Home

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
20TH CENTURY LEADERS OF THE MALANKARA CHURCH

  • Vattasseril Geevarghese Mar Dionysius

    • Mar Dionysius VI was the architect of the independent status and freedom of the Malankara Church. Though he did not accept the status of Catholicos, he was the greatest Church dignitary that the Malankara church ever produced in its chequered history. He is known as "Sabaha Bhasuran" or the Illuminator of the Church. He led the Church as its chief pastor for many years, without sacrificing principles, and even faced situations where his very life was at risk. Mar Dionysius is mainly responsible for the establishment of the Catholicate in Malankara.

      The Assembly of parish representatives meeting at the Old Seminary on 27th February 1908, elected Vattasseril Geevarghese Malpan as the successor to Mar Dionysius V, as Malankara Metropolitan. He was sent to the Patriarch, and was consecrated as Mar Dionysius Metropolitan by Patriarch Abdulla on 31st of May 1908. In 1909, following the demise of Joseph Mar Dionysius, Vattasseril Mar Dionysius was installed as Malankara Metropolitan. His life and work - a constant struggle deserve to be inscribed in golden letters in the annals of Malankara Church. He was not ready to surrender the freedom the Church, which was its birthright, before anybody. He was unreasonably and unlawfully excommunicated by Patriarch Abdulla in 1911, as he refused to support the Patriarch whose greed had overtaken his good sense. But it must be noted to the credit of Mar Dionysius that the large majority of priests and the laity in the Malankara Church stood firmly behind him; who decided that never again should Patriarchs be given an opportunity to interfere unnecessarily in the affairs of the Malankara Church. He did everything possible at that time to achieve this end; and the result was the establishment of Catholicate in Malankara in 1912. Malankara Church is indebted to this gem of a high priest for undertaking this herculean task. Further, Mar Dionysius himself took the initiative to install the second and third incumbents to the throne of the Catholicate.

      The second great achievement of Mar Dionysius for which he shall be ever remembered is his leading and primary role in framing the constitution and a system of administration for the church. Mar Dionycius who was convinced that a systematic constitution and a system of administration was necessary for the church constituted a committee of experts to frame a constitution for the Church. He himself framed a draft for the said constitution. At a time when there were some divisions in the Church Mar Dionysius was ready to make any sacrifice on his part for the sake of peace in the Church. At the same time he was not ready to surrender the inborn freedom of the Church to anybody.

      The unusual courage, rare vision, sincerity, and glittering personality of Mar Dionysius shall be well remembered by Malankara Church with gratitude, as long as the Church shall be. The momentous and eventful life of Mar Dionysius came to an end on 23rd February 1934. His mortal remains were interred the next day at the Old Seminary Chapel.

  • Baselios Paulose I (1912 - 1913)

    • He was the first Catholicos in Malankara, and was born at Kolenchery in Ernakulam District in 1836. After his secular and priestly education, he was servicing as a priest at Kolenchery Church, when he was consecrated by Patriarch Peter as Metropolitan Mar Ivanios on May 17, 1877. He was posted as Metropolitan of Kandanad Diocese.

      When Malankara Metropolitan Mar Dionysius and the Church leaders requested Mar Ivanios to accept the position as the first Catholicos in Malankara, he bowed to it. Accordingly he was installed as the Catholicos of the East by the Episcopal Synod with the co-operation of Patriarch Abdul Messiah on 15th September, 1912.

      Five months after (1913 Feb. 9th) the installation of the Catholicos, the Catholicos, Patriarch and bishops in Malankara joined together and consecrated two metropolitans:-

      Geevarghese Mar Philoxenos and Yuyakim Mar Ivanios.

      The first Catholicos died at Pampakuda Cheriapalli on 2nd May 1913 and was buried in the same Church the next day.

  • Baselios Geevarghese I (1925 - 1928)

    • Following the demise of the first Catholicos, a successor was not immediately installed. This delay was due to many circumstantial reasons. Litigations were going on, there was also a thinking that the Patriarch Party need not be provoked too soon again. Besides there were apprehensions as to the repercussions if a Catholicos is installed without the presence of the Patriarch. This tense situation was resolutely faced by Vatasseril Mar Dionysius. In 1925, he with the assistance of the episcopal synod installed the second Catholicos. Through this daring act, he proclaimed the independence or individuality and autocephalous status of the Malankara Church.

