THE SYRIAN CHURCH IN INDIA
The story of the ancient Syrian community in India has fascinated writers and travellers down the centuries and consequently, its history has been told many times. No attempt is made to repeat it many detail here. Instead, a basic sketch is presented, sufficient to enable an understanding of the context in which the Malabar Independent Syrian Church came into existence. Read More...
The modem state of Kerala, comprising the old Rajah-aes of Travancore and Cochin, together with former British Malabar to the north, lies at the south-west tip of India. From the fourth century there is documentary evidence of a Christian community here linked primarily with Syriac-speaking Churches in Mesopotamia. The community has for many centuries claimed to have been founded by the Apostle Thomas who they believe to have arrived there in AD 52.
Certainly, classical Roman and Greek writers knew of this part of India and coins of the Roman Emperors Augustus, Tiberius, Claudius and Nero have been found there. Brown carefully reviews the evidence and concludes that while it “does not prove the Apostolic mission of St. Thomas in South India . . . it does show that there was no physical reason why Christian traders, or the Apostle himself, could not have come to Malabar in the first century “. He adds:
“We cannot prove that the Apostle worked in South India any more than we can disprove it; but the presence of Christians of undoubtedly ancient origin holding firm to the tradition, the proof of very considerable commercial contact between the Western world and the Malabar coast in the first century of our era, and the probable presence of Jewish colonies at the same time, may for some incline the balance to belief that the truth of the tradition is a reasonable possibility”.
Certainly there are in Kerala seven sites where it is claimed the Apostle foun¬ded a Church, six of them on the coast which would seem to strengthen their claim to authenticity in the light of likely association with maritime trading posts. From the fourth century there are identifiable references to a Syriac-speaking Church in South India. In the fifth century, Cosmas Indicopleustes wrote of Christians “in a land called Male where the pepper grows” and goes on to speak of ‘Persian Christians’ in the island of Sri Lanka. From time to time the indigenous community was strengthened by the influx of settlers. (It is perhaps worth pointing out that although the community accepts – and, indeed, is proud of-the description ‘Syrian’, its members today are in appearance and culture Indian). One persistent account tells of an expedition led by Thomas of Cana in the mid-fourth century bring a bishop, priests, deacons, men, women and children from Jerusalem, Baghdad and Nineveh. Such occasional migrations were perhaps prompted by persecutions in the Persian Empire. Ninth century Christian immigrants are credited with founding the port of Quilon and there survive ancient copper plates recording the privileges accorded to them by the local Hindu king, including the keeping of the public weights, which suggests a high degree of trustworthiness in the community. A number of carved stone crosses with Pahlavi inscriptions survive and are dated from the eighth and ninth centuries.
The use of Pahlavi script points of course to Persia as the country of origin and to the likelihood that the community was East Syrian or ‘Nestorian’ in nature.
The East Syrian Church-today called the Church of the East or Assynan Church-was responsible for a remarkable eastward missionary expansion which reached China and Tibet. Contact with South India was entirely consis¬tent with this. How far the Indian Community was technically ‘Nestorian’ in theology is highly questionable.
English writers have sometimes made much of the fact that the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and William of Malmsbury record that King Alfred of Wessex sent two bishops to India in 883 with gifts in fulfilment of a vow. In view of the later relationship with the Church of England the idea of such a contact is attractive. It is impossible to be certain, however, whether South India is meant.
From the thirteenth century European contacts steadily increased. Western missionaries (many of them members of religious orders) on their way to China and the Far East occasionally passed via Kerala. Marco Polo called in about 1293. Such travellers, however, made little impact on the local community. It was with the coming of the Portuguese in 1498 that the situation begins to change. From this time on what would seem to have been a united community, socially and liturgically, is gradually fragmented as outside influences reinforced and fos¬tered a tendency to internal rivalry and, later, to resort to litigation. Today the community is split into eleven different churches or jurisdictions:
1. The Church of the East (‘Nestorian’, based at Trissur)
2. Syro-Malabarese (Eastern Catholics of the East Syrian rite)
3. Syro-Malankara (Eastern Catholics of the West Syrian rite)
4. Latin rite Roman Catholics
5. The Malankara Orthodox Syrian (independent under its own Catholicos)
6. The Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church (under the ultimate jurisdiction of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch)
7. The Mar Thoma Syrian Church
8. The Church of South India
9. The Malabar Independent Syrian Church.
10. There are in addition small numbers of Syrian Christians in the Salvation Army
11. The Seventh Day Adventists, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other small groups. Some of the outside influences that created the situation were well-intentioned, others were less so.
HISTORY & EVOLUTION OF ST. THOMAS CHRISTIANS
The high point of Portuguese interference was the bringing of the whole com¬munity under formal obedience to Rome at the Synod of Diamper in 1599. It was a triumph for Archbishop Menezes who engineered it, but a historical disaster in many ways, as Menezes considered the St. Thomas Christians heretical and ordered the destruction or alteration of all existing service books. Read More...
A Latin hierarchy was imposed and Eastern bishops prevented from reaching Kerala. After half a century a large section of the oppressed community publicly expressed their desire to be independent of foreign missionaries in general and the Jesuits.in particular, by taking an oath at Matancherry near Cochin while holding ropes tied to a stone cross in the churchyard. The incident took place in 1653 and is known. as the Coonan Cross Oath. In time, however, the majority of congregations drifted back to the Roman obedience. Their descendants form the Syro-Malabar jurisdiction today.
