THE SYRO-MALANKARA CATHOLIC CHURCH: HISTORICAL OVERVIEW

The Malankara Church

The Church “a people brought into unity in the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,” is an extension of the Mystery of the Incarnation and of the Kingdom of God inaugurated by Jesus Christ on earth and brought about by the mission given to the Apostles (Mt 28:18­-20), for proclaiming and establishing, among all peoples, the Kingdom of God. While she slowly grows to maturity, the Church longs for the completed Kingdom. The Church through her presence and mission in the world continues this sanctifying ministry which Her Master initiated.

 

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The Apostles and their successors planted the Church of Christ in various places. In divine providence (LG 23), India was blessed to have an apostolic foundation of the Church, through the evangelisation mission of St. Thomas, one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ. St. Thomas first landed at Malliankara (Kodungallur), started his mission in Malankara (also known as Malabar), the southern tip of the Indian peninsula. Because of this apostolic tradition, this Church was then known as the Church of St. Thomas and the ecclesial community that originated from this apostolic tradition was known as “The St. Thomas Christians”, or “Malankara Nazranikal” and the head of the Church was known by the title “Metropolitan of All India.”

The Church of St. Thomas in India got rooted in the socio-cultural milieu of India and developed her own ecclesial, liturgical, spiritual and administrative traditions. This was in communion with the Universal Church through her ecclesial communion with the Churches of the Middle East. Besides the Metropolitan of all India, there was also a leader of the St. Thomas Christians, a priest with the title “Archdeacon of all India” who played a vital role in the day-to-day administration of the Church. This Apostolic Church was in Catholic Communion from the very early centuries. It came in contact with the Syro-Chaldean Church of the Middle East and consequently adopted the East Syrian Liturgy.

In the sixteenth century, this Apostolic Church came into direct relationship with the Western Church through the Portuguese missionaries. The Portuguese extended the Padroado agreement in their evangelization programme over India and wanted to bring the Indian Church of the St. Thomas Christians under this jurisdiction. The Church in India which was rooted in the socio-cultural environment and which enjoyed autonomy in internal administration in communion with the Universal Church resisted the unwanted intervention of the Portuguese who brought with them the Western ecclesiastical traditions. The Portuguese missionaries, ignorant of the Oriental traditions of the Indian Church, had the conviction that anything different from the Western Church was schism and heresy. Hence they wanted to latinize the Syrian Christians of India.

In 1599 Archbishop Alexis Menezis convoked a Synod of Diamper (Udayamperoor) and imposed latin practices and ritual traditions on the Apostolic Church of India. This was a blow to the identity of the Indian Church. However, the relation continued till the beginning of the second half of the seventeenth century. The Church of St. Thomas Christians could not withstand any more the denial of her autonomy. The initial resistance slowly gave way to discontentment, which ended up with the revolt in 1653 known as the Koonan Cross Oath. Thus, the one Church of the St. Thomas Christians was split into two. A large majority of the broken-away-group hesitated to sever ties with Rome and they remained in communion with Rome, but, under the Latin Hierarchy. This group came to be called the Pazhayakûttukar, while the other was known as Puthenkûttukar. The latter group made several attempts for reunion with Rome safeguarding their autonomy and patrimony. Failing to re-establish communion with Rome, they happened to come in communion with the Jacobite Syrian Church of Antioch. These developments were not acts against the Apostolic See of Rome but against the Portuguese missionaries and their policy of latinization. Even after the communion with the Jacobite See of Antioch, the Malankara Prelates Mar Thomas I (+1670), Mar Thomas II (+1686), Mar Thomas III (+1688), Mar Thomas IV (+1728), Mar Thomas V (+1765), Mar Thomas VI (+1808) and Mar Thomas VII (+1815) one after the other had attempted reunion with the Holy See, but all ended up in failure.

The Puthenkûr community came under the influence of the British missionaries in the 19th century. From 1815 till 1836, the year of the Synod of Mavelikara, the British missionaries propagated Protestant ideology among the Puthenkûttukar. This paved the way to the formation of the Mar Thoma Church under the leadership of Palakunnath Abraham Malpan and Mar Athanasios, who was consecrated Bishop by the Patriarch of Antioch. In order to outdo the reformists Mar Divannasios approached the Patriarch of Antioch. Patriarch Peter III arrived in Malankara and in the Synod of Mulanthuruthy (1876) the Malankara Church had to accept the authority of the Patriarch of Antioch over this Church. Since then, the Malankara Church had contented that the Patriarch’s authority was only in spiritual matters.

It was in this contentious context that Patriarch Mar Abdulla who came to Malankara, excommunicated Vattasseril Mar Divannasios in the year 1911. In this turbulent situation Fr. P.T. Geevarghese (later Archbishop Mar Ivanios) played a vital role in reinstating the position of the excommunicated Metropolitan and in regaining the self-governance of the Malankara Church. To ward off the undue interference of Patriarch Abdulla in the administration of the temporalities of the Church, Fr. P.T. Geevarghese with the blessing of Vattasseril Mar Divannasios contacted Abded M’siha, the Patriarch of Antioch from whom Mar Abdulla usurped the Patriarchal See of Antioch, and invited him to visit Malankara and to establish a Catholicate here. Accordingly, Patriarch Abded M’siha came to Malankara in 1912 and established the Malankara Catholicate. Thus the Malankara Church in India became an autonomous Church under its head the Catholicos. Moran Mor Baselios Paulos I (1912-1913), the first Catholicos, was called to eternal rest after a short period of five months on 13 May 1913.