      On 30th April 1925, the Metropolitan of Kottayam Diocese, Geevarghese Mar Philoxenos was elevated as Catholicos at the Niranam Church. The following day the new Catholicos consecrated Fr. P.T. Geevarghese as bishop Mar Ivanios at Niranam Church.

      Catholicos Geevarghese I passed away following a surgery on 17th December 1928 and was interred at Vallikattu Dayara Vakathanam, near Kottayam.

  • Baselios Geevarghese II (1931-1964)

    • The Malankara Church Synod, consisting of Vattasseril Mar Dionysius and Mar Ivanios of Bethany installed Kallasseril Mar Gregorios (the then Metropolitan of Kollam, Thumpamon and Niranom) as the third Catholicos of the East with the title Baselios Geevarghese II. On the day following the installation, new Catholicos consecrated two metropolitans:- Kuriakose Mar Gregorios (Pampady) for the Kottayam Diocese and Mar Theophilos (who later on joined the Roman Church) in 1931. The Malankara Metropolitan, Vattasseril Mar Dionysius passed on February 23, 1934.

      Catholicos Geevarghese II had a great desire to establish peace in the Church by bringing a rapproachment with the Patriarch. With this intent, the Catholicos, along with a delegation went over to Holmes in Syria and held discussions with the Patriarch. But the Patriarch was desirous of having authority over the Malankara Church. The Catholicos on his part was not ready to sacrifice the independence of his Church. Thus this trip to Syria undertaken by the Catholicos did not yield the desired results. After his return to Kerala, preparations were made for a meeting of the Malankara Association which is the parliament of the Church. In the absence of the Malankara Metropolitan, notice for the meeting was issued by the other Metropolitans and the members of the Managing Committee. The notice was sent to all the parish Churches in Malankara. The Association meeting at MD Seminary Kottayam in 1934 accepted the constitution of the Church. Till then there was no clear and definite constitution for the Church. The need for a constitution was long felt and preparations were on to codify it. Vattasseril Mar Dionysius had appointed a Committee to go into it. The Church constitution passed in 1934 was prepared by this Committee. It was a landmark in the history of the Malankara Church. The 1934 Malankara Association elected Catholicos Geevarghese II as Malankara Metropolitan also. Thus the two ecclesiastical positions - Catholicos and Malankara Metropolitan, wielding the spiritual, temporal and ecclesiastical authority in Malankara synchronised in the same parson.

      In order to replenish the financial position of the Church, a Church Welfare Fund called "Catholicate Fund" was inaugurated. Every year the 6th Sunday in the Great Lent was declared as the Catholicate Day and the collections from parish churches towards this fund was to be made on that day every year.

      The Catholicos led the Malankara Church delegation to the Faith and Order Commission at Edinburgh in 1937. The Catholicos was given the place of honour among all the Church leaders, both of the East and the West and the western media gave adequate coverage to this visit of the Head of the Malankara Church to the West.

    • Catholicate Palace, Devalokam
      • It was during the reign of Catholicos Geevarghese II that the new head quarters of the Catholicate was acquired at Devalokam, Kottayam. Mr. K.C. Mammen Mappillai and other church leaders took the initiative for purchasing the 7-acre Devalokam property. Before long, the Catholicos shifted his residence to Devalokam and a chapel was constructed there, which was dedicated to St. Mary.

        On 15th May 1953, the Catholicos consecrated five Metropolitans at Mar Elia Cathedral, Kottayam. The new Metropolitans were Mathews Mar Ivanios, Pathrose Mar Osthathios, Mathews Mar Athanasios, Daniel Mar Philoxenos and Mathews Mar Coorilos.

    • Church Case
      • The Church case which was there from the turn of the 20th century continued through the years in different forms. Patriarch was not willing to recognize the institution of Catholicate, the Catholicos and Malankara Metropolitan. He argued that the Patriarch was the sole spiritual and temporal authority over the Malankara Church. The Patriarch party filed a case against the Catholicate and the Church Trustees in 1938 in the Kottayam District court. Considering the special nature of the case known as the Church Case, the government appointed a special court to hear it.