Those who remained firmly opposed to Rome elected the Archdeacon Thomas as bishop and consecrated him by the laying-on of hands of twelve priests as Marthoma -I. They also sent various letters to Eastern Patriarchs asking them to send a Bishop. In 1665, thanks to the eclipse of Portuguese power by the Dutch, a Syrian Orthodox (Jacobite) 1) bishop arrived -Mar Gregarious. It is possible, though not certain, that he canonically consecrated Mar Thoma- I. The fact that he (and the Bishop who followed him) were mainly West Syrian in rite and technically ‘Monophysite’ (the antithesis of ‘Nestorian’) in doctrine, does not seem to have worried the St. Thomas Christians too much and, as the supply of Jacobite bishops continued, gradually the non-Roman Syrians became predominantly West Syrian in rite and theological outlook. This new liturgical and doctrinal unity was to be mannered and eventually broken by the events of the following century.
(A note on terminology may be helpful here. The phrase ‘Malankara Church’ is a convenient one to describe that part of the Syrian community left after the majority of St. Thomas Christians became the Syro-Malabar Church in communion with Rome. As noted in the main text the Malankara Church was West Syrian (i.e. of the same faith and rite as the Syrian Orthodox Church in the Middle east) The head of this community bore the title Metropolitan, hence Malankara Metropolitan ‘ or, sometimes, ‘Metropolitan of Malabar’. The term Malankara Orthodox Syrian church (sometimes abbreviated to ‘Indian orthodox Church) is used of that section of the Malankara Church which established its independence from the Syrian Patriarchate in the twentieth century. Still under patriarchal jurisdiction accept the description ‘Jacobite’).
HISTORY TREE VIEW
ABOUT THE ST.THOMAS CHRISTIANS EARLY LITURGY
The Older hudra MSS contained three Anaphora for use in Chaldean Church. Mar Esai Hudra also contains three Anaphora.
It is generally accepted that the Anaphora of Addai and Mari, Nestorius and Theodore were in use among Saint Thomas Christians at the time of Synod of Diamper in 1599 AD. There are many fragmentary evidences for this liturgy in early centuries in India. Read More...
The earliest concrete surviving document, which assert the presence of East Syrian Liturgy is the Vatican Syriac MSS-22, written at Cranganore, Malabar in 1301 AD. This is an Epistolarium copied to use in Malabar from a text used in Cathedral of Beth Koke in Seleucia- Ctesiphon. The Prelate, Mar Joseph, who was send to Malabar by the Chaldean Patriarch in 1556 died at Rome in 1569. He has left a number of manuscripts in Rome. These are parts of the Vatican Library. The Vatican Syr. Codex 45, 46, 66 are that of the Pontifical, Missal and Rituals. These provide valuable information about the liturgy which was in use before the Syond of Diamper in Malabar.
HISTORY OF MISC
THE ORIGIN OF MALABAR INDEPENDENT SYRIAN CHURCH
The MISC came into being as a result of what Brown calls ‘the confusions of the eighteenth century’.1 The shift in balance of power from the Portuguese to the Dutch, the activity of various Roman Catholic prelates and religious orders, and the arrival in Kerala of a succession of Middle Eastern bishops of various juris¬dictions created an unstable situation in which rivalry and manoeuvring flourished. Read More...
However, periodically, reconciliations took place, schisms were healed and regroupings formed. That one particular set of circumstances should have produced permanently a small independent church could not have been foreseen or intended at the time.
THE KATTUMANGATTU BROTHERS
In recent centuries at least the Syrian Christian community has been as ‘water¬ tight’ in the marriage it has allowed as the majority of the communities or castes in India. In the nineteenth century, for example, Syrian Indian Christians found difficult to relate to converts to Christianity from low caste Hindu back¬ grounds and even today do not as a rule marry outside their own community. Read More...
On exception to this has been marriage with Syrian Christians from the Middle East (or West Asia as it is referred to in Indian perspective) who seem to have been credited with a ‘purity’ that made such marriages permissible. A number of families in Kerala proudly trace their descent from such unions. One such family is that of Kattumangatt from which came the first two bishops of the MISC. Verghese states that ‘they belonged to a noble family in Syria that came down to Kerala and settled first at Piravam and then at Mulanthuruthy, a village in the former Cochin state. Brown gives more details: the family were descended from the brother of Mar Andrew, a foreign bishop who arrived in Kerala in 1676 but was not widely accepted by the Church and is said to have been drowned in a river in 1682. After marriage to a woman of the Palasana family Mar Andrew’s brother had been ordained priest by a Mar Ivanios who himself came to Kerala in 1678.
‘Two sons resulted from this marriage: One lived at Thanangad, a place where “Thanang” a kind of bush grew in abundance, and the other at Kattu mangat where there was a wild growth of mango trees. The latter had eight sons and two daughters. They were:
l.. Joseph Parappattil
2. Korah Chalil
3. Jacob Thilakkulathil
4. Puravath Puthenpurayil
5. Kurian (Abraham)
6. Payli Punavidath
8. Yuhanon Kattumangatt
9. Eli Mamala
10. Acha Ayinad
It is said that Yuhanon, the youngest, stayed at the old family residence of Kattumangatt and the rest settled elsewhere.
Verghese recounts the following incident concerning the two future Metropolitans:
‘Those we the days when there was no bishop permanently staying in Kerala. At times a bishop would come from Antioch or Edessa, reside for a while and then return. Towards the middle of the eighteenth century, a pre¬ late named Ivamos reached Malankara and was residing at Mulanthuruthy, the stronghold of the Jacobite’s in Malankara. He used to teach the boys of the locality Syriac. The Kattumangatt brothers, Abraham and Geeverghese, attended the prayers regularly and used to listen to the hymns chanted by those students. One day, while the students were singing the hymns, went wrong. At once Abraham and Geeverghese intervened and recited the hymns in the right manner. Mar Ivanios, who was reclining in a room close by called the Kattumangatt brothers. He was much pleased and admitted them to the class. The boys soon surpassed their classmates. Seeing their intelligence and good character he ordained them as deacons and before he left for his native country ordained them as priests and engaged them to teach Syriac in his stead.
