”, “Times Of Goa”. Most of them were educative and supportive for the right of the public. As he was a critic of the Government, most of them were banned and forced to stop publications after few years. “The Universal supremacy of the Church of Christ”, “Antioch and Rome” were two of his books.
Alvares Thirumeni was a great Scholar, man of high principles and had an impressing personality. He opened a college where Goan priests were teaching Portuguese, Latin, French and Philosophy. In 1912 Mar Julius opened an English School in Panaji. Both did not function for long, due to one reason or other.
At that time Goa was frequently affected by epidemic like malaria, typhoid, small pox, cholera and plague. Alvares published a booklet “Direcoes Para O Treatment Do Cholera” (Directions for Treatment for Cholera). He was so concerned about shortage of food in Goa that he appealed to the people to produce cheaper food.He published a booklet “Mandioca” (about the cultivation of Tapioca).
Apostle of charity
Though Portuguese Government dubbed him as a traitor, later he was considered by them and by all the Goans as an ‘Apostle of Charity’. In 1871 he started a Charitable Association in Panaji to render help to the poor, beginning with wandering beggars. After few years he extended the Association to other cities in Goa. During the last ten years of his life he concentrated his activities in Panaji. His home for the poor was having lepers, T.B patients, scavengers, beggars and all other destitute s as inmates. Since he was not having any income he was forced to beg with a bowl in his one hand and a staff in the other hand for support.
One day Mar Alvares requested a shop keeper for contribution. Instead of giving any money, the arrogant fellow spat in the bowl. Without getting angry His Grace told to him “All right, I shall keep this for me. Now, give something for the poor”.(He was very much ahead of Mother Teresa in that respect). By seeing the dedication and determination of the Arch Bishop the shop keeper contributed generously.
Last days and funeral
His last days were in Ribandar Hospital, a charitable institution, ill with dysentery. It was his wish to be buried by any Orthodox designates, he was specific not to have any Catholic priest for the same. He died 23 September 1923. The citizen committee led by the Chief Justice, arranged a grand funeral. His body was kept in state in the Municipal Hall for 24 hours to enable the people to pay homage. All the newspapers were full of articles and homage about the departed. Though Thirumeni was considered an enemy by the government, the Governor General sent his representative to pay tribute to him. Thousands of people especially poor and beggars paid their last respects. Funeral speeches were made by high dignitaries. The funeral procession winding all the main roads of Panaji was taken and the body was laid to rest in the secluded corner of St. Inez Panaji cemetery on 24 September 1923 without any funeral rites.
Sepulcher of Mar Alvares
After four years (23 September 1927) his bones were collected by his friends and admirers, placed in a lead box, buried in the same place, under a marble slab with the inscription “Em Memoria De Padre Antonio Francisco Xavier Alvares, Diue Foimui Humanitario Missionario E Um Grade Patriota”(Padre Alvares a great Humanitarian Missionary and a great Patriot) and a large cross, still the biggest cross in the cemetery and is said to be donated by a very dear hindu friend of the thirumeni.
The Cross at Thirumenis Tomb
For forty long years nobody visited the grave. Some research at the initiatives of late H.G. Philipose Mar Theophilus and H.H. Basalios Marthoma Mathews I prompted Rev. Fr. K.M. George and Rev. Fr. T.E. Issac, the then parish priest at Goa, to fish out the location of the burial. The tomb of Alvares Mar Julius was discovered on January 1, 1967 from St. Inez Municipal Cemetery, Panaji, Goa by H.G. Mathews Mar Athanasios. The Holy Relics were translated from St.Inez Cemetery to St. Mary’s Orthodox Church, Panaji by Philipos Mar Theophilus on October 5, 1979.When the St. Mary’s Church was reconstructed in the same place, the relics were shifted to the present sepulchre which was specially made on the side of the ‘Madbaha’, by the Catholicos of the Malankara Orthodox Church H.H Moran Mar Baselios Mathews II on 6 October 2001.
St Mary’s Orthodox Syrian Church Ribander Goa
The Holy Relics of the metropolitan has been entombed at the St Mary’s Orthodox Church in Ribander. Although congregation is small, the “Orthodox Church of Goa” has survived almost a century after the death of Bishop Alvares. The St. Mary’s Orthodox Syrian Church, Ribandar, Panaji celebrates his Dukrono (Memorial Feast) every year in September, during the week falling 23rd to honor this great Apostle of charity and Martyr.
Thirumeni Pray For Us