After the demise of Catholicos Baselios Paulos I, the See remained vacant until 1925. That was a period of litigations in the Malankara Church and also a period of spiritual renewal. The litigation for Vattippanam (a fixed deposit of money in the name of the Church) and its after-effects in the community was at its zenith. Fr. P.T. Geevarghese who loved his Church was moved by the Spirit of God. He realised that only a spiritual awakening of the Church would give a lasting solution to the problems of the Church. He himself took to sanyâsa (Religious Life) and founded the Order of the Imitation of Christ also called Bethany Ashram in the year 1919. The first Ashram was erected at Mundanmala of Ranni Perunad in Kerala. In 1925 he founded the community of the Sanyasins, the Sisters of the Imitation of Christ also called Bethany Madhom. From these two religious communities winds of spiritual fervour and renaissance blew across Malankara. By a decision of the Episcopal Synod, on 30 April 1925 Moran Mor Baselios Geevarghese I was installed as Catholicos. On the following day, the Catholicos consecrated Fr. P. T. Geevarghese with the name Geevarghese Mar Ivanios as the Bishop of Bethany.

Malankara Reunion Movement

On 1 November 1926, the Episcopal Synod held at Parumala near Tiruvalla, Kerala, decided to open negotiations again with Rome for communion with the Catholic Church in order to establish peace in Malankara. The Synod authorised Mar Ivanios, the Bishop of Bethany, to make necessary correspondence with Rome regarding communion. He earnestly followed up the mandate of the Synod.

The Second Catholicos expired on 17 December 1928. Moran Mor Baselios Geevarghese II succeeded the late Catholicos. On the day following his installation, he consecrated Mar Theophilos of Bethany and Mar Gregorios of Pampady as Bishops. In the meantime, the civil court’s decision on the litigation for Vattipanam was declared in favour of the Malankara Orthodox Church. This was a civil legal backing up for the Malankara Orthodox Church and consequently it stepped out from the endeavours of communion with Rome.

After prolonged negotiations, the plenary session of the Sacred Congregation for the Oriental Churches, which met on 4 July 1930, took the final decision on the issue of the communion of the Malankara Church. But only Mar Ivanios the Metropolitan of Bethany and his suffragan Jacob Mar Theophilos stood by the early decision of the Synod. Mar Ivanios and Mar Theophilos along with Rev. Fr. John Kuzhinapurath OIC, Deacon Alexander OIC and Mr. Chacko Kilileth made their profession of faith before Bishop Aloysius Maria Benziger OCD of the Diocese of Quilon and entered into full communion with the Catholic Church on 20 September 1930.

Metropolitan Archbishop Geevarghese Mar Ivanios (1930-1953)

His Holiness Pope Pius XI made an interim canonical provision for the administration of the reunited faithful through the papal document Magnum Nobis dated February 11, 1932. As the Reunion Movement gained momentum, Archbishop Mar Ivanios made three personal visits to Holy Father Pope Pius XI on 26 April, 2 May and 11 May 1932. The Holy Father vested Mar Ivanios with sacred pallium on 2 May, 1932.

Pope Pius XI through the Apostolic Constitution Christo Pastorum Principi of 11 June 1932, established the Syro-Malankara Hierarchy for the reunited community and erected the Archieparchy of Trivandrum with the Eparchy of Tiruvalla as its suffragan. Thus, the Malankara Church re-entered into the hierarchical communion with the Catholic Church. The Syro-Malankara Catholic Hierarchy came into existence through the inauguration of the Metropolitan Eparchy of Trivandrum on 11 May 1933 and His Grace Mar Ivanios was enthroned as its first Metropolitan- Archbishop. His Grace Mar Augustine Kandathil, the Archbishop of Ernakulam, His Excellency Bishop Aloysius Maria Benziger OCD, the Bishop of Quilon, His Grace Mar James Kalassery, the Archbishop of Changanassery, His Excellency Mar Alexander Choolaparambil, the Bishop of Kottayam and His Excellency Jacob Mar Theophilos were present on the occasion. The Eparchy of Tiruvalla was inaugurated on 6 November 1933 and Most Rev. Jacob Mar Theophilos was enthroned as its first Bishop.

The reunion of Archbishop Mar Ivanios with the Catholic Church was a historical event in the universal Church, which inspired many of the Malankarites including the Bishops of the Orthodox Church. On 29 November 1937, Most Rev. Joseph Mar Severios, Metropolitan of Niranam of the Malankara Orthodox Church reunited with the Catholic Church. Later, Most Rev. Thomas Mar Dioscoros, the Metropolitan of the Knanaya Jacobite Church, reunited with the Catholic Church on 12 November 1939.

In God’s providence, the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church engaged in her double mission of communion of the Malankara Orthodox Church and evangelisation. The Church began to increase in number. With the blessing of Archbishop Mar Ivanios, Rt. Rev. Msgr. Joseph Kuzhinjalil founded the missionary congregation of the Daughters of Mary in 1938 at Marthandom in Kanyakumari District. Through the great zeal of these missionaries, the mission of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church spread to the southern regions of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

On 21 February 1943 Bishop Thomas Mar Dioscoros passed away and was buried at St.Mary’s Malankara Catholic Church, Thirumoolapuram (Tiruvalla) where he had been residing. Mar Ivanios worked relentlessly for the building up of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. Through his travels abroad (Rome and other European countries, America and Australia) he spread the message of ecclesial communion and the awareness of the mission of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church in the Universal Church. After a period of 22 years of strenuous hectic task of organizing and administering the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church he fell ill for more than a year. Nevertheless, His Grace consecrated Benedict Mar Gregorios as his Auxiliary on 29 January 1953. Archbishop Mar Ivanios passed away on 15 July 1953 and was entombed at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Trivandrum.

