The Christian Community of Kerala (Malankara) traces its origin back to the arrival of Apostle St. Thomas, who according to common tradition landed first at the Muziri Port (known as Crangannore, now Kodungalloor) in A.D. 52.
Even before and after the Malankara Church began its cooperation with the Persian Church, matters of administrative and spiritual leadership was exercised by a (native) Archdeacon, who was Primate of the Church until the Udayamperur Synod. The Archdeacons were historically known as “Jathikku Karthavyan” and “Jathikku Thalavan”. Palli Yogam (Church Committee) headed by the Vicar governed its affairs autonomously.
We don't have an authentic list of Archdeacons and Metropolitans who ruled the Church before the great Fathers bearing the Titles “Mar Thoma”, “Dionysius” and “Catholicos” assumed spiritual leadership. However, a sincere effort is made to give a brief account of the Forefathers:
MAR THOMA I (1653-1670)
Archdeacon Pakalomattom Thomas was the successor of Archdeacon Pakalomattom Geevarghese who was the Archdeacon of Malankara Church during and immediately after the Udayamperur (Diamper in Portuguese) Synod (20-26 June 1599). Oath of the Coonen Cross (Mattancherri, 16 January 1653) ended the 54 years of foreign Catholic supremacy over the Malankara Syrian Church.
Archdeacon Thomas was installed as Mar Thoma I. at a conclave held at Alangad Church by twelve Priests, the first in the long line up to Mar Thoma IX till 1816. At the request of the St. Thomas Christians, Bishop Mar Gregarious of Jerusalem came to Malankara in 1664 to confirm the Episcopal consecration of Mar Thoma I. as the Head of the Malankara Syrian Church. Thus began the formal relationship with the Syrian Church with the explicit approval of the traditional autonomous Malankara Church. Mar Thoma I. audaciously protected the true faith and the independence of the Malankara Church, which earned him the title “Mar Thoma I., the Great”.
Mar Thoma I. passed away on 22 April 1670; mortal remains are interred in Angamally St. Mary’s Church.
MAR THOMA II (1670-1686)
Mar Thoma II was the nephew of Mar Thoma I. Having shouldered the administration of the Malankara Church from 1670 and preserved the faith and given leadership, Mar Thoma II passed away on 13 April 1686; mortal remains are interred at the Niranam St. Mary's Church.
MAR THOMA III (1686-1688)
Metropolitan Mar Ivanios (Mulanthuruthy) anointed another member of the Pakalomattom family as Mar Thoma III. in 1686. He visited the Churches of Malankara during his life time and administered the Church efficiently. During his stay in Kadambanad he fell ill and passed away on 19 April 1688; mortal remains are laid to rest there at the ancient St. Thomas (Valiya) Church.
MAR THOMA IV (1688-1728)
Mar Thoma IV was consecrated in 1688. It was during his time that Catholicos Elisa of Baghdad sent Metropolitans to propagate Nestorian beliefs in Malankara, which Mar Thoma IV opposed resolutely. Mar Thoma IV passed away on 24 March 1728; the mortal body was laid to rest at the Kandanad Martha Mariam Church.
MAR THOMA V (1728-1765)
Before his death, Mar Thoma IV consecrated a member of the Pakalomattom family as Mar Thoma V. A section of the church rejected his authority; attempt was made to bring foreign Metropolitans and change the title from “Mar Thoma” to “Mar Dionysius”. Mar Thoma V. stood firmly for the independence of the Malankara Church. Thereupon the foreign Metropolitans signed an agreement on 18 Dhanu 1754 declaring that they would abstain from giving ordination without due permission from the Malankara Metropolitan; further, they undertook not to interfere in the administrative aspects of the Church. Mar Thoma V. passed away on 8 May 1765; mortal remains are interred at the Niranam St. Mary's Church.