        The following points were considered by the court:

        Is the Malankara Association meeting held at M.D. Seminary, Kottayam in 1934, which elected the Catholicos as Malankara Metropolitan valid?

        Is the election of the Catholicos as Malankara Metropolitan valid?

        Is the constitution passed by this Association valid?

        Is the Malankara Association meeting convened by the party of Karingachira in 1935 and its proceedings valid?

        Examining the witnesses and relevant documents the court gave its judgement in 1943 in favour Catholicos. On this judgement the Patriarch faction filed in the High Court and the High Court verdict which was pronounced in 1946 was in favour of the Patriarch group. Catholicos group appealed for a review of this judgement. But the review of petition was dismissed in 1951. However permission was granted to submit special leave petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court in 1954 stayed the High Court judgement after admitting the special leave petition.

        The case came before a 5 member constitution bench. After hearing the arguments of the plaintiffs and respondents, the Supreme Court, on September 12, 1958 pronounced its verdict in favour of the Catholicos. The court accepting the arguments of the Catholicos declared that the 1934 M.D. Seminary Association and its decisions were valid and the Patriarch party was directed to bear the costs of the litigation borne by the Catholicos (plaintiff). This landmark judgment put an end to the long and dragging litigation in the church and firmly established the authority of the Catholicate. It was the final victory of the Catholicate.

        Following the Supreme Court verdict, the Catholicos sent Kalpanas to all the parish churches in Malankara pointing out that the judgement shall be seen as a means for the unification of the two factions in the church, and that everybody should strive for peace. On the basis of this, moves were on for establishing peace in the Church. The bishops in the Patriarch faction who had lost all power, authority and legitimacy came forward to accept the authority of the Catholicos and establish peace unconditionally.

        Finally on 16th of December 1958, the Catholicos and the representatives of the Patriarch exchanged documents accepting each other at the old seminary chapel and thus the church once again became in unity.

        The letter of the Patriarch read like this:

        For the purpose of establishing peace in The Malankara we accept Mar Baselios Geevarghese II as Catholicos. The Patriarch thus accepted the Catholicos unconditionally. The letter of the Catholicos which was handed over to Metropolitan Mar Julius was a carefully prepared one: For the sake of peace in the Church, we are pleased to accept Moran Mar Ignatius Yakoob III as Patriarch of Antioch, subject to the constitution of the Church, passed by the Malankara Syrian Christian Association and which is in force we are also happy to accept the Metropolitans under him in Malankara, subject to the provisions of the said constitution.

        After the exchange of Kalpanas, the bishops of both sides, Mar Julius and the Catholicos accepted each other through a prayer of peace, in the presence of a large crowd of people.

        An Association meeting of the united Church assembled Puthancavu Church on 26th December 1958. People from erstwhile rival factions assembled there and confirmed the peace established in the church. However a few people who not happy with peace in the Church started planning undermine the unity in the Church. Within a few weeks an called the "Antiochan Movement" was floated by one of the erstwhile bishop in the Patriarch faction Paulose Mar Philoxenos, who had documented his allegiance to Catholicos along with others, but later became restive about submitting to the Catholicos. Before long he started supporting Antiochan Movement and the restlessness soon spread to the dioceses in North Kerala.

        As the Catholicos was pretty old and ailing, notice was issued for a meeting of the Malankara Association on 4th April 1961 at the M.D. Seminary. 'The Antiochan Movement' moved the court and the court passed a stay order against the of the Association. The Catholicos appealed against this in the High Court, which cancelled the order of the lower court. Thus the Association assembled at Niranam Church on 17th May 1962 and elected Metropolitan Augen Mar Thimotheos as the successor to the Catholicos and Malankara Metropolitan.

      After leading the Church for 35 years as its supreme head, Catholicos Geevarghese II passed away on Friday, 3rd January 1964, and was interred at the Catholicate Aramana Chapel at Devalokam.

  • Baselios Augen I (1964-1975)

    • He was born at Vengola near Perumbavur in Ernakulam District. In 1905, as Deacon Mathai, he visited Syria and Turkey and became a Ramban (Monk) even while being a deacon and accepted the name Augen. In the Syrian Church a Ramban need not be a priest; even a deacon may be professed as Ramban.