ABOUT THE FOUNDER
The Malabar independent Syrian church also known as the Thozhiyoor Church is a Christian church centered in Kerala. It is one of the churches of the saint Thomas Christian community, which traces its origins to the activity of one certain Kattumangattu Kurian kathanar of Mulamthuruthy, who secretly got Episcopal consecration from Antiochen bishop Gregorios. Read More...
In 1751 two foreign bishops from the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch were brought to Kerala by the Dutch at the request of the non-Roman Syrians; Mar Gregorios and Mar Ivanios. They were not however well received by Mar Thoma V who co-operated with them grudgingly. Mar Thoma VI who was consecrated by Mar Thoma V got himself re-consecrated by these foreign bishops in the year 1770, and took a new name Mar Dionysius I. He is also known as Dionysius the Great.
There was a certain priest of the Kattumangattu who was very friendly with foreign bishop, Mar Gregorios. Unfortunately the relations between this foreign prelate and Mar Thoma VI, were not cordial. Attempts were made to bring about peace and good will between these two, but all ended in vain. So the foreign prelate, Mar Gregorious secretly consecrated a priest namely Kurian Kathanar as a bishop under the title Mar Cyril (Koorilose), and he was designated Gregorios’ sole heir.
The consecration was made without consulting Dionysius I. His authority as bishop was questioned by Dionysius I. The congregation in and around mulanthuruthi, the stronghold of the Jacobites in those days also was happy to have Mar Koorilose as the head of their church. Cyril claimed authority over the parishes of Cochin, and initially received the support of the Raja of Cochin and his chief minister Paliathachen and Dutch authorities. However, Dionysus saw him as a threat to his power, and in 1774 he appealed to the Raja and to the British authorities in India to suppress the rival bishop.
Cyril left for Thozhiyur (part of British Malabar), outside their jurisdiction, and established what would become an independent church, first of several churches to split off from the Malankara Church. He led a life of prayer, there. A local chieftain of Anjoor Hydrosekutty Moopan was impressed by his devotion and donated a coconut grove to the metropolitan. There at Anjoor, Thozhiyoor near Kunnamkulam, the headquarters of the Church was established.
He is recorded as doing one miraculous healing of a Muslim boy. A few relatives and friends joined him there. This group was known as Thozhiyoor church later named as Malabar Independent Syrian Church, after a court verdict in 1862.Today the church remains small, with about only 35,000 members, and maintains good relations with the Mar Thoma Church. Cyril’s church was always small, but maintained stability by attracting devoted priests and emphasizing regularity in the ecclesiastical order. The members of the Church are known as Nazaranis or Suriyani Nazarani.
METROPOLITANS OF THE MALABAR INDEPENDENT SYRIAN CHURCH
Mar Koorilose was the first metropolitan of the Thozhiyoor church. As a boy he impressed the visiting Bishop Mar Ivanios of Jerusalem by correcting a deacon’s liturgical mistake at Mulanthuruthy Church. Ivanios later ordained both Kurien and his brother Geevarghese as deacons, then priests, before returning to Jerusalem in 1751. Read More...
He later became a monk under Mar Baselios and Mar Gregorios, and was a leader in the local opposition to Malankara Metropolitan Mar Dionysius I. He was consecrated as Bishop by Gregorios, fomenting the tensions with Dionysius that ultimately resulted in the formation of the independent Thozhyur church. He died on 10 July 1802.
Mar Koorilose II was known as the Younger Bava, he was the younger brother of Mar Cyril (Koorilose) I. Geevarghese Mar Koorilose died on 29 May 1809, and was laid to rest at Vettical Dayara, Mulanthuruthi.
The Metropolitan was Geeverghese Mar Philoxenos II. Kidangan Geeverghese Kattanar – as he was before consecration – belonged to a well-known Syrian family at Kunnamkulam, just a few miles north of Thozhiyur itself. Like his pre-decessor Philoxenos I, he was a priest of the Arthat Church before becoming co adjutor bishop. Read More...
Howard recounts how his consecration was attended by large num bers of clergy and laity from Chatukulum Kunnamkulam and Pazh3nji- an indication no doubt of the acceptance of the Thozhiyur diocese as well as a tribute to Mar Philoxenos himself.2 Philoxenos I seems to have died soon after the consecration, leaving Philoxenos II as Metropolitan. Colonel Munro, the British Resident of Travancore and Cochin and a devout Christian , arrived in India in 1810 and took a keen interest in the affairs of the Syrian Christians . These were in a (characteristically) confused state with accusations being made against the Metropolitan , Mar Thoma VIII, denying the validity of his consecra tion . (le is interesting to note that the future reformer, Abraham Malpan, had doubts about the validity of his ordination by Mar Thoma VIII and had himself been re-ordained by a Jacobite Metropolitan from Syria, for which he suffered a period in prison .) One of the leaders of the protest against Mar Thoma VI I I was the Ram ban Pulikotil lttoop (Joseph) who, as noted in the previous chapter, had been a pupil of Abraham Mar Koorilose I of Thozhiyur in his days as a Mal pan and who had invited him to Kunnamkulam.
Mar Philexenos was consecrated by Geevarghese Mar Koorilose.
It was during the time of Mar Koorilose-I that the Malabar Independent Syrian Church established the churches at Kunnamkulam, Chalissery and Porkulam. Joseph Mar Koorilose was a native of Kunnamkulam. So it was his ardent desire that he should have a church in his native place. Read More...
An extensive plot in the heart of the town was purchased. It is an elevated place and so could command a beautiful view around. It is still commonly known as ‘The Hill Church’, though formerly it seems to have been called the Seminary Church. Later, it became a fully constituted parish. It is noteworthy that the local Christians of all denominations have heartily co-operated in all the activities of the church and also in its renovation in the year 1940.