MAR THOMA VI (1765-1808) (MAR DIONYSIUS I, THE GREAT)
Mar Thoma VI – known as Valiya Mar Dionysius (the Great) - was consecrated at the Niranam St. Mary's Church on 10 July 1761 by Mar Thoma V. He took the Title “Mar Dionysius” on 10 July 1770 to work in accord with the Metropolitans of Antioch. Mar Thoma VI. was an able and shrewd administrator. He passed away on 8 April 1808; mortal remains are interred at the Puthencave St. Mary's Church.
MAR THOMA VII (1808-1809)
Valiya Mar Dionysius' nephew Ramban Mathan was consecrated at the Syrian Church, Chengannur as Mar Thoma VII. on 5 May 1796. Though his term was brief, many administrative reforms were carried out in the Malankara Church. The interest money from the Trust Fund (Vattipanam) was collected by him on 1 December 1808 and invested as fixed deposit. He passed away on 4 July 1809 and was laid to rest at Kolencherry St. Peter's & St. Paul's Church.
MAR THOMA VIII (1809-1816)
When Mar Thoma VII was gravely ill, Pakalomattom Thoma Kathanar was given the attire, insignia and the sceptre as his successor. Mar Thom VII placed his hands on his head and consecrated him as Mar Thoma VIII on 2 July 1809. Following a dispute Ramban Philipose of Kayamkulam and Ittoop Kathanar of Kunnamkulam were appointed on 13 August 1809 to enquire into the validity of the consecration. Subsequently the consecration was formally recognized. Mar Thoma VIII left for his heavenly abode on 28 October 1816; mortal remains were interred at the Puthencave St. Mary's Church.
MAR THOMA IX (1816-1817)
The paternal brother of Mar Thoma VIII, Iype Kathanar was consecrated as Mar Thoma IX. in 1815. As a section of people expressed doubt about the consecration, Resident Colonel John Munro directed that the red attire, sceptre, crown and cross be taken away from the Metropolitan. Mar Thomas IX. spent the rest of his life at the Kadamattam Church in prayer and fasting. He passed away in 1817 and was laid to rest in Kadamattam Church.
MAR DIONYSIUS II (1816)
Pulikkottil Joseph Mar Dionysius (Pulikkottil I) was born into the Pulikkottil family in Kunnamkulam. Malankara Metropolitan Valiya Mar Dionysius ordained him as a priest and appointed him as the Vicar of Chattukulangara Arthat Church. When Tipu Sultan attacked Cochin in 1789, he insisted that the Vicar should convert into the Islam. Refusing to succumb to this pressure he spent his days in prayer. He took the initiative to renovate the Arthat church, which was ravaged by the Sultan. Dr. Claudius Buchanan who visited Arthat church on 6 December 1806 has given us an account of Pulikkottil Joseph Kathanar.
Fr. Joseph was elevated as a Ramban on 27 August 1809, following which his activities were concentrated in Kottayam. He convinced the Travancore Resident, Colonel John Munro, of the necessity to construct a “House of Learning” (Seminary) for trainee priests and got all the support for starting it. Queen Parvathi Bai of Travancore gave sixteen acres of land bordering the Meenachil River as a gift for establishing the seminary.
The Seminary started training priests in 1815. English education was started here for the first time in Kerala. Kidangan Mar Philoxenos consecrated him as Malankara Metropolitan on 21 March 1815, with the title “Joseph Mar Dionysius II.”. The Rulers of Travancore and Cochin issued “Royal Proclamation” calling upon all Syrian Christians to respect and honour Joseph Mar Dionysius. He passed away on 24 November 1816, and was laid to rest at the Chapel of Kottayam Old Seminary.
MAR DIONYSIUS III (1817-1825)
Punnathra Geevarghese became Geevarghese Mar Dionysius III. on 19 October 1817 in succession to Pulikkottil Joseph Mar Dionysius II. He maintained friendly relation with the Missionaries who came to Malankara. While serving as the Malankara Metropolitan, he passed away on 16 May 1825, and was laid to rest at the Kottayam St. Mary’s Church (Cheriya Palli).