The Eparchy of Tiruvalla was also making strides in its growth and development under the leadership of Jacob Mar Theophilos and Joseph Mar Severios. Mar Severios was the administrator of the Eparchy until 1950 due to the ill-health of Mar Theophilos. On 5 May 1950 he was appointed as the Bishop of Tiruvalla. He was also invested with the title ‘Archbishop’by the Holy See. He was called to eternal rest on 18 January 1955.

Metropolitan Archbishop Benedict Mar Gregorios (1953-1994)

Most Rev. Benedict Mar Gregorios was enthroned as the Metropolitan-Archbishop of Trivandrum and the Head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church on 27 January 1955. Under the spiritual renewal, the pastoral guidance and the social commitment of Archbishop Benedict Mar Gregorios, the Church began to flourish in its various dimensions.

The Holy See appointed Zacharias Mar Athanasios as the successor of Joseph Mar Severios, whose episcopal ordination took place on 22 April 1954. His Excellency Most Rev. Jacob Mar Theophilos was called to eternal rest on 27 June 1956. The mortal remains of His Excellency was entombed in St. John’s Cathedral, Tiruvalla.

The Congregation of the Sisters of Imitation of Christ (Bethany Sisters), a religious congregation for women founded by Archbishop Mar Ivanios was raised to the Pontifical status on 6 August 1956.

Attracted by the Liturgy of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, Fr. Francis Acharya, a Cistercian Monk from Belgium came to the Eparchy of Tiruvalla. In the year 1957 he founded in the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, the Kristiya Sanyasa Samaj (KSS), commonly called Kurisumala Ashram in the high ranges of Vagamon in Kerala.

The Syro-Malankara Catholic Church has been steadily growing and spreading throughout all the States in South India. On 14 February 1958 through the letter (Prot.No.534/53) of the Congregation of the Oriental Churches, the territorial boundaries of the Eparchy of Tiruvalla was extended to the north including the Malabar region of Kerala, the civil districts of Coimbatore and Nilgiris and Karoor Taluk in Tiruchirappally District of Tamil Nadu and districts of Mysore, Mandya, Coorg, Hasan, Chickamangalore, Shimoga and South Kanara of Karnataka State.

The Order of Imitation of Christ (Bethany Fathers), a religious congregation for men founded by Archbishop Mar Ivanios, was raised to the Pontifical status on 14 April 1966

Zacharias Mar Athanasios was called to eternal rest on 28 September 1977. The mortal remains of His Excellency was entombed in St. John’s Cathedral, Tiruvalla.

His Excellency Most Rev. Paulos Mar Philoxenos, the Metropolitan of the Malabar Independent Church (Thozhiyoor), was received into the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church on 28 August 1977. He was appointed Episcopal Vicar of the Archieparchy of Trivandrum.

Upon the request of His Excellency Zacharias Mar Athanasios His Holiness Pope John Paul II on 28 October 1978, by the decree dated 12 October 1978 separating the civil districts of Malapuram, Kozhikkode and Kannoor of Kerala, Nilgris of Tamil Nadu and Coorg, Mysore, Mandya, Hassan, South Kanara, Chickamanglore, and Shimoga of Karnataka from the Eparchy of Tiruvalla, erected the new Eparchy of Bathery and appointed Very Rev. Dr. Cyril Malancharuvil OIC, the Superior General of Bethany Ashram as its first Bishop. Archbishop Benedict Mar Gregorios ordained him with the name Cyril Mar Baselios on 28 December 1978. The new Eparchy was officially inaugurated on 2 February 1979.

Most Rev. Isaac Mar Yoohanon was appointed Bishop of Tiruvalla to succeed Most Rev. Zacharias Mar Athanasios and was ordained a Bishop by Archbishop Benedict Mar Gregorios on 28 December 1978.

The Golden Jubilee of the Reunion Movement of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church was celebrated in Kottayam on 26, 27 and 28 December 1980. His Eminence Wladyslaw Cardinal Rubin, the then Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches was the Papal Delegate for the Jubilee. Other eminent participants included His Beatitude Maximos V Hakim, the Patriarch of Antioch and all the East of Alexandria and Jerusalem, His Grace Most Rev. Luciano Storero, the then Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to India and Mother Teresa of Calcutta. His Excellency Lawrence Mar Ephrem was consecrated Bishop as the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archieparchy of Trivandrum by Archbishop Benedict Mar Gregorios on 27 December 1980.

A significant development of this period is the organisation of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Faithful in India, outside the canonical territorial boundaries of the Church. From being organized as Malankara Catholic Associations, the communities of our faithful living in the Metropolitan cities of India came to be erected as personal parish communities.

It was the long cherished dream of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church to have a Major Seminary of its own for the formation of its clergy. St. Mary’s Malankara Major Seminary was inaugurated at Pattom on 29 June 1983 with Philosophy course and afterwards it was shifted to the new building at Nalanchira, Trivandrum, which was blessed on 25 May 1989.

The Syro-Malankara Catholic Church was fortunate to welcome His Holiness Pope John Paul II on 8 February 1986 at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Pattom, Trivandrum. His Holiness was accorded a cordial reception by the Church by the entire Malankara Catholic Hierarchy, representatives of clergy, religious and laity. At 3.30 pm the Supreme Pontiff was garlanded at the entrance of the Cathedral by His Grace Benedict Mar Gregorios, the Metropolitan Archbishop and was received to the Cathedral with liturgical reception by the Bishops of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. His Holiness prayed at the Sanctuary. After the welcome speech of His Grace Mar Gregorios, the Holy Father gave his speech. Later His Holiness addressed the whole Catholic community from Trivandrum and the neighbouring districts at Shankumukham beach. In his memorable speech at Shankhumukham, the Holy Father praised the heroic leadership of Mar Ivanios of revered memory and the ecclesial significance of the Syro-Malankara Reunion Movement (L’Osservatore Romano, Feb.17, 1986).