Another church acquired by Joseph Mar Koorilose was the one at Chalissery in British territory. It is unique in two respects. Firstly, its patron saint is St. Augan the Martyr. Churches with Mar Augan as the patron saint are very rare in this area. Secondly, it is unique in its architecture. The sanctuary is more or less a hemisphere built of stone. These two features are clear evidence of the fact that it was designed by a foreigner. The foreigner in fact was Yoakim Mar Koorilose, the delegate of the Patriarch of Antioch who arrived in Malankara in 1846. This very Koorilose had claimed that the properties of the Thozhiyur Church belonged to the Patriarch and had launched a civil suit to try and gain possession of them. The court ruled against Yoakim Mar Koorilose and required him to pay the costs. Since he had no assets other than the churches he had established he was required to forego those churches. Thus the churches of St. Augan, Chalissery, and St. Adai at Porkulam came under the jurisdiction of the Thozhiyur. A third church at Matancherry at Fort Cochin was also gained by the MISC but its distance from Thozhiyur made it difficult to maintain and it was disposed of. All three churches were in British Malabar. Yoakim Mar Koorilose, having lost the churches to a diocese which he had hoped to bring under his own control, now disappears from the story.
In 1896 the church at Chalissery was renovated; but its sanctuary was kept intact in order to preserve its uniqueness.
St. Adai’s Church at Porkulam is two miles north of Kunnamkulam. It is on a hill away from the busy roads and din of the town an ideal place for worship and retreat. It is said that due to an earthquake a crack appeared on the eastern wall of its sanctuary and so it was rebuilt in 1970. Like the St. Augan Church at Chalissery the name of the patron saint of this church, St. Adai, too is unique, for such names are very rare in these places. According to tradition there was a church by this name at the foot of the hill where the local school now stands.
While Mar Koorilose IV was Metropolitan one of the priests was bitten by a dog. Nobody took a great deal of notice, for the animal was a pet in the bishop’s residence. Later, however, the priest began to show symptoms of rabies. The Metropolitan was extremely sad, not least because the Church was a place where rabies was treated. So he closed himself in the church for prayer. The third day he celebrated the Holy Qurbana and the victim was brought in. By that time he had gained his normal senses and received Holy Communion with due respect and devotion as before. It was this priest who later on succeeded the Metropolitan under the name Joseph Mar Athanasios (Maliyakkal).
An entry in the Thozhiyur Visitors’ Book dated 28 March 1889 reads, ‘I was sorry to hear of the demise of my old respected friend Mar Curialos, who treated my son, John from mad dog bite.’ The man (whose signature is illegible) had in turn with three other children likewise afflicted. The entry is an interesting testimony to the Church’s healing ministry.
Mar Athanasios-I was consecrated in 1883 by Mar Koorilose IV with the assistance of Thomas Mar Athanasios, leader of the reformed section of the Malan¬kara Church (the split into ‘Orthodox’ and ‘Mar Thoma’ not yet having definitively taken place by then). In 1892 Mar Athanasios-I consecrated Geeverghese Mar Koorilose as his successor. Read More...
In this ceremony too Thomas Mar Athanasios took part.
In 1893 Thomas Mar Athanasios passed away without consecrating a suc¬cessor, to the delight of his opponents and the consternation of the reformers , who elected the priest Dethos (Titus), the eldest son of Abraham Malpan, as bishop designate. They also decided to seek the help of the Metropolitan at Thozhiyur for his consecration. At the same time the opponents of the Mar Thoma Church (as the Reformers may now be designated, following the loss of the Seminary Case) were bent upon preventing the consecration in order to annihilate the Mar Thoma Church once and for all. The leaders of the Mar Thoma Church, the Rev. Punnathra Chandappilla, the Rev. Mathen Kizhake thalakal and Paramel Iyyu lttoop came to Thozhiyur to invite the Metropolitan to perform the consecration .The Metropolitan Joseph Mar Athanasios (after some initial hesitation according to some accounts) consented to help an episcopal church, as his predecessor had done for the Malankara Church earlier. So in 1894 he and his suffragan, Geeverghese Mar Koorilose, reached Kottayam and con¬secrated Father Dethos under the title Titus Mar Thoma in the Cheriapally (small church).
Geevarghese Mar Koorilose died without appointing a successor. So Mathews Mar Athanasius, metropolitan of the Malankara Church consecrated the Joseph Kathanar and gave him the episcopal title Joseph Mar Koorilose. At that time Yuyakim Mar Koorilos, a bishop sent by the Patriarch of Antioch, was also in Kerala. Read More...
In 1857, he filed a civil case stating that he was the Malankara Metropolitan and he had the rights to the Thozhiyoor Church and its properties. In 1862, the Madras High Court issued the final verdict stating that the Church was an Independent Syrian Church in Malabar and that Yuyakim Mar Koorilos had no claim on the Church or its properties. Because of this case Thozhiyoor Church was given the name Malabar Independent Syrian Church.
Mar Koorilose-V belonged to the well-known Pulikkottil family of Pazhanji. His parents were Variath and Mariam. The future Metropolitan was the youngest of their twelve children, all the others of whom passed away early in their childhood. He lost his mother also in his boy hood, but his father lived to see his son consecrated a bishop. Read More...
Geeverghese had to discontinue his studies after he had passed the lower primary examination from the local school but his thirst for knowledge made him a voracious reader and by his own endeavour he became a scholar in Syriac. Though he had not been able continue his own studies he was anxious to get others educated. So he started schools at Porkulam, Chalissery and Thozhiyur. In some places he had to face bitter opposition from the managers of neighbouring schools. He was interested not only in secular education but also in religious education. He sent the clergy to the theological institutions at Serampore and Kottayam.
