On 5th May 1877 Mor Gregorios received the Sthathikon from H.H. Patriarch appointing him as the Metropolitan of Niranam diocese. The administrative headquarters of the new Metropolitan was at Parumala where a seminary was already functioning under the supervision of Malankara Metropolitan (Mor Dionysius V). The parts of southern Kerala where the Niranam diocese is located, was the main centre of activity of CMS missionaries and that of Palakkunnath Metran, who had a very sizeable following among the Malankara Syrian Christians of the region. Mor Gregorios Thirumeni's primary mission was to bring back those flocks who left the Church under the missionary influences and to start more churches and institutions. Being centrally located and also being a calm and quite place for future developments, Parumala was an ideal place in all respect. The seat of Niranam diocese was selected at Parumala in this pretext.
1. Parumala Seminary in A.D. 1877
2. A Good Shepherd
3. Additional Responsibility
4. Gospel Missions
5. Fr. Alwarez of Roman Catholic Church joins the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch
Chathuruthy Kochu Thirumeni at the age of 29
(Source:- 'Yakoobyan' Special issue, Oct 2001)
1. Parumala Seminary in AD 1877
The original place chosen for the seminary was the newly constructed building located in the premises of the ancient Mavelikkara Puthenpally. It was built there as per the instruction of the Pulikottil Mor Dionysius Metropolitan. But on completion, the parishioners of the church were reluctant to handover the building, so His Grace was forced to find another place. Those were the days when most of the parishes around Niranam, Thumpamon & Kollam dioceses, were under the influence of 'reformists' led by Palakkunnath Mor Athanasius Metran. So Mor Dionysius V was very particular to find another place nearby. It was at this juncture one Korula Mathen of Arikupuram family staying at Parumala, donated some land for the cause. (ref: page 114, biography of Pulikottil Mor Dionysius V, published by Malayala Manorama Co., in connection with the golden jubilee celebrations of his sacerdotal ordination - AD 1901. CLICK HERE for the details from the biography of pulikottil ).
About the beginning of Parumala Seminary - Page 114 & 115 from the
book published by Malayala Manorama Co, in 1901
Establishment of the Seminary in Parumala - A.D. 1872
Parumala at that time was an island of about 4 Sq. miles. Country boats were the only source to reach there. A 'Badrakali Temple' (Pannayur Kavu) was located in that place. As per the faith of the locals, a devil 'Parumala Yakshi' was supposed to be haunting that place. To appease the deity of the Temple, elephant and other animal sacrifices were common. But the most disturbing was the human sacrifice. Only looters and such anti-social elements were living there.
The Christians in the long history of the state, were very enthusiastic and adventurous people. They were in the forefront to acquire unused lands & business activities and thereby these groups prospered through the centuries. In the second half of the 19th century, a wealthy adventurous Syrian Christian, Korula Mathen of Arikupurath family bought some land at Parumala and decided to stay there. It was the tradition of the Christians at that time to build a church nearby their establishments.
Meanwhile the Metropolitan of the Malankara Church Mor Dionysius Joseph, was searching for a place to start a Seminary ('Padithaveedu' as it was called in Malayalam) in the South. He finally located a place in Parumala owned by Korula Mathen of Arikupurath family. There were around 25 churches nearby and was a strong hold of the Syrian Christians. The Metropolitan negotiated to buy the land, but the rich landlord, Korula Mathen, was kind enough to donate 30 'dandu' (measure) of square land to the Church. On 13th 'Karkidakam' (July 27 /28), 1872, Arikupurathu Korula (Koruthu) Mathen executed a deed in favour of the Metropolitan, who will be ever loyal to the Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius seated on the Holy Throne of Antioch. This deed was registered as No. 69, at the Thiruvalla sub-registrar office on 16th Chingam 1048.
In the land so received, Metropolitan Mor Dionysius Joseph constructed a small building namely 'AZHIPURA' and a seminary (Padithaveedu) started to function there. Chalapurathu Ya'qub Kassisso was appointed as the first Malpan of the seminary. The same year, Mor Dionysius Metropolitan brought Chathuruthy Geevarghese Ramban to Parumala and gave him the charge of the new seminary. Parumala's emergence as a major centre of the church in south Kerala starts from here.