Following the visit of Pope John Paul II, His Eminence Cardinal Lourdusamy, the then Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, visited the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church on 18 and 19 August 1987.

Most Rev. Isaac Mar Yoohanon entered into eternal rest on 28 April 1987. Most Rev. Geevarghese Mar Timotheos was ordained a Bishop by Archbishop Benedict Mar Gregorios on 6 August 1988 and succeeded Mar Yoohanon in the Eparchy of Tiruvalla.

The Congregation of the Daughters of Mary, a missionary congregation started in the Archdiocese of Trivandrum, was raised to the Pontifical status on 15 October 1988

His Grace the Metropolitan-Archbishop Mar Gregorios was called to eternal rest on 10 October 1994 after an eventful service of 41 years and was entombed on 12th October at the side of his great predecessor at St.Mary’s Cathedral, Pattom. It is to be specially mentioned that His Grace Mar Gregorios participated in all sessions of the Second Vatican Council and the subsequent Synod of Bishops in Rome. He served as President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India in 1988-1989.

Major Archbishop – Catholicos Moran Mor Cyril Baselios (1995-2007)

During the vacancy of the Metropolitan See, His Excellency Cyril Mar Baselios, the Bishop of Bathery by virtue of CCEO c. 173 § 1 took up the administration of the Church. His Holiness Pope John Paul II appointed His Excellency Most Rev. Cyril Mar Baselios, as the successor of His Grace Benedict Mar Gregorios in November 1994. He was enthroned as Metropolitan-Archbishop of Trivandrum and as the Head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church on 14 December 1995. His Grace visited His Holiness Pope John Paul II and received the sacred pallium on 9th January, 1996 at Vatican.

His Excellency Geevarghese Mar Divannasios was consecrated and installed Bishop of Bathery by Archbishop Cyril Mar Baselios on 5 February 1996 at St.Thomas Cathedral, Bathery.

His Eminence Achille Cardinal Silvestrini, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, visited the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church on 11, 12 and 13 February 1996.

On the request of His Grace Most Rev. Cyril Mar Baselios, by the Apostolic Bull dated 16 December 1996, His Holiness Pope John Paul II erected the Eparchy of Marthandom bifurcating the Metropolitan Eparchy of Trivandrum. Most Rev. Lawrence Mar Ephraem, the Protosyncellus of the Archieparchy of Trivandrum, was appointed as its first Bishop. His Grace Cyril Mar Baselios, the Metropolitan Archbishop officiated the inauguration of the new Eparchy and the installation of His Excellency Lawrence Mar Ephream at Christuraja Church, Marthandom on 23 January 1997. The territorial boundary of the Eparchy of Marthandom extends to Kanyakumari in the south, Kalikavilai in the west, Kavalkinar in the north and Kumarapuram in the east. After a few months, His Excellency Lawrence Mar Ephraem was called to eternal rest, on 8 April 1997 and was buried at Christuraja Cathedral, Marthandam.

In the mean time the Eparchy of Tiruvalla was blessed with an Auxiliary Bishop in the person of Most Rev. Dr. Thomas Mar Koorilos. He was consecrated Bishop by His Excellency Geevarghese Mar Timotheos on 17 July 1997 at St.John’s Cathedral, Tiruvalla.

With the appointment of Rev. Dr. John Berchmans OIC on December 26, 1997 as the Co-Ordinator of the Malankara Catholic Communities in the Extra-territorial regions in India by the Metropolitan Archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, the ecclesial life of these parish communities was coordinated.

Most Rev. Yoohanon Mar Chrysostom was consecrated as Bishop of Marthandom and Joshua Mar Ignathios as the Auxiliary Bishop of the Metropolitan Eparchy of Trivandrum by Archbishop Cyril Mar Baselios at Mar Ivanios Stadium, Nalanchira on 29 June 1998. Most Rev. Yoohanon Mar Chrysostom was enthroned as the second Bishop of the Eparchy of Marthandom on 1 July 1998 at Christuraja Cathedral, by His Grace Cyril Mar Baselios.

His Excellency Paulos Mar Philoxenos passed away on 3 November 1998 and was entombed at St. John’s Cathedral, Tiruvalla.

The Syro-Malankara Catholic Church celebrated the Great Jubilee 2000 in Rome on 19–21 November 2000. Holy Father Pope John Paul II in an audience with the Hierarchy and the representatives of the Clergy, the Religious and the Laity of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church said, “Seventy years ago, Metropolitan Archbishop Mar Ivanios, Bishop Mar Theophilos and their companions entered into full communion with the See of Peter, because they were profoundly convinced of the truth of the words found beneath the dome of the Vatican Basilica: Hinc una fides mundo refulget. «From here the one faith shines forth in the world». They understood that «the Church is one, the Church of Christ between East and West» (Orientale Lumen, 20); and they knew that, in entering the communion of the Catholic Church, they «did not at all intend to deny their fidelity to their own traditions» (ibid., 21). In the years since their decision, God has abundantly blessed the Syro-Malankara Church in her work for Christian unity.”