His love and sympathy for the poor was not confined to his church. He helped all, irrespective of caste or creed. It is said that once a poor Hindu boy came to him and requested help to continue his studies. The Metropolitan took pity on the boy and promised to give him his tuition fees. One day as usual the boy presented himself before the Metropolitan who asked his secretary to pay the fees. But the secretary said that there was no money available except Rs3, kept to purchase wheat since the Metropolitan was diabetic. The Metropolitan asked him to give the amount to the boy and added that he would gladly forgo his meal of wheat and share their meal of rice. It was a time when the church was bankrupt due to the fall in the price of coconuts, the main yield of the church estate.
Another incident which shows Mar Koorilose-V’s compassion for the poor is that of Nzhiyath Krishnan Nair who eventually the manager of ‘Matrubumi’ newspaper became. While Krishnan Nair was a student in the church primary school, the Metropolitan happened to hear him recite a poem during the school anniversary celebration. He was much pleased and since then he used to call the boy to his residence and listen to his recitation. But when he passed the primary classes he had to discontinue his education for his parents were very poor. So the Metropolitan himself undertook to educate him. As the boy was bright and clever he soon rose to prominence and became an employee on the ‘Mathrubumi’. Krishnan Nair remained very grateful to his benefactor. In 1952 when a high school was started at Thozhiyur he promised to sponsor a student. Later he instituted an endowment to give a scholarship annually to the boy who comes out first in the final examination of CMUP School, Thozhiyur, where Krishnan Nair had his early education.
The Metropolitan was generous too. It was the time of ‘Khilafat’ (the Mappila rebellion in Malabar). One day the Deputy Collector came to the Metropolitan along with a Muslim who was under arrest. The man previously had illegally taken possession of a property that belonged to the Church. He was suspected of being an accomplice in the rebellion. Although he pleaded his innocence, he was not released. It was made clear that he would not be released unless a responsible person of the locality would speak for him. The Metropolitan, as soon as he saw the Muslim, said ‘Oh, yes, he is loyal’.
The Metropolitan was very influential among the high officials of the time.
Sir C. Sankaran Nair, a member of the Viceroy’s executive council, and Mr. Statham, the Director of Public Instruction in Madras, were some of the dignitaries who visited him and signed the Visitors’ Book. He had also the privilege of nominating a member to the District Education Board. A.T.George Alimoottil was his nominee for a long period. Mar Koorilose-V was an eminent administrator. He paid special attention to office work as well. Records and accounts were checked and scrutinised by him every month.
The Metropolitan also had to experience certain vicissitudes of fortune. Every evening he used to go out in a horse and cart. One day the cart turned aside and fell into the paddy field close by, causing an injury to his right foot. Within a few days it became worse and the doctors believed that amputation of the foot was the only remedy. But he himself refused to agree. At last Dr. Homes, the Royal Physician of Cochin, was called in and he dared to conduct the operation, which took place in the episcopal palace itself. By the grace of God the Metropolitan recovered speedily, the only legacy of the accident being a permanent scar on his right foot.
Soon after Mar Koorilose-V recovered he determined to find a suitable successor. The choice fell upon Father Paulose of the Panakal family. He was ordained as Ramban in 1907 and consecrated as bishop under the title Paulose Mar Athanasios in 1917. He was suffragan till his death in 1927 when he passed away following a severe attack of asthma. He was the great nephew of the late Joseph Mar Koorilose IV who had been the Metropolitan from 1856 till 1888.
The contribution of Geeverghese Mar Koorilose-V to the church is considerable. Besides the educational institutions, he established churches at Pazhanji and Kallumpuram. The church at Pazhanji lies in the heart of the town, so he had to surmount serious difficulties before he could obtain permission from the government. The church at Kallumpuram, Two miles north of Pazhanji, was a blessing to the local people, for till then there was neither a church nor a good road leading to the neighbouring churches at Pazhanji and Chalissery. In order to fund these institutions and churches he had to pledge some of the church properties, for in those days the price of coconut, the main product of the church estate, had fallen very low.
As described above, in 1893 he participated in the consecration ceremony of Titus-I Mar Thoma along with Joseph Mar Athanasios. It was he who ordained Titus-II in 1898 and Abraham Mar Thoma in 1917 as Ramban. He also participated in the consecration ceremonies of both. In 1924 he took part in the Silver Jubilee celebrations of the consecration of Titus Mar Thoma II.
Even a brief account, such as this, of the life and message of the Metropolitan, would be incomplete without a mention of his devotional life and religious fervour.
He would never tolerate anyone to distract his prayers. Once there was an ordination ceremony at Porkulam, The native place of the candidate to be ordained. The church was so small that it would not accommodate more than a hundred or two. In those days, such occasions being rare, there was a large gathering. When the prayers began some miscreants pushed from behind and a few, especially children in the front, fell flat upon the floor of the sanctuary. The Metropolitan with all seriousness advised the congregation to attend to the prayers reverently. The prayers continued, but the unruly mob paid no heed to him and they once again disturbed the service. The Metropolitan turned back. His face shone like that of an angel. He said ‘Cursed be the man who disturbs the service’. No sooner did he utter these words than a sturdy young man fell unconscious. At once he was removed. Silence ensued and the service continued. After the service the Metropolitan came to that man who was still unconscious, laid his hands upon him and prayed. He regained his senses and begged for pardon. Every day Mar Koorilose-V used to get up before the sun rose. It was the time for his morning devotion which lasted more than an hour. His favourite book for devotion was the psalms in Syriac. Before the celebration of the Holy Qurbana, he used to confine himself to his study for the preparatory prayers. His birthday fell on 15 August and it was his never-failing custom to celebrate the Holy Qurbana on every day in that month. His intonation and sweet voice made his service very solemn and attractive. Such attributes have won him a place of honour as a prominent Metropolitan of the Thozhiyur Church.