      After a few years Ramban Augen returned to India and he stood firmly with the Patriarch faction. In October 1926 Kandanad Diocesan Assembly of the Patriarch group elected him to be a bishop and sent them to the Patriarch to get him consecrated. Patriarch Elias Ill consecrated him as bishop on 15th May 1927 and gave him the title Mar Thimotheos. After his return to India Mar Thimotheos became the Metropolitan of Kandanad Diocese of the Patriarch faction. However Mar Thimotheos increasingly got convinced about the independence of the Malankara Church and the genuine claims of the Catholicate; and in 1942 along with the majority of priests and laity in the Kandanad Diocese, he left the Patriarch fold and declared his allegiance to the Catholicos. In 1958, after the unification in the Church, Mar Thimotheos was given charge of the united Kandanad Diocese. He was elected as successor to the Catholicos in 1962 at the Niranam Association. The Episcopal synod decided to invite the Patriarch for the installation of the Catholicos, as per the Church Constitution, in the light of the unification in 1958. Accordingly the Patriarch came to India and co-operated with the Malankara Synod in installing Baselios Augen I as Catholicos. This took place on 22nd May 1964. In the general atmosphere of peace all the Dioceses and Metropolitans accepted Catholicos Augen I.

      On an invitation from Pope Paul VI, Catholicos Augen visited the Pope at Bombay in 1964. The Pope was there in connection with the Eucharistic Congress. This was the first meeting between a Roman Pope and the Catholicos of the East.

      An Assembly of the Oriental Orthodox Churches was at Addis Abbaba in Ethiopia in January 1965. Coptic, Ethiopean, Armenian, Syrian and Indian (Malankara) Orthodox churches constitute the oriental orthodox family. The Malankara delegation to this Assembly was led by the Catholicos. On 24th August 1966 Catholicos consecrated three metropolitans Philipose Mar Theophilos, Yuhanon Mar Severios and Thomas Mar Thimotheos. (The 1965 Malankara Association had elected five priests to the bishopric, but the Episcopal had confirmed only three)

      The new blocks in the Theological Seminary were dedicated in 1967 by the Catholicos. The Romanian Patriarch along with a delegation was present at the function. Catholicos Augen I consecrated Holy Mooron on 21 December 1967 at the Old Seminary, Kottayarn.

      On December 31, 1970, the Malankara Association meeting M. D. Seminary elected Metropolitan Mathews Mar Athanasios successor to the Catholicos and Malankara Metropolitan. The former Patriarch faction enthusiasts tried to stall the Association through a petition in the Court. However the court did not interfere in the matter.

      Once again there were signs of the dark clouds of factionalism appearing in the church. Matters took a bad turn with an unfortunate letter written by the Patriarch to the Catholicos in 1970. Among other things the letter said:

      ...A long time before your letter I saw another letter heading 'Throne of St. Thomas' and was really surprised at that. Since the establishment of the Catholicate in the 4th century none of the Catholicoses or Maphrians have used this title. Secondly St. Thomas has not founded any throne which may be termed as 'Throne of St. Thomas'. As is evident from St. John's Gospel (20:21-24) he was not a priest. How can he be a high priest without being a priest? How can he establish a throne without being a high priest? Therefore no ancient historian ever says that he ever ordained anybody as bishop or founded a throne of Catholicos.

      Copies of this letter was sent to many others in Malankara. The Malankara Church received this letter with much sorrow, since the letter denied the highpriesthood of St. Thomas and the existence of the Catholicate. The Malankara Synod considered and discussed this letter in detail and the Catholicos replied to it. The reply contained the following points:- received Your Holiness' letter of 27-6-70 The contents of this letter were disclosed to our Metropolitans and some important priests. All of them were surprised and sorry for its contents. Your Holiness' letter relating to the priesthood of St. Thomas, apostolic Throne, the authority of the Catholicate is seen as against truth, history and the faith of the Church, by everybody here. Therefore everybody here is of the opinion that these are never acceptable and that thy should be opposed