Mor Gregorios in Parumala
Mor Gregorios alias Chathuruthy Ramban, was staying at Parumala seminary since its beginning in 1872. This place which was started as a teaching centre for clergy, gradually became a major centre of the Syrian Christians in south Kerala. But it was only after the formation of Niranam diocese in 1876 and the appointment of Mor Gregorios as its first Metropolitan, that the Parumala Seminary started to function as diocesan headquarters as well. Mor Gregorios started his regular stay here after the departure of His Holiness the Patriarch in May 1877. Besides managing the general affairs of the diocese, Thirumeni was keen in taking classes in theology and Syriac to seminarians as before. The tough daily schedule of Thirumeni with prayers seven times a day and regular fasting induced a level of great discipline among his students.
The Chapel at the Seminary Premises
In those days the Holy Qurbono was celebrated at Parumala in a temporary shed owned by the Arikupurathu family, near to the 'Azhipura'. Kochu Thirumeni wished that a two storied structure be constructed there which includes a church and a seminary anywhere in the place. For that more land was required. When Thirumeni expressed his desire, the Arikupurathu family, without any hesitance surrendered more land for the proposed Seminary building. The documentation was done in the name of the Malankara Metropolitan on the request of our Kochu Thirumeni. Mor Gregorios was able to raise an huge amount of Rs.15,000 for the purpose and its construction began.
Mor Gregorios wanted the Patriarch Mor Pathros IV, who ordained him a bishop and with whom he had very close rapport, consecrate the new church after its completion. But on 8th October,1894 the Patriarch passed away and a new primate was about to be selected. It was around that time that our Thirumeni's long cherished dream of visiting Holy Land was getting materialized and so he decided to consecrate the church before his departure. Thus on makaram 15, 1070 (January 27, 1895), Mor Gregorios Kochu Thirumei, along with Malankara Metropolitan Mor Dionysius V, consecrated the new church at Parumala and His Grace celebrated the first Holy Qurbono. The new church consecrated by Parumala Kochu Thirumeni was named after the Apostle St. Peter.
AZHIPURA where the seminary functioned during Parumala Thirumeni's time
Daily Schedule of Mor Gregorios at Parumala
During his stay at Parumala, Kochu Thirumeni used to follow a strict schedule. A day starts for him at 4 a.m. and his early morning prayers will continue till 5 p.m. For the next two hours, Thirumeni spend time for taking classes to the seminarians. This was followed by the private prayers (Church prayers of Third hour) at 9 a.m. and then will continue the teaching till 11 a.m.. Then its time for diocesan administration. After lunch and rest, he again spent time for administration, starting from 4. Before that he will have his 'prayers of Sixth and Ninth hour'. Evening Prayer will be at 6.30 p.m., after that he will again start teaching, this time Syriac hymns in open air. At those sessions, Thirumeni usually sits on a Chair and the deacons on the ground with lamps. He had an extraordinary skill to sing Syriac hymns, it was very pleasing and incomparable. Thirumeni is said to be very strict and never allowed his students any excuses.
Later many of his disciples occupied important positions in the Church, though in the two different factions. The long list includes Kochuparamabil Paulose Ramban (who later became Paulose Mor Koorilos, the Malankara Metropolitan of the Jacobite Syrian church in 1911), Kassisso Vattasseril Geevarghese Malpan (later Mor Dionysius VI, the Malankara Metropolitan), Kuttikattil Painadath Paulose Ramban (Mor Athanasius Paulose, the Malankara Metropolitan of the Jacobite Syrian Church- 1917 to 1952), Kallasseril Punnoose Ramban of Kurichy (Mor Baselios Geevarghese II who became the Catholicos of the Indian Orthodox Church/Methran faction in 1929), Michael Semmassen (Michael Mor Dionysius, Metropolitan of the southern dioceses of the Jacobite Syrian Church), Kodiattu Kuriakose Corepiscopa, Mattakkal Alexander Malpan, Payyampalli David Kassisso, Pulikkaparambil Punnoose Kassisso and many such prominent dignitaries. All of them were great scholars.