A Great Jubilee Conference was organized by the Syro- Malankara Catholic Church in the Pope John Paul II auditorium of the Pontifical Urbanian University, Rome on November 20, 2000. His Eminence Achille Cardinal Silvestrini, Prefect of the Congregation for Oriental Churches presided over the Conference. His Eminence Roger Cardinal Marie Élie Etchegaray, the President of the Central Committee for the Great Jubilee, His Eminence Crescenzio Cardinal Sepe, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, His Eminence Simon Cardinal Lourdusamy, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and His Grace Metropolitan Archbishop Cyril Mar Baselios spoke on the occasion.

The Holy Qurbono in Malankara- Syro Antiochene rite was celebrated on November 21, 2000, at the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere in Rome, presided by His Beatitude Ignace Moussa I Daoud, Patriarch of the Syro-Antiochean Catholics and His Grace Cyril Mar Baselios, Metropolitan Archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. The dignitaries present at the Holy Mass were His Eminence Achille Cardinal Silvestrini, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, His Eminence Roger Cardinal Etchegaray, President of the Central Committee for the Great Jubilee 2000, His Eminence Simon Cardinal Lourdusamy, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, His Grace Archbishop Stefan Miroslav Marusyn, Secretary of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, His Excellency Bishop Emile Eid, Procurator in Rome of the Antiochean Maronite Church, His Excellency Bishop Vertan Boghossian of the Armenian Catholics in Latin America and Prof. Andrea Riccardi, the Founder of Sant’Egidio Community.

Christu Jayanthi Maha Jubilee (Great Jubilee of the Birth of our Lord Jesus Christ) and the Sapthathy of the Re-union Movement of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church were celebrated jointly at Tiruvalla on 26, 27 and 28 December 2000. His Beatitude Ignace Moussa Daoud, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches was the Chief Guest for the Celebration.

In response to the request of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Faithful in Doha and Dubai, the Major Archbishop-Catholicos appointed resident priests in those countries for the pastoral care.

A significant development in this period has been the establishment of parishes for the faithful of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church in the United States of America. The Holy Father John Paul II appointed Rt. Rev. Msgr. Isaac Thottunkal, the Proto Syncellus of Bathery, as Apostolic Visitor for the Syro-Malankarites residing in North America and Europe and the Auxiliary Bishop of Trivandrum on 18 June 2001. He was ordained a bishop by Metropolitan Archbishop Cyril Mar Baselios at Mar Ivanios Nagar, Tirumoolapuram, Tiruvalla with the name Isaac Mar Cleemis on 15 August 2001. His Excellency Isaac Mar Cleemis started his Episcopal Ministry in North America residing at various American Rectories. By the providence of God the Church could acquire a house in Hillside Avenue, New York in 2002. The house was named as Mar Ivanios Malankara Catholic Centre. It is being used as the office of the Apostolic Visitor and the headquarters of North American ecclesial activities of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church.

Upon the request of His Excellency Geevarghese Mar Timotheos the Holy See established the Eparchy of Muvattupuzha, bifurcating the Eparchy of Tiruvalla, on 15 January 2003, which includes the civil districts of Ernakulam, Thrissur and Palakkad of Kerala State and civil districts of Coimbatore and Thiruchirapally of Tamil Nadu. Most Rev. Thomas Mar Koorilos was appointed first Bishop of Muvattupuzha. The installation of Most Rev. Thomas Mar Koorilos and the official inauguration of the Eparchy took place on 6 February 2003.

Bishop Geevarghese Mar Timotheos submitted to the Holy See due to super-annuation on 29 March 2003 and the Holy See appointed Isaac Mar Cleemis, Auxiliary bishop of the Archieparchy of Trivandrum and of the Apostolic Visitor to Europe and America, as the Bishop of Tiruvalla. His Excellency Isaac Mar Cleemis was enthroned as the Bishop of Tiruvalla on 2 October 2003.

Most Rev. Joseph Mar Thomas was appointed as the Auxiliary Bishop of Trivandrum and Apostolic Visitor to North America and Europe on January 5, 2005. He was ordained Bishop by Major Archbishop-Catholicos Moran Mor Cyril Baselios on 19 February 2005 at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Pattom, Trivandrum. During his Episcopal Ministry in the United States he acquired another house adjacent to Mar Ivanios Centre and was named as Mar Baselios Pastoral Centre. During this period four young students joined the seminary for priestly formation for the Syro-Malankara Catholic Missions in USA.

On 10 February 2005, a day engraved in golden letters in the history of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, His Holiness Pope John Paul II raised this Church to the status of a Major Archiepiscopal Church and appointed the then Metropolitan Archbishop as Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church through the Papal Bull Ab ipso Sancto Thoma. His Grace Pedro Lopez Quintana, the Apostolic Nuncio in India read the official declaration at St. Mary’s Metropolitan Cathedral, Trivandrum. This was the crowing event of all the ecclesial communion endeavours since 1653. With this, the Malankara Catholic Church obtained a Synodal hierarchical structure with Major Archbishop as the “father and head” (pater et caput) of the Church exercising Patriarchal powers with the Synod of Bishops. In accordance with the provisions of the CCEO and the tradition of the Malankara Church, which has its roots in the Syro-Antiochene tradition, the Major Archbishop is the “Catholicos” of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, who with the Holy Episcopal Synod exercises Patriarchal powers envisaged in the CCEO (Pope Pius XII, Motu proprio, Cleri sanctitati, AAS 49 (1957) 430-603, c. 335). In complete concordance with this tradition, the pater et caput of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Major Archiepiscopal Church assumed the title ‘Catholicos’ along with the title Major Archbishop.

The Faculty of Theology of St. Mary’s Malankara Seminary got affiliated to the Pontifical Urbanian University, Rome, on 11 April 2005.