On 21 April 1935 Geeverghese Mar Koorilose -V died of a heart attack. Then Titus-II Mar Thoma, Metropolitan of the sister church, arrived at Thozhiyur and held consultations with the representatives of the parishes at the Cathedral. It was a Sunday. There were two candidates, Father K.M.Kuriakose aged 52 and Father C.J.Verghese aged 28. Read More...
The Metropolitan began the meeting with prayer and spoke of the healthy co-operation between the Mar Thoma Syrian Church and the Malabar Independent Syrian Church and their mutual participation in consecrating bishops. Then he asked the members to mention their nominee. There was a pause for a few minutes. The silence was broken by Sri C. P. Chum¬mar, a leading member of the Chalisserri Parish. He, with all due respect, said they would be glad to accept whomsoever their distinguished guest nominated. The others agreed unanimously. The Metropolitan, with tears in his eyes, declared that Fr. K.M.Kuriakose, senior of the two, was to be elected and consecrated. He added that Fr. C.J.Verghese could succeed the selected nominee. Accordingly, Fr. C. J.Verghese eventually succeeded Kuriakose Mar
Koorilose in 1948. The congregation gladly accepted the advice of the Mar Thoma Metropolitan. No episcopal election has been conducted in such a peaceful atmosphere since 1935.
Father K.M.Kuriakose was consecrated under the title of Mar Koorilose -VI by Titus-II Mar Thoma in association with Abraham Mar Thoma, his suffragan, on 23 January 1936. He was the head of the church till 1947. Kuriakose Mar Koorilose participated in the consecration ceremony of Juhanon Mar Timothios Episcopa and Mathews Mar Athanasios Episcopa of the sister (i.e. Mar Thoma) church in 1937. During his episcopal ministry a chapel was built at Akathiyur, three miles north of Kunnamkulam, and the St. Thomas church at Kunnam¬kulam was modified and reconstructed in 1940. The income of the church increased and some of the mortgaged properties were recovered. Unfortunately he could not lead the church on the path of peace and prosperity. Gradually his eyesight failed and for the last two years he was completely confined to bed. On 15 October 1947 he passed away.
Kuriakose Mar Koorilose-VI was succeeded by Geeverghese Mar Koorilose-VII in 1948. He was the son of Cheeran Iyyob Kasesa who had been the Vicar General. After his high school education he joined the staff of the higher elementary school at Thozhiyur. In 1948 he was consecrated by Dr. Juhanon Mar Thoma with the assistance of Read More...
Dr. Mathews Mar Athanasios Episcopa. He was the tenth Metropolitan of the Independent Church of Thozhiyur. One of the remark¬ able achievements of this period was the starting of a high school at Thozhiyur.
In those days there were no high schools within a radius of four miles of the church. On 23 April 1952 the Metropolitan laid the foundation stone of St. George’s High School. To obtain recognition, an endowment of Rs30,000 had to be instituted under the Madras Educational Rules since Thozhiyur was in the erstwhile Malabar district in the Madras presidency at that time. As the Church had not enough funds some of the church properties had to be given as security. Later on the properties were recovered, following payment as stipulated.
The Metropolitan participated in the Mar Thoma consecration ceremony of Dr.Alexander Mar Theophilos, Thomas Mar Athanasios and Philipose Mar Chrysostom in 1953 and also in the Silver Jubilee celebration of the consecration of Dr. Juhanon Mar Thoma and Dr.Mathews Mar Athanasios held in 1962.
The Metropolitan was a friend of the poor and needy. One day while he was staying at Pazhanji he heard of an aged man who had been rendered homeless. Moved by his pitiable plight he pleaded that people like him should not be left uncared for in that Christian centre. Later he managed to purchase a site to put up a Poor Home in the heart of the town itself. In June 1950 the foundation stone for the Home was laid with money from his own pocket. The Christians in the locality also contributed liberally and eventually a building to house three families was constructed. By September 1951 the construction of the Poor Home was completed and it was inaugurated by the Metropolitan himself.
Mar Koorilose VII took a keen interest in the education of the poor children. He raised a fund to award scholarships to deserving students. Once some members of the church council wanted to divert a portion of this fund for some other cause. But he refused to do so and said that the entire amount should be utilized for the cause of education as desired by the donors.
Mar Koorilose VII took a keen interest in the work of the Gospel Association. It was founded in 1948 with a view to conducting Sunday Schools, Sunday even¬ing meetings, and organizing house visiting to strengthen the spiritual life of the people. The clergy, the representatives of Sunday school teachers and voluntary Gospel workers were-and still are-all involved in it. The office bearers include the President and the Secretary who are elected from among the members. The President should be a clergy man. The members meet at least once in two months. Every year the accounts are audited and a budget for the following year is prepared and published and a copy of the same sent to the Council. In addition to the activities already mentioned, the work of the Gospel Association includes printing and free distribution of Bible reading cards, the conducting of annual camps for Sunday school children and teachers, retreats in parishes, an annual convention, and the conducting of a common examination for the Sunday Schools every year in December. The money for this comes from collections from the parishes, and from the Central Church Fund.
The Metropolitan suffered from heart trouble and his health caused anxiety. An assistant was badly needed and the general body of the church was convened on 30 December 1965 to elect a bishop. But Kunnamkulam parish being a small congregation was not given representation in the assembly. This led to a civil suit. As a result, the election was stayed by the High Court. However, early in 1967 the stay was lifted .The general body met again on 9 May 1967 and elected the Rev. Father Paul Thomas. By then the Metropolitan had become so weak that the election had to be conducted with the assistance of Thomas Mar Athanasios Episcopa of the Mar Thoma Church. Mar Koorilose- II passed away on 9 June 1967. In order to avoid any further litigation, the constitution was amended on 5 November 1967, providing representation even to small parishes in the municipal area with a strength of at least ten families.