MAR DIONYSIUS IV (1781 - 09.10.1855)
Cheppaud Philipose Mar Dionysius was born into the Angalimootil family in Cheppaud in 1781. Kidangan Mar Philoxenos consecrated him as Metropolitan Philipose Mar Dionysius IV. at the Kottayam St. Mary’s Church (Cheriya Palli) on 27 August 1825, which was recognised by the King of Travancore through a Royal Proclamation. Mar Dionysius was not on good terms with the English missionaries who worked in the Malankara Church with the help of the English. The foreign missionaries proposed to reform the “Qurbana Norms” according to the protestant rites, and to do away with the worship and prayer conducted for the dead. The Metropolitan rejected these as well as other suggestions outright. A meeting of the representatives of the church was convened at the Mavelikara-Puthiyacavu St. Mary’s Church on 16 January 1836 to discuss the recommendations of the missionaries. The Mavelikara Padiyola strongly opposed the reforms as proposed by the missionaries. In 1846, the Patriarch sent Metropolitan Yuyakim Mar Kurilos of Antioch to Malankara. Later on Cheppaud Thirumeni gave up the position of Malankara Metropolitan and retired from administrative matters. He passed away on 9 October 1855 and was laid to rest at the Cheppaud St. George Church.
MAR DIONYSIUS V (*12.11.1833 † 11.07.1909)
Pulikkottil Joseph Mar Dionysius (Pulikkottil II) was born on 12 November 1833 in the famous Pulikkottil family in Kunnamkulam. His mother Thadamma belonged to the Paigamukku “Kuthuru” family and father Tharu Kurien was the nephew of Mar Dionysius II, founder of the famous Old Seminary. Young Joseph started education at the age of five, becoming a disciple of his uncle Fr. Joseph in 1843.
Joseph was ordained Koroyoo (Sub-deacon) by Cheppaud Mar Dionysius IV. at the Kothamangalam Marthoman Cheria Pally on 10 October 1846 at the age of 13. The Patriarchal delegate Sthephanos Mar Athanasious ordained him Samshono (full Deacon) at Kunnamkulam Arthat St. Mary's Church in 1849. He was ordained full Priest at Chalassery Church near Kunnamkulam by Yuyakkim Mar Koorilose on 23 August 1853.
The day before his consecration as Metropolitan, Fr. Joseph was elevated to the order of Ramban by the Patriarch. On Sunday early morning of 26 Medam A.D. 1865, Fr. Joseph was ordained at the famous Church of the Mother of God at Amida in Turkey.
During the historical Holy Synod held at Mulanthuruthy Mar Thoman Church 30 June 1876, Joseph Mar Dionysius was chosen as the Malankara Metropolitan and Head of the Synod. Thereupon he came to be known as Mar Dionysius V.
On 11 July 1907 Mar Dionysius breathed his last, and was entombed at Kottayam Old Seminary Church.
MAR DIONYSIUS VI (*31.10.1858 † 23.02. 1934)
Vattasseril Geevarghese Mar Dionysius, universally known as “Malankara Sabha Bhasuran” (Great Luminary of the Malankara Church) in recognition of his immense contribution as its Head Priest, is the modern architect of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church.
Geevarghese Mar Dionysius was born to Aleyamma and Joseph of Vattasseril family in Mallapally on 31 October 1858. He was ordained as Deacon by Mar Gregarious of Parumala on 16 October 1879 and became priest on 18 January 1880. He was elected at the Old Seminary on 27 February 1908 to succeed Pulikkottil Joseph Mar Dionysius V as Malankara Metropolitan. He was consecrated by Patriarch Abdulla on 31 May 1908. Upon the death of Pulikkottil Mar Dionysius V on 11 July 1909, he had assumed the position of Malankara Metropolitan on 12 July 1909.
Mar Dionysius was mainly instrumental for the re-establishment of the autocephalous Catholicate in Malankara in 1912. During the last days of his life, Mar Dionysius VI involved himself in drawing up the Constitution for governance of the Church.