The enthronement of Major Archbishop-Catholicos Moran Mor Cyril Baselios, as the Father and Head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Major Archiepiscopal Church was on 14 May 2005. His Eminence Ignace Cardinal Mousa Daoud, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches presided over the liturgy of enthronement. His Grace Pedro Lopez Quintana, the Apostolic Nuncio in India, was present at the enthronement ceremony. The Malankara Major Archiepiscopal Curia (Catholicate Centre) started functioning at the St. Mary’s Campus, Pattom, Trivandrum. On 20 May 2005 His Beatitude Moran Mor Cyril Baselios Catholicos blessed the Curia building. The Catholicos soon constituted the Holy Episcopal Synod. The first Synod of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church was convened from 16 to 18 August 2005 at the Major Archiepiscopal Curia (Catholicate Centre), Trivandrum.

The first Holy Episcopal Synod constituted the Permanent Synod and the various Synodal Commissions headed by Bishops to take care of various Apostolates of the Church. The official bulletin, MALANKARA, is published from the Catholicate Centre, to communicate the Synodal acts and voice of the Syro-Malankara Major Archiepiscopal Church.

The Platinum Jubilee of the Reunion Movement and the Year of the Eucharist were celebrated jointly at Mar Ivanios Nagar, Punnamoodu, Mavelikara on 19, 20, 21 September 2005. His Grace Pedro Lopez Quintana, the Apostolic Nuncio in India, Shri Bhaironsingh Shekhawat, the Vice-President of India, and Sri Oommen Chandy, the Chief Minister of Kerala, participated in the celebrations.

As per the decision of the Second Holy Episcopal Synod and in consultation with the Holy See, the Major Archbishop-Catholicos established the Metropolitan Province of Tiruvalla with the Eparchies of Bathery and Muvattupuzha as suffragans on 15 May 2006 and Most Rev. Isaac Mar Cleemis was appointed as the Metropolitan-Archbishop of Tiruvalla. Most Rev. Isaac Mar Cleemis was enthroned as the first Metropolitan-Archbishop of Tiruvalla on 10 June 2006.

According to the decision of the Holy Episcopal Synod of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, His Beatitude Moran Mor Cyril Baselios Catholicos erected the Eparchy of Mavelikara, bifurcating the Major Archieparchy of Trivandrum, on 1 January 2007. His Excellency Most Rev. Dr. Joshua Mar Ignathios, the Auxiliary Bishop of Trivandrum was transferred and was appointed the first Bishop of the Eparchy of Mavelikara. The Eparchy of Mavelikara comprises the prebsyteral districts of Mavelikakra and Kollam and parts of the presbyteral districts of Chengannur and Adoor. This includes with the civil districts of Alapuzha minus the portions that belong to the Archdiocese of Tiruvalla and parts of the civil districts of Kollam and Pathanamthitta.

The Second Ordinary Holy Episcopal Synod was convoked on 6-7 December 2006 and it was decided to revive the ministerial titles of Ramban and Corepiscopo which were in vogue in the Church and to honour a few priests for their meritorious service in the Church. His Grace Most Rev. Dr. Isaac Mar Cleemis, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Tiruvalla, conferred the titles on Saturday, 13 January 2007 on three priests at St. John’s Cathedral, Tiruvalla and Moran Mor Cyril Baselios Catholicos conferred these titles on ten priests on 17 January, 2007 at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Pattom.

On Thursday, 18 January 2007, His Beatitude Moran Mor Cyril Baselios, the first Major Archbishop-Catholicos of the Syro- Malankara Catholic Church slept in the Lord. On the same day, His Excellency Most Rev. Dr. Geevarghese Mar Divannasios, Bishop of Bathery assumed the office as the Administrator of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church and of the Major Archieparchy of Trivandrum as per CCEO c. 127. The mortal remains of His Beatitude Cyril Baselios Catholicos was entombed at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Pattom on 20 January 2007.

Major Archbishop-Catholicos Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis (2007- )

In order to elect the new Major Archbishop-Catholicos, the first Holy Episcopal Synod of election of the Syro Malankara Catholic Church was convoked on 7-10 February 2007 at the Catholicate Centre, Pattom, Trivandrum. After a day of prayer and meditation, the Holy Episcopal Synod elected His Grace Most Rev. Dr. Isaac Mar Cleemis, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Tiruvalla as the new Major Archbishop-Catholicos of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church and the Major Archbishop of Trivandrum. His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI confirmed the election on 9 February and it was announced by His Excellency Most Rev.Geevarghese Mar Divannasios, the Administrator, on 10 February 2007 at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Pattom, Trivandrum. This was the first Synod of Election in an oriental Catholic Church in India.

The official inauguration of the Eparchy of Mavelikara and the Installation of His Excellency Most Rev. Joshua Mar Ignathios as its Bishop were held at St.Mary’s Church, Punnamood, Mavelikara on 16 February 2007. The Holy Qurbono was celebrated by the newly elected Major Archbishop-Catholicos and the Installation was officiated by the Administrator of the Church His Excellency Most Rev. Dr. Geevarghese Mar Divannasios.

Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI appointed Very Rev. Dr. Chacko Aerath OIC as the Apostolic Visitor for the Syro-Malankara Catholic faithful residing in the Extra-territorial Regions of the Church within India on 7 February 2007.

Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis was enthroned as the Second Major Archbishop-Catholicos of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church and the Major Archbishop of Trivandrum on 5 March 2007 at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Pattom. His installation service was officiated by Most Rev. Geevarghese Mar Divannasios, the Synodal Administrator of the Church. A large number of ecclesiastical and political dignitaries including His Eminence Cardinal Telesphore Toppo (the President of the CBCI), His Eminence Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil (Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church) and Shri. V. S. Achuthanandan (the Chief Minister of Kerala), Official representatives of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, a large number of Bishops, Priests, Religious, lay faithful and social and political leaders participated in the installation ceremony and public meeting.