This Metropolitan belonged to a devout family at Thozhiyur that had enriched the church by selfless service. His grandfather, the Rev. Fr. Paulose Ayyam kulam, had been the Vicar General and his uncle, the Rev. Job A. Paul, the head of an educational institution. The Rev. Fr. A.Paul, who became the Metropolitan, Read More...
received his higher education at Solapur, where his father had been employed. In 1952 he was ordained as deacon and in 1961 as priest by Geeverghese Mar Koorilose -VII. Earlier, he had served the Church as the secretary of the Gospel Association and the Sabha Council. At the time of election to the office of the Bishop he was on the staff of the St. George’s High School.
On 16 December 1967 he was consecrated as Mar Philoxenos -III by Dr. Juhanon Mar Thoma, the Metropolitan of the sister church, assisted by Dr. Alexander Mar Theophilos Episcopa and Dr.Thomas Mar Athanasios Episcopa. The completion of the construction of the St. Mary’s Church at Perumannoor, the Bahanam Capel at Anjoor and the Mar Koorilose Chapel at Korattikara that had been planned and begun by his predecessor received his prompt attention. The new institutions established by him are the St. George Chapel at Karikkad, the St. Thomas Press at Kunnamkulam and the Poor Home at Chalissery. The memorable events during his ministry were the canonization of Mar Koorilose -I, the founder of the Cathedral Church and the celebration of the second Centenary of the Cathedral Church. To mark these historic events, a mission hospital was opened at Anjoor on 28 May 1972 in memory of the first Metropolitan Mar Koorilose. No other monument could be more fitting to preserve the memory of Mar Koorilose-I who himself had been blessed with healing gifts. Mar Philoxenos -III left the Malabar Independent Syrian Church on 28 August 1977 to join the Syro-Malankara jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Church (whose rites are essentially the same as those of the Malabar Independent Syrian Church).
It was feared that many would follow Mar Philoxenos -III when he left the Church. But apart from one or two families, the nearest of his kin, nobody ventured to leave the Church. On the contrary, it made the people hold on all the more firmly to the faith and traditions of the Church. Read More...
The general body met on 11 December 1977 and elected Fr. K.I. Mathew to fill the gap.
The election took place in the presence of Dr. Thomas Mar Athanasios Episcopa of the sister church at the request of the Church Council. Fr. Mathew belonged to the well¬ known Koothoor family of Kottapadi which had already given two bishops to the Church of Thozhiyur, Geeverghese Mar Koorilose -III and Kuriakose Mar Koorilose -I. He was also the nephew of Cheeran Geeverghese Mar Koorilose -VII. Fr. Mathew had worked as a teacher and a parish priest before his election to the higher office. On 18January 1978 he was consecrated as Mar Koorilose -VIII by Dr. Alexander Mar Thoma, Metropolitan of the sister church, with the assistance of Dr. Thomas Mar Athanasios Episcopa, Dr. Joseph Mar Irenaeus Episcopa and Easow Mar Timotheos Episcopa.
The expansion of the Church outside Kerala was the outstanding land mark of this period, as till then the Church had been confined to Kerala alone. In 1974 the members residing in Madras purchased a plot for the construction of a church near the B. & C. Mill at Perambur. The construction was delayed due to the national emergency and lack of funds, but providentially Sri John Peter, a philanthropist and well-wisher of the Church, put up a small but beautiful church at his own expense on that plot. On 11 January 1981 the church was consecrated and at a meeting held after the service the key was handed over to the Metropolitan.
Mathews Mar Koorilose -VIII suffered from diabetes and well often had to be admitted to hospital. He therefore asked the Church Council to take steps to convene the general body of the Church in order to elect an Episcopa. On 20 December 1981 the general body elected Fr. Joseph Panakal B.A, B.Ed. Read More...
The Panakal family had already supplied two bishops: Joseph Mar Koorilose -IV and Paulose Mar Athanasios, Suffragan Metropolitan.
Father Joseph was the second of the five children of Sri P. I. Mathew kutty and Smt Kunjham. He completed his schooling in the David Memorial L P School and the M J D High School at his native Kunnamkulam town. He received his higher education first in the Sree Krishna College, Guruayur, and St. Thomas College at Trissur, and then in the Municipal College of Education at Chick ballapur in Karnataka State. Afterwards he was appointed to the staff of St. George’s High School, Thozhiyur, in January 1981. On 5 March 1972 he was ordained a deacon by Paulose Mar Philoxenos -III and on 1 March 1978 a priest by Mathews Mar Koorilose -VIII. He also served as the Secretary of both the Church and the Gospel Association. At his initiative a Youth Movement (with both spiritual and social activities) was organized in 1984. Fr.Joseph was the first editor of Kunjhadukalude Velicham, the first monthly magazine of the church, published by the Youth Association since September 1984.
At the time of his election as a bishop he was only 27 years old, but was nearly 32 when he was consecrated as the Metropolitan of the Church on 27 August 1986. A week earlier he had been made a Ramban by Philipose Mar Chrysostom, Suffragan Metropolitan of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church. The delay between election and consecration and the failure of Mar Koorilose -VIII to consecrate his successor were mainly due to certain differences of opinion between the Metropolitan and the Church Council. In June 1986 Mathews Mar Koorilose -VIII passed away and in August 1986 Fr. Joseph was consecrated as Joseph Mar Koorilose-IX by Dr. Alexander Mar Thoma with the assistance of Joseph Mar Irenaeus, Easow Mar Timotheos and Dr. Zacharias Mar Theophilos.