Reinstated Seminary building at Parumala- Originally constructed by Parumala Thirumeni
(Source: 'Yakoobyan' special issue, Oct 2001)
2. A Good Shepherd
When the highly dangerous disease of small pox was widespread in Thumpamon and nearby areas, Mor Gregorios Thirumeni visited and stayed at the place ignoring its infectious nature. Though his well-wishers tried to dissuade him from visiting there, Thirumeni took pain to visit each and every house affected, irrespective of caste or creed and prayed for the sick and needy. The sincerity of this holy man was becoming more visible to the world.
He taught the people, the power of prayer and fasting, and proved the healing powers through continuous prayers. People came to him wherever he was. The plain water that Thirumeni gave for the patients after prayer had a remarkable healing effect.
3. Additional Responsibility
Kochu Thirumeni was given the additional responsibility of the Thumpamon diocese when Metropolitan Konattu Geevarghese Mor Julius died on March 21, 1884. Later Kollam diocese, administered by Mor Dionysius V, also came under the administration of Thirumeni. Thus Mor Gregorios Geevarghese became the Metropolitan in charge of all the three dioceses in southern Travancore, namely the Niranam, Thumbamon & Kollam. Naturally his responsibility and workload increased. However Thirumeni's routine prayer, fasting and meditation gave him the strength to manage the day-to-day affairs of the Church.
Another great thing we can see in this holy man, is his ability to execute JUST decisions without any serious opposition. Once a priest close to Pulikottil Mor Dionysius, consecrated a marriage of a rich and influential man, who already had a wife. On knowing the facts, Parumala Thirumeni excommunicated the concerned priest. He was very stubborn in taking 'just decisions' like this without any hesitance.
Mor Gregorios' administrative capability was extraordinary and this had helped for the development of not just the dioceses he controlled, but the entire Malankara Church itself. He succeeded in solving the disputes and schisms in the churches as nobody was willing to disobey this Holy man. Many of the difficulties in various churches around Malankara, which the able administrator Mor Dionysius V found impossible to solve, were ratified by a simple word of this Saint.
4. Gospel Missions
In 1892 an organization namely 'Malankara Syrian Clerical Sangham' was initiated by Mor Gregorios Thirumeni at a meeting held at Parumala Seminary. Some of the important aims of this group were, to organize prayer meetings and start Sunday Schools in all Parishes; to encourage Gospel expositions by the Priests during Holy Qurbono; to visit every Parish by the group; to start Seminaries and similar institutions for proper training of the Priests; and to baptize the untouchables who prefer to be a part of the Holy Church and also to construct new churches for them. Thirumeni had personally baptized many of the converts and was instrumental in building new churches for them in places like 'Chennithala', 'Kalikunnu', 'Mallappally', 'Puthupally', 'Kallumkathra' etc.. He is the one who is considered as the first Metropolitan of Malankara Church with a sense of mission to the non-Christian brethren.
Mor Gregorios was one of the regular participants of the famous annual conventions held at Aluva Manalpuram during Sivarathri festival. There he used to spent a lot of time preaching the Gospel of God. (These conventions held at Aluva, was the first of its kind anywhere in Malankara, by any of the Churches. The Syrian deacon Sleeba (Mor Osthatheos Sleebo, the Patriarchal delegate), was the main organizer and preacher of those meetings and was very close with Mor Gregorios. It was this Sleeba who accompanied Mor Gregorios during his visit to the Holy Land in 1895)
The main associates of our Kochu Thirumeni in these Gospel works were Malankara Malpan Konatt Mathen Corepiscopa (who later became the Priest-trustee of the Jacobite Syrian church), Kaniyanthara Ninan Kassisso and Murathoonkil Mathen Kassisso. Through a bull dated 3rd Oct 1893, H.H. Patriarch Mor Ignatius Pathros IV, had specially appreciated the dedicated services of Mor Gregorios Thirumeni in his endeavors.