Very Rev. Dr. Chacko Aerath OIC was ordained Bishop with the name Jacob Mar Barnabas by His Beatitude Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis Catholicos on 10 March 2007. As per the decision of the Holy Episcopal Synod and in consultation with the Apostolic Nuncio in India, New Delhi was chosen as the place of his residence and Mar Barnabas took charge of the office on 22 March 2007.

As per the decision of the Holy Episcopal Synod and in consultation with the Holy See, the Major Archbishop-Catholicos, Moran Mor His Beatitude Baselios Cleemis transferred His Excellency Most Rev. Thomas Mar Koorilos from the Eparchy of Moovattupuzha and appointed him as the Second Metropolitan Archbishop of the Archieparchy of Tiruvalla on Monday, 26 March 2007 and His Beatitude officiated the Installation Ceremony on Wednesday, 2 May 2007 at St. John’s Cathedral, Tiruvalla.

His Beatitude Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis Catholicos visited the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI on 28 May 2007 at Vatican. His Beatitude was most cordially received by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican Palace. Both the Prelates had a frank and pleasant sharing on various aspects of ecclesial life. After the private audience, His Holiness received the whole Syro-Malankara Catholic Community in Rome in Sala Clementina. His Beatitude in his address, greeted the Holy Father and expressed the loyalty and affection of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. His Holiness saluted the Major Archishop-Catholicos and gave a message. The Special audience was concluded with an apostolic blessing from the Holy Father. The Congregation for the Oriental Churches in Rome also gave a warm reception to His Beatitude on his first official visit to the Holy See.

During the 54th Commemoration of Archbishop Mar Ivanios at St. Mary’s Cathedral on Saturday, 14 July 2007, Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis, Major Archbishop-Catholicos declared Archbishop Mar Ivanios as Servant of God, accepting the petition submitted by Rev. Fr. Antony Valiyavilayil OIC, the postulator for the cause of canonization of Archbishop Mar Ivanios.

On the request of His Beatitude Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis Catholicos, the German Bishops’Conference appointed a Chaplain for the Syro-Malankara Catholic faithful in Germany on August 22, 2007.

The 77th Reunion Day celebrations, the Platinum Jubilee of the reconstitution of the Hierarchy of the Malankara Church in Catholic Communion and the Golden Jubilee of the Immigration of the Malankarites to Malabar were celebrated at Kodencherry in the Eparchy of Bathery from 19 to 21 September 2007.

The 125th birth anniversary of the Servant of God Archbishop Mar Ivanios was celebrated on Sunday, 23 September 2007, at his birth place, Puthiyakavu, in the Eparchy of Mavelikara.

As per the decision of the Sixth Holy Episcopal Synod convoked from 15 to 17 July, 2008, His Beatitude Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis Catholicos in the presence of other Bishops announced the decision of the respective Eparchial Bishops to bestow the title Bar Itho Kasiro (the Diligent Son of the Church) on 13 lay men and Barz Itho Kasirtho (the Diligent Daughter of the Church) on 8 lay women for their meritorious service in the life and mission of the Church, on 21 September, 2008.

The Silver Jubilee of the establishment of the Malankara Major Seminary was celebrated from 29 June 2007 to 29 June 2008. His Eminenece Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil, the Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church was the chief guest.

In accordance with the decision of the fifth Ordinary Holy Episcopal Synod held on 9 to 12 October 2007 the Ordinary Tribunal of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church was erected by the Major Archbishop-Catholicos on 15 November 2007.

The Major Archbishop-Catholicos appointed a few priests for the pastoral care of the Syro-Malankra Catholic faithful in ETR outside India. And at present the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church has resident priests for the pastoral care of its faithful in Muscat (2008), Kuwait (2009), Saudi Arabia (2009) and England (2009). The newly built Church in Doha (Qatar), the first Syro-Malankara Catholic parish Church in the Gulf Region, was blessed by the Major Archbishop-Catholicos on April 17, 2009.

As per the election of the Holy Episcopal Synod and with the assent of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, the Major Archbishop-Catholicos appointed Most Rev. Abraham Mar Julios as the Bishop of Muvattupuzha on 18 January 2008. He was ordained and installed Eparchial Bishop at the St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Muvattupuzha on 9 February 2008 by His Beatitude Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis Catholicos.

The foundation stone of the Catholicate Center (Major Archiepiscopal Curia) was laid by Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis, the Major Archbishop-Catholicos on 18 January 2008 which was blessed by His Eminence Ignace Cardinal Mousa Daoud, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches on 15 May 2005.

His Eminence Leonardo Cardinal Sandri, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches was received by the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church at St.Mary’s Cathedral, Pattom on 10 November 2008. At the request of His Beatitude Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis Catholicos, the Holy See raised St. Mary, Queen of Peace Church, Palayam, Trivandrum, the first parish church of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church and the pro-cathedral of the Major Archieparchy of Trivandrum, to the status of a Basilica on 10 November 2008. It was officially announced by His Eminence Cardinal Sandri.

From 20 to 26 September 2009, His Beatitude Moran Mor Ignace Yousuf III Younan, the Patriarch of the Syrian Catholic Church of Antioch, Baghdad Archbishop Mattishaba Matoka and Ninave Archbishop George Qas Moussa and delegates from the same church visited the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church.