      The relatively peaceful atmosphere in the Church was rudely and violently disturbed by the letter of the Patriarch. At this time Ramban Aphrem Abudi - A Syrian national - was staying at Manjinikkara. The Patriarch decided to consecrate this Ramban as bishop and appoint him as his delegate to Malankara. The Malankara Synod took a serious view of this and protested against this wrong move of the Patriarch. But, disregarding the Synod's decision, the Patriarch sent bishop Abudi Themotheos as his 'delegate' to Malankara and requested the Catholicos to accept him as such. The Catholicos disapproved of this, and the Synod's directive that the delegate should not be received in any parish in Malankara was sent to all the parish churches. However some parishes people against the Catholicos and the institution of the Catholicate. This led to unrest and mutiny. Therefore some members of Malankara Church petitioned the Union Government to cancel the visa of bishop Abudi and deport him. On the basis of this, the Govt. of India cancelled his visa and he had to leave the country in July 1973. He tried to move the court against the deportation order, but the court did not come his rescue.

      The old Patriarch party was much disillusioned by the deportation of bishop Abudi. The Patriarch planned to manipulate the disappointment of the faction to his advantage. He came forward to ordain a few priests of Malankara as bishops, throwing to the winds the constitution of the Malankara Church, the Catholicate as the authority of the Church Management Committee and Association.

      First, Kadavil Paul Ramban was called to Damascus and ordained as bishop Athanasios. This unauthorised bishop was barred by the Court from entering Malankara churches, on a petition from the Catholicos and the Catholicos designate. Soon two other priests - Fr. Geevarghese and Fr. Thomas - secretly went to the Patriarch and got themselves ordained as bishops

    • Mar Gregorios and Mar Dionysius. These two also were
    • barred by the court.

      situation looked like that of a proxy war being fought in Malankara by the Patriarch. His supporters seemed organize a parallel church within the Church. Hence the Malankara Church once again dicided to seek refuge in the cour. The Catholicos and the Catholicos designate filed a case in the Kottayam District Court in 1974 with prayers to declare the following:-

      the bishops ordained by the Patriarch should not be allowed to enter the parish churches and interfere in the administration that the 1064 parish churches and their assets belong to the Catholicate and their administration is vested in the lawfully installed Catholicos cum Malankara Metropolitan and the Episcopal Synod of which the Catholicos is the president.

      The court admitted the petition and gave an interim order preventing the bishops ordained by the Patriarch from entering the parish churches in Malankara.

      The case passed through the District Court, Special Court and the High Court and reached the Supreme court. On 20th June 1995, the Supreme Court gave its judgement, mostly adhering to the 1958 judgement. Thus the authority of the Catholicate and the Church constitution was confirmed once again.

      By 1974, the division in thc Church had become a reality. The Catholicose and the Patriarch excommunicated each other and expelled each other from the Church. The Malankara Synod expelled Abraham Mar Clemis and Paulose Mar Phelexinos from the Church on 22nd May 1975. The expelled Mar Philoxenos was called to Damascus by the Patriarch and was installed as Catholicos on 7th September 1975, with this uncanonical step by the Patriarch the split in the Church became complete.

      The Malankara Association meeting af Niranam Church on 2nd October 1974 condemned the unauthorized interferences of the Patriarch. The meeting elected five priests of the Church to be bishops and also elected the members of the Managing Committee. The bishop-elects were consecrated at Niranam on 16th February 1975. They were Mar Osthathios, Mar Gregorios, Mar Makarios, Mar Thodosius and Mar Pachomios.

      Catholicos Augen I retired from his position as he was getting too old, and the successor - Baselios Mar Thoma Mathews I was installed as Catholicos by the Episcopal synod on 27th October 1975 at the Old Seminary, Kottayam. Augen Catholicos passed away at the age of 91 on 8th December 1975 and was interred at the Catholicate Chapel Devalokam.

  • Baselios Mar Thoma Mathews I (1975-1991)

    • The Malankara Association held at M.D. Seminary Kottayam on 31st December 1970 had elected metropolitan Mathews Mar Athanasios as the successor to the Catholicos and Malankara Metropolitan. The Malankara Synod installed new Catholicos on 27th October 1975 at Old Seminary Kottayam with the title Baselios Mar Thoma Mathews I.

      During the reign of this Catholicos, there was phenomenal development of the Church as a whole as well as the dioceses. He travelled extensively and visited the Pope in Rome. When the Pope visited Kerala, he visited the Catholicos at Kottayam.