An illustrious leader Mar Dionysius served the Malankara Church as its Metropolitan for a period of twenty-five years. He authored the "Mathopadesa Sarangal" (Basic Doctrines of Religion) that reflects the faith of man, such as Teachings of the Church concerning God, the Sacraments, Prayer, and Fasting, Man and his Salvation and similar subjects. He had also brought out the Malayalam version of "Qurbana Kramam" (Order of Service for Liturgy), now in use in the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. Patriarch Moran Mar Abdul Messiah cooperated with Mar Dionysius VI and his Episcopal colleagues in instituting the office of the Catholicate. His Grace Murimattathil Paulose Mar Ivanios was raised as the first Catholicos of the East in 1912 and was named as Moran Mar Baselios Paulose I.
One year before his death, Mar Dionysius VI prepared his "Will" handing over the Church properties to the Episcopal Synod. Though the Patriarchal faction raised objection, the court dismissed the case, following which the "Will" was executed. He bade farewell to his sojourn in this world on 23 February 1934 in triumph and glory. His mortal remains are interred at the Chapel of the Old Seminary.
His Holiness Baselios Marthoma Mathews II, Catholicos of the Apostolic Throne of St. Thomas and Malankara Metropolitan, beatified Vattasseril Geevarghese Mar Dionysius VI in the presence of a large congregation, and declared him Blessed on his 69th Remembrance Day on 24 February 2003.
Moran Mar Baselios Paulose I (19.01.1836-02.05.1913)
First Catholicos of Malankara
His Holiness Baselios Paulose I was born on 19 January 1836 to Murimattom Kurian and Mariamma in Kolencherry. He became deacon at the hands of Cheppaud Mar Dionysius in 1843 and was ordained Priest by Metropolitan Yuyakim Mar Kurilos in 1852. He was Vicar of the Kolencherry Church for a long period of time. His Holiness Patriarch Pathrose consecrated him as Paulose Mar Ivanios at Cherallayam Church in Kunnamkulam on 17 May 1877, and appointed him as Metropolitan of Kandanad diocese.
On 15 September 1912, His Holiness Patriarch Abdhedh Messiah in co- operation with Vattasseril Geevarghese Mar Dionysius VI and Geevarghese Mar Gregarious elevated him to the Apostolic Throne of St. Thomas as Catholicos of Malankara Church.
He passed away on 2 May 1913 and was laid to rest in Pampakuda Cheriya Palli.
Moran Mar Baselios Geevarghese I (1870-1928)
Second Catholicos of Malankara
His Holiness Baselios Geevarghese I. was born in 1870 as the second son of Karuchira Paulose. He was ordained as 'Koruya' on 13 June 1885, as deacon in 1892; he became a priest on 16 August 1896 and on 23 August as Ramban by Kadavil Paulose Mar Athanasios. He served as Manager of the Aluva-Thrikunnath Seminary from 1908 to 1910.
He was consecrated as Metropolitan Geevarghese Mar Philoxenos in February 1913, and became the Metropolitan of Kottayam and Angamally dioceses.
The Holy Synod installed him as the Catholicos of the East at Niranam on 30 April 1925. He passed away on 17 December 1928 at Neyyoor Hospital, and was laid to rest on the northern side of Vallikattu Dayara.
Moran Mar Baselios Geevarghese II (16.06.1874-03.01.1964)
Third Catholicos and Malankara Metropolitan
His Holiness Baselios Geevarghese II was born to Ulahannan and Naithi of Kallasserril family in Kottayam-Kurichi on 16 June 1874. Kadavil Paulose Mar Athanasios ordained him as deacon on 24 April 1892 and as priest on 24 November. Parumala Mar Gregorios raised him as Ramban on 27 November 1898.