The 79th anniversary of the Re-union event and the Platinum Jubilee Celebrations of the inception of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church in the district of Kanyakumari of Tamil Nadu State were celebrated as “Malankara Thirusabhai Sangamam”, at Mariagiri in the Eparchy of Marthandom from 19 to 21 September 2009. The Patriarch of the Syrian Catholic Church of Antioch was the Chief Guest.

The silver Jubilee of the establishment of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Mission in North America was celebrated under the leadership of His Excellency Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thomas, Apostolic Visitor of North America and Europe during the Malankara Catholic Convention in Dallas on August 6-9, 2009. The Major Archbishop-Catholicos Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis and all the members of Syro-Malankara Catholic Hierarchy and Bishops from the American Church participated in the functions.

On 25 January 2010, as per the decision of the Holy Episcopal Synod of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, and having consulted the Apostolic See of Rome, His Beatitude Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis Major Archbishop-Catholicos, erected the Eparchy of Pathanamthitta bifurcating the Major Archieparchy of Trivandrum and the Eparchy of Puttur bifurcating the Eparchy of Bathery. The territory of the Eparchy of Pathanamthitta consists of four ecclesiastical districts-Pathanamthitta, Konni, Ranni-Perunadu, Pandalam and the parishes of Anandapally, Angadickal, Chandanapally, Pongaldy and Thatta of the eccelsiatical district of Adoor. The territory of the Eparchy of Puttur consists of the civil districts of Dakshina Kannada, Chamarajnagar, Chickmanglur, Hassan, Kodagu, Mandya, Mysore, Shimoga and Udupi of Karnataka State.

On the same day His Beatitude Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis transferred His Excellency Most Rev. Yoohanon Mar Chrysostom from the Eparchy of Marthandom and appointed him the first Bishop of Pathanamathitta. His Beatitude transferred His Excellency Most Rev. Dr.Geevarghese Mar Divannasios from the Eparchy of Bathery and appointed him the first Bishop of Puttur. He also transferred His Excellency Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thomas from his office as the Apostolic Visitor to North America and Europe and the Auxiliary Bishop of the Major Archieparchy of Trivandrum, and appointed him the Bishop of Bathery.

Having been elected by the Holy Episcopal Synod of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, with the assent of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, on 25 January 2010, His Beatitude Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis Catholicos appointed Rev. Dr. Vincent Kulapuravilai, as the Bishop of Marthandom, Rev. Dr. Antony Valiayavilayil OIC, as the Bishop of the Major Archiepiscopal Curia, Rt. Rev. Dr. Msgr. Samuel Kattukallil as the Auxiliary Bishop of the Major Archieparchy of Trivandrum and Rev. Dr. Stephen Thottathil as the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archieparchy of Tiruvalla.

On 13 March 2010 at Mar Ivanios Nagar (Stadium) Nalanchira, Trivandrum, His Beatitude Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis ordained His Excellency Most Rev. Vincent Mar Paulose (Bishop of Marthandom), His Excellency Most Rev. Thomas Mar Anthonios (Curia Bishop), His Excellency Most Rev. Samuel Mar Irenios (Auxiliary Bishop of Trivandrum) and His Excellency Most Rev. Philipose Mar Stephanos (Auxiliary Bishop of Tiruvalla) as Bishops. His Beatitude Gregorios III Laham, the Patriarch of the Greek Melkite Catholic Church was the chief guest. His Grace Joseph Absi, Bishop of Damascus Patriarchate and His Grace Rabula Beylouni, representative of Patriarch of Antioch also participated in the function.

His Excellency Most Rev. Dr.Vincent Mar Paulose was installed as the third Bishop of the Eparchy of Marthandom by His Beatitude Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis Catholicos on 14 March 2010 at Christu Raja Cathedral, Marthandam.

The inauguration of the Eparchy of Pathanamthitta and the Installation of His Excellency Most Rev. Yoohanon Mar Chrysostom as the first Bishop of Pathanamthitta was officiated by Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis Catholicos at Cyril Baselios Catholicos Nagar (Municipal stadium) and Sacred Heart Church, Mylapra respectively on 20 March 2010.

Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis Catholicos installed His Excellency Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thomas as the Bishop of Bathery at St.Thomas Cathedral, on 13 April 2010.

The inauguration of the Eparchy of Puttur and the Installation of His Excellency Most Rev. Dr. Geevarghese Mar Divannasios was officiated by Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis Catholicos at St.Mary’s Malankara Catholic Church, Ichilampady, on 15 April 2010.

At the request of the Holy Episcopal Synod of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, on 14 July 2010 Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI erected the Apostolic Exarchate in the United States of America for the Syro-Malankarites in the USA and appointed Rev. Dr. Thomas Naickamparambil, as the first Bishop of the new Exarchate and Apostolic Visitor to Canada and Europe. Rt. Rev. Naickamparambil Thomas Remban was ordained Bishop with the name Thomas Mar Eusebius by His Beatitude Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis Catholicos at St.Mary’s Cathedral, Pattom, on 21 September 2010.

The 80th Reunion Day celebrations were held at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Pattom, Trivandrum from 20 to 21 September 2010.

The inauguration of the Exarchate in USA and the Insallation of His Excellency Most Rev. Dr. Thomas Mar Eusebius as its first Bishop and the Apostolic Visitor to Canada and Europe were held at Emmanuel Marianist Retreat Centre, Uniondale, New York by His Beatitude Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis Catholicos on 3 October 2010. Many Bishops including the Archbishop of New York, His Grace Timothy Dolan, Most Rev.William Murphy, Bishop of Rockville Centre and priests, sisters, layfaithful and well wishers from the various American dioceses and representatives from the sister churches participated in the functions.


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