      It is notable that the title 'Mar Thoma' traditionally used the head of the Malankara Church and which was continued for a while was again added to the titie of the Catholicos of the East by this Catholicos.

      Catholicos consecrated Holy Mooron on April 1, 1977 Old Seminary Chapel. The Malankara Association meeting at Mavelikkara (May 16, 1977) had elected 5 priests to be bishops. They were consecrated on 5 May 1978 at They were Mar Dionysius, Mar Dioscoros, Mar Polycarpos, Mar Barnabas and Mar Athanasios. The metropolitan of Kollam, Mathews Mar Coorilos was elected as successor to the Catholicos and Malankara Metropolitan on May 1, 1980 at the M.D. Seminary Association.

      The 70th Anniversary of the Installation of Catholicate in Malankara was celebrated in September 1982. The Valedictory function presided over by H. H. Catholicos Patriarch Elia of the Georgian Orthodox Church, was inaugurated by Mr. Zail Singh, the then President of India.

      Five priests elected by the Malankara Association on December 28, 1982 at Tiruvalla were consecrated as bishops on May 15, 1985 at Mavelikara Church. The new bishops were Mathews Mar Epiphanios, Philipose Mar Eusebios, Thomas Mar Athanasios, Geevarghese mar Ivanios and Paulose Mar Milithios. Catholicos Mar Thoma Mathews I consecrated Holy Mooron on 25 March 1988 at Devalokam Aramana Chapel.

      In his old age Catholicos Mar Thoma Mathews I abdicated and entrusted everything to his successor. The new Catholicos was installed on April 29, 1991 at Parumala by the Episcopal Synod.

      Catholicos Mar Thoma Mathews I, who was leading a retired life, passed away on 8th November 1996, and was interred at the Devalokam Aramana Chapel.

  • Baselios Mar Thoma Mathews II (1991-2006)

    • The Malankara Association elected Metropolitan Mathews Mar Coorios as successor to the Catholicos cum Malankara Metropolitan, in May 1980. The installed new Catholicos was by the Malankara Synod on 29th April 1991 at Parumala. The five priests elected by the Association on December 28, 1989 (at Pathanamthitta) to the bishopric were consecrated as bishops by the new Catholicos on 30th April 1991. They were Kuriakose Mar Clemis, Job Mar Phioxenos, Zachariah Mar Anthonios, Mathews Mar Severios and Geevarghese Mar Coorilose.

      The Malankara Association at Parumala on Sept 10, 1992 elected Thomas Mar Thimothios of Malabar Diocese as successor to the Catholicos cum Malankara Metropolitan, and also elected two priests to be bishops. They were consecrated on 16th August 1993 at Parumala as Poulose Mar Pachomios and Yakob Mar Iraneus respectively.

      The new Church Case which began in 1974, reached the Court and the final judgement was pronounced on June 1995. This judgement reconfirmed the authority of Catholicos and the Church Constitution. This could be considered as a major victory for the Malankara Church with the Catholicos as its constitutional and Supreme Authority.

      Thus the institution of the Catholicate may be seen as the symbol of the singular identity, independence and historical status of the Malankara Church. True to the tradition in the Orthodox Churches, the Malankara church has its own constitutional supreme hierarch of the Church, and it need not depend on any other church or hierarch to fulfil its ecclesiastical or ministerial requirements. The establishment of the Catholicate in Malankara is a historical declaration to the entire Christian world that this is an independent Church founded by St. Thomas, and that the Nazranis are proud of their institution and they will jealously guard it from any possible internal subversions or external onslaughts. Now this Oriental Orthodox Church can hold its head high among the comity of churches as the oldest apostolic church in the east.

  • Baselios Mar Thoma Didimos I (2005 - Present)

    • The new Catholicos was enthroned as His Holiness Baselios Marthoma Didimos I during the Holy Eucharist at Parumala Church on October 31st 2005. The Malankara Association at Parumala on Sept 10, 1992 elected Thomas Mar Thimothios of Malabar Diocese as successor to the Catholicos cum Malankara Metropolitan.Thomas Mar Thimothios 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 from Malankara Orthodox Church and 90th Catholicos on this throne. He is also the 19th Malankara Metropolitan of the Church.

      Long live the Catholicate!

    Problems? Comments? Please send email to: Web Team, St. Gregorios Orthodox Church, DC