His Holiness Patriarch Abdhedh Meshiah consecrated him as Metropolitan Geevarghese Mar Gregorios at Parumala Seminary on 8 September 1912. He was appointed Metropolitan of Thumpamon, Kollam and Niranam dioceses. Malankara Metropolitan Vattasseril Geevarghese Mar Dionysius VI. installed him as the Catholicos of the East on 15 February 1929.
When the Malankara Syrian Christian Association met on 24 December 1934 at M. D. Seminary, Kottayam, he was chosen as Malankara Metropolitan. From his time onwards the offices of Catholicos and Malankara Metropolitan came to repose in one and the same person. It was a period when issues became very complex. Through prayer and fasting he received strength from God to lead his people for long years, inspiring them to work for the church and for the glory of God. Following the peace pact of 1958, he had the good fortune to guide the destiny of the unified Malankara Church.
He entered the eternal realms on 3 January 1964 at Devalokam Aramana, and was laid to rest at the Devalokam Aramana Chapel.
Moran Mar Baselios Oughen I (1781-1855)
Fourth Catholicos and Malankara Metropolitan
His Holiness Baselios Oughen I was born on 26 June 1884 at Perumbavoor-Vengola to Abraham Kathanar of Chettakulathukara family. He was ordained as deacon by Kadavil Paulose Mar Athanasios. He was elevated as Ramban Oughen in 1908 at Jerusalem and consecrated as Metropolitan Oughen Mar Timotheos on 15 May 1927 at Jerusalem. He was Principal of the Orthodox Theological Seminary, and the Metropolitan of Kandanad and Thumpamon dioceses.
The Malankara Association meeting at Niranam on 17 May 1962 elected him as successor to the Malankara Metropolitan and Catholicos. He was installed formally as the fourth Catholicos at the M.D. Seminary on 22 May 1964. Due to old age he relinquished his position as Malankara Metropolitan to his successor on 24 September 1975.
He passed away on 8 December 1975 at Devalokam Aramana, and was laid to rest at the Aramana Chapel.
Moran Mar Baselios Mar Thoma Mathews I (27.03.1907-08.11.1996)
Fifth Catholicos and Malankara Metropolitan
His Holiness Baselios Mar Thoma Mathews I was born as the youngest son of Vattakunnel Kurien Kathanar and Olesha Pulickaparampil Mariamma in Kottayam on 27 March 1907. He was unanimously elected as successor to His Holiness the Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan by the Malankara Association at its meeting at the M.D. Seminary on 31 December 1970. He became the Malankara Metropolitan on 24 September 1975. He was installed Catholicos as His Holiness Baselios Marthoma Mathews I on 27 October 1975 at the Old Seminary. He retired due to failing health on 27 April 1991.
He passed away on 8 November 1996, and was laid to rest in Devalokam Aramana.
Moran Mar Baselios Mar Thoma Mathews II (30.01.1991-31.10.2005)
Sixth Catholicos and Malankara Metropolitan
Moran Mar Baselios Mar Thoma Mathews II., the 89th successor to the Holy Apostolic Throne of St. Thomas, was born on 30 January 1915 at Perinad in Kollam District. After High School education he had his training at Kottayam Old Seminary as well as at Basil Dayara, Pathanamthitta.
He was ordained as Deacon in 1938 and as Priest in 1941. It was during his stay at Othara St. George Dayara that Father Mathews made a mark as a devoted and able priest of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. He was noted for his spiritual leadership and loving nature, which endeared him to everyone who came in contact with him; this attribute earned him the pet name "Father Angel".
He was ordained as a Bishop on May 1953 at the age of 38. During his time as Metropolitan of the Kollam Diocese the number of parishes almost doubled within a short period. Several monasteries and convents were started. A large number of educational institutions and hospitals were established. His services in the field of education and social service are all well known. Several Colleges,Schools, Hospitals and other service institutions are successfully established and administered under his direct control and leadership.
He was unanimously elected by the Malankara Syrian Christian Association in 1980 as successor to the throne of Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan.