5. Roman Catholic Priests joins the Jacobite Syrian Church.
Mor Julius Alvarez
Fr. Alvarez was born in a Roman Catholic family at Goa. After completing his studies from the 'Real Seminary' of Rakkol, at the age of 30 in 1860, he joined the Jesuits Missionary Society in Bombay. Though he remained with them for many years, he was disillusioned with their activities and so he returned to his native place. On reaching Goa, he started an orphanage and later a college. He was a known social worker. During his stay there, he published some periodicals and through this he criticized the misgivings of the Jesuit Missionaries which was a known fact of the time. The agitated Roman Catholic Archbishop of Goa excommunicated Fr. Alvarez from the Church. The non-ending persecution against him risen out of the vengeance forced him to leave the place. He later escaped to Travancore.
During his stay in Travancore he came to know more about our Apostolic Syrian Church of Antioch. He was attracted towards it. Meanwhile he started a movement namely "Swathantra Catholic Mission" (Independent Catholic Mission) and through this, exposed the atrocities of the Jesuits. Later Dr. Lisbow Pinto, a member of this movement with other like minded people of the Catholic Church started a periodical from Colombo namely, "Independent Catholic". Meanwhile Fr. Alvarez who was in regular contact with the Patriarch of Antioch, met Pulikottil Thirumeni and our Gregorios Thirumeni on His Holiness' direction. Later Parumala Kochu Thirumeni on the instruction of our Patriarch, elevated Fr. Alvarez, a Ramban (Monk) of the Syrian Orthodox Church. On Monday the 29th July 1889, the Ramban was consecrated a Metropolitan in a ceremony held at the Kottayam Syrian (old) Seminary chapel by Kadavil Paulose Mor Athanasious, assisted by our Parumala Kochu Thirumeni and Metropolitan Mor Ivanious Paulose. The newly ordained Metropolitan Alvarez Mor Julius, was given the charge of the new Mangalore and Bombay dioceses. Later many people, particularly the disillusioned Roman Catholics from other parts of India and Ceylon joined the Syrian Church. Under the influence of the new Metropolitan, many from the old Catholic Church of America including one Rev. J Rene Vilatte, a French Priest, joined the Church.
Mor Thimotheos Rene Vilatte
Later on the advice of Metropolitan Mor Gregorios and Alvarez Mor Julius, the Patriarch of Antioch gave permission for the ordination of Rev. Rene Vilatte, a French priest as a Metropolitan of the Syrian Church. Accordingly on the Ascension day (26th May) in 1892, Rev. J Rene Vilatte was elevated to the order of Ramban and three days later on 29th May, he was consecrated a Metropolitan by name 'Thimotheos'. The consecration ceremony was led by Kadavil Paulose Mor Athanasius of Kottayam diocese and assisted by our Kochu Thirumeni (Mor Gregorios) and Alvarez Mor Julius. The ceremony was held at the church of our Lady of Good Health, Colombo, Sri Lanka. The new Metropolitan, Mor Thimotheos was appointed as the Archbishop of American diocese under the Holy See of Antioch. This was an eventful day for the Universal Syrian Church. The expense of the ceremony was shared by the representative of the American government in Colombo. In a special function that followed, the governmental authorities awarded the title of "Commander of the Crown of Thorns" to the three Metropolitans including our Kochu Thirumeni.
|A photo taken in 1892|
(Sitting from left: Rene Vilatte Mor Thimotheos, Murimattom Mor Ivanios, Pulikottil Mor Divanyasious V,
Kadavil Mor Athanasius, Chathuruthy Mor Gregorios, Mor Julius Alvarez )
(The dioceses founded by Alvarez Mor Julius and Mor Thimotheos weakened after their time. The religious persecutions of the Goan rulers in their strongholds forced many of the converted Catholics to return. Because of the internal squabble, the Malankara Church too was not in a position to extend any help to them. Since the demise of Mor Thimotheos (1854-1929), the American diocese founded by him is functioning independently.
The diocese founded by Alvarez Mor Julius too had declined in numbers, but still continues in the Orthodox faith. The St. Antony's Congregation of Mangalore (also known as Honavar Mission) founded by Fr. George Pinto who embraced Syrian Orthodox Church under the influence of Mor Julius Alvarez, is presently administered by a Metropolitan appointed by the Patriarch of Antioch. Mor Anthonios Ya'qub is the present Assistant Metropolitan of the diocese under Mor Polycarpus Geevarghese . The Honavar Mission and its centers in Mangalore are the remnants of this group.)
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