Soon after the consecration the Metropolitan took up enthusiastically the renovation of the cathedral, a long cherished wish of his predecessors. On 30 November 1987 the foundation was laid. With the liberal donations and co operation of the members of the Church and her well-wishers, the construction was completed in record time and the Cathedral dedicated on 16 April 1989. Mar Koorilose -IX visited Jordan and Syria and some of the Gulf States in 1988-the first time a Metropolitan of the Malabar Independent Syrian Church had left India. He met His Holiness Zakka -II was, the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch, who made available to him a Tableeta (the wooden board on which the Eucharist is celebrated) and all other things necessarily for the celebration of the Holy Qurbana. The Metropolitan celebrated the regular services (with his own people attending as well as the local Syrian Orthodox) in Bahrain, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Alayn and Sharjah. The incident is an interesting confirmation of the acceptance of the Metropolitan as a canonically consecrated bishop by the Patriarch (who presumably was informed about the Malabar Independent Syrian Church by his people in India with whom Mar Koorilose -IX has generally cordial relations). In 1989 the present Metropolitan visited England where he met the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Robert Runcie. While in England he declared himself willing to extend Eucharistic hospitality to members of the Church of England. On this and on his subsequent visit the Metropolitan celebrated the Holy Qurbana both with Anglican and Mar Thoma congregations and took part in Anglican services, on occasion together with Anglican bishops, and received Holy Communion. At the end of the visit he spent a few days in Rome. The Metropolitan returned to England in 1991 as an official guest at the Enthronement of Dr. George Carey as Archbishop of Canterbury. During that visit (which lasted three months in all) he underwent surgery to replace severely damaged ear-drums. The Metropolitan has also visited Germany, where links have been formed with a Lutheran parish in Hanover.
In December 1989 Mar Koorilose -IX took part in the consecration of three new Mar Thoma bishops at Tiruvalla, Geeverghese Mar Athanasios, Geeverghese Mar Theodosios and Yoakim Mar Koorilose. Friendship and co-operation with the Mar Thoma Syrian Church remain strong, but not at the expense of the Malabar Independent Syrian Church’s traditional Orthodoxy. In January 1991 the Metropolitan took part also in the consecration of the Jacobite bishop Thomas Mar Themotheose at Udayagin Seminary near Mulanthuruthy. The present Metropolitan’s eirenic openness to both ‘reformed’ and ‘unreformed ‘ and his acceptance by both- is a strength which augurs well for the future role of the Malabar Independent Syrian Church in the attempts to overcome the divisions among the St. Thomas Christians.
When the previous Metropolitan Paulose Mar Philexenos, joined the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, MISC was left without a hierarchy. Mathews Mar Koorilos was consecrated by Dr. Alexander Mar Thoma, of the Mar Thoma Church, to replace him.
1. St. George's Chapel, Akathiyur, Kerala.
2. Mar Bahanan Chapel, Anjoor Bazar, Kerala.
3. Sleeba (Cross Memorial) Chapel, Thozhiyur, Thrissur Dt., Kerala.
4. Mar Koorilose bava Chapel Ottapilave (Thrissur) Dt., Kerala
5. St George Chapel Thiruthikkad (Thrissur) Dt.,
6. Mar Koorilose Chapel, Bangalore, Karnataka.
SCHOOLS / INSTITUTIONS
1. Syrian Christian U.P.S., Chalissery, Palakkad Dt., Kerala.
2. St. George's H.S.S., Thozhiyur, Thrissur Dt., Kerala.
3. Mar Koorilose Memorial U.P.S., Porkulam, Pazhanji, Thrissur Dt., Kerala.
4. C.M.U.P. School, Thozhyoor, Thrissur Dt., Kerala.
THE CONSTITUTION OF THE CHURCH
Until the twentieth century the administration of the Church as a whole was directly under the Metropolitan who was assisted by a senior priest designated the Vicar-General. (This rather western-sounding title and figure seems to have replaced the traditional eastern Archdeacon). For substantial periods there have been two bishops in the Church, with the junior designated ‘Suffragan Metropolitan’. Read More...
The normal pattern was for the suffragan to succeed his consecrator as Metropolitan. There has however been no such overlap since 1927.
After the death of Kuriakose Mar Koorilose -VI in 1947 the parishes sought to participate in the administration of the Church with the assistance of the Mar Thoma Metropolitan Juhanon Mar Thoma (who seems to have had a particular affection for the Malabar Independent Syrian Church) a constitution was drafted and accepted in 1948.
The constitution makes provision for two bodies:
I. THE SABHA MANDALAM:
This is the ‘General Synod’ of the Church and is its supreme authority. It is composed of the Bishops, Clergy and elected lay members. The chief powers of the Sabha Mandalam are those of amending the Constitution and electing bishops. It seldom meets other than for these purposes. The total membership numbers 135.
II. THE COUNCIL:
This is composed of ex officio and elected members. The former category comprises the Metropolitan, the clergy, two Church Trustees (elected on an annual basis to serve with the Metropolitan who is Permanent Trustee) and the Church Secretary. Each parish elects two to four representatives, depending on its size. The Council is empowered to approve the annual budget and finances Read More...
of the Malabar Independent Syrian Church; to authorise the sale, purchase, lease or mortgaging of Church property; to frame regulations for the efficient and smooth transaction o day-to-day business, provided such regulations are not contrary to the constitution; and to recommend candidates for ordination as deacons. Council meetings are normally held at three-monthly intervals, though the Secretary may call additional meetings at the request of the Metropolitan.
The Constitution also lays down that in times of difficulty in the life of the Malabar Independent Syrian Church, the advice of the Mar Thoma Metropolitan is to be sought.