A good orator, an eminent scholar, a renowned theologian, an able administrator and a man of the Word of God, the Holy Father has all the qualities needed for a spiritual ecclesiastical leader to head an ancient Episcopal Church. With his devotion and dedication in life and sincerity of purpose, no doubt the community at large is benefited by his true Christian life as a servant of God in the service of mankind.
His Holiness abdicated the throne on 31 October 2005 at the age of 91 following ill health.
His Holiness Baselios Mar Thoma Didymos I (31.10.2005 – 01.11.2010)
Seventh Catholicos and Malankara Metropolitan
His Grace Thomas Mar Timotheos, consecrated as Bishop on 24 August 1966 and Metropolitan of the Malabar Diocese, was enthroned as the seventh Catholicos of the Apostolic Throne of St. Thomas and Malankara Metropolitan with title "His Holiness Baselios Mar Thoma Didymos I" at the St. Peter's and St. Paul's Church at Parumala on Monday, 31 October 2005. This followed the abdication of the Throne by the 91-year-old His Holiness Baselios Mar Thoma Mathews II owing to old age and bad health.
Note: Apostle Thomas: His name in Aramaic (Te'oma) and in Greek (Didymos) means “twin”. St. John 11:16 distinguish him as “Thomas, called the Twin.” Didymos the Great was the famous Alexandrian theologian who lived in the 4th century.
For the first time in the history of the Church, the newly ordained Catholicos was privileged to have the physical presence of his predecessor during the enthronement ceremony. The outgoing Catholicos blessed his successor with three engelpions – one with the Cross, another with Virgin Mary and the third with St. Thomas - and handed over the Pastoral Staff marking the conclusion of the installation ceremony, with the words: The Spiritual and the Temporal authority that the Church entrusted with me fourteen years ago is now handed over to you with full satisfaction of the heart.
His Holiness Baselios Mar Thoma Didymos I. was born to Ittyavira Thomas in Nedumpram near Tiruvalla and Sosamma of Chiramel in Mavelikara on 29 October 1921. His Holiness Baselios Oughen Bava consecrated him as Metropolitan Thomas Mar Timotheos at Kolencherry on 24 August 1966.
His Holiness started his service in the Church as a monk in his teenage. His Holiness is an exemplification of eastern monastic life, endowed with erudition derived from his long career as a student of theology, mathematics and English literature. Prior to his consecration to the episcopate he had been an educator holding various positions in the academia. His divine liturgies are musically mellifluous to the ears of the believers.
His Holiness Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II (01.11.2010 - )
Eighth Catholicos and Malankara Metropolitan
Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II. is the 91st Catholicos of the East and 21st Malankara Metropolitan, enthroned at a solemn ceremony held at the St. Peter's and St. Paul's Church at Parumala on 1 November 2010.
He was born to K.I. Ipe and Kunjeetty in Kollannur on 30 August 1946. His mother, Kunjeetty hails from the famous family of Pulikkottil.
His uncle Iyyukkutty inspired him for the priestly services. Paul was graduated from the St. Thomas College at Thrissur. Even during his college days, Paul has been an active member of MGOCSM Unit in his church. Paul joined the Theological Seminary at Kottayam under the supervision of the illustrious Dr. Paulose Mar Gregorios in 1969. He is also an alumni of the renowned Serampore University.
Paul was ordained for the first stage of deaconate in Parumala Seminary in 1972. He was ordained as a full deacon at Koratty Sehion Seminary and then ordained a priest on 21 June 1973.
The Malankara Association held at Niranam on 28 December 1982 elected Fr. Paul to be elevated to the episcopate. He was ordained a Bishop with title Paulose Mar Milithios at the age of 38 on 15 May 1985 at Puthiyacavu St. Mary's Church by Moran Mar Baselios Mar Thoma Mathews I and was appointed the diocesan Metropolitan of the Diocese of Kunnamkulam. He is the first Metropolitan after Parumala Thirumeni who was ordained a Bishop below age 40.