CHRISTIAN NEWS MAGAZINE FOR KERALA MALAYALEE CHRISTIANS FROM INDIA AROUND THE WORLD
JANUARY 2005 THOSE WHO LED US
VOL:4 ISSUE:01


H.H. BASELIOS GEEVARGHESE II
THIRD CATHOLICOSE [1929-1964]

By EDITOR DR. RAJAN MATHEW, PHILADELPHIA

THOSE WHO LED US
H.H. BASELIOS GEEVARGHESE II
THIRD CATHOLICOSE

Moran Mar Basalios Geevarghese II succeeded Second Catholicos, Moran Mar Basalios Geevarghese 1, on the throne of Catholicos of the East in 1929. With over 35 years in the highest position of the Malankara Church, endowed with an all-absorbing grace of his face and an undeniable exceptionally brilliant talent, the third Catholicos excelled every one and guided the Church with undaunted courage and exemplified glamour.

The Third Catholicos was born on June 16, 1874 at Kurichi near Kottayam to parents Ulhanan of Kallacheril, a branch of famous and priestly Puthenpurackal family and Naithi, daughter of Pampakuda Madapparampil Kunjikooru. The child who was fondly called Punnoose was given the baptismal name as Geevarghese. Paternally Punnoose was related to Vattasseril Geevarghese Mar Dianosius and maternally to St. Gregorios of Parumala. As per the custom of that time, Punnoose had undergone the preliminary Malayalam language studies and basic Arithmetics from a local village teacher with name Ulhanan of Pallam Aryattuparampil.

Punnoose was called to the priestly vocation at the tender age of nine. The Story goes that child had fallen seriously ill at the age of nine. His grief-stricken Parents vowed to dedicate Punnoose to the service of God and immediately the child got recovered from that life-threatening disease. As per the vow of the parents, Punnoose was taken to Parumala Seminary for clerical training. Punnoose had under gone the preliminary Syriac and theological training under discipleship of Metropolitan Mar Gregorios of Parumala and Vattasseril Geevarghese Malpan. After getting trained at Parumala for about six years, when Pulikkottil Mar Dionysius got hold of the Old Seminary, Kottayam, Punnoose also was shifted to Old Seminary for his further training. There, he was kept under the discipleship of Kadavil Mar Athanasios, Vattasseril Geevarghese Malpan and Konattu Mathen Malpan. After attaining proficiency in Syriac, Punnoose was enrolled at CMS College High School at Kottayam for his English education. Before completing his English education Punnoose returned to Parumala and started living with Mar Gregorios.

After a short while, on May 24, 1892 Punnoose, at the age of seventeen, was ordained to the first level of deaconate [Korooyo/Sub-Deacon] by Paulose Mar Athanasios of Ankamali Diocese at St. Peter's and St. Paul's Church and further as full Deacon by Parumala Mar Gregorios. After the ordination Dn. Geevarghese proceeded for his English education in the M.D. High School Kottayam. While Dn. Geevarghese was in sixth Forum, he was once again inflicted by a severe disease and forced to discontinue his further English education. As Dn. Geevarghese decided firmly to lead a celibate life, Parumala Chathuruthy Mar Gregorios assisted by Pulikkottil Mar Dionysius, Kadavil Mar Athanasios and Murimattom Mar Ivanios ordained him as a priest along with Kuttikkattil Paulose Deacon, (Later Paulose Mar Athanasios) in November 26, 1898. On the fourth day of his priesthood, Kallacheril Geevarghese Kathanar was elevated to the ascetic order of Ramban by Mar Gregorios on November 29, 1898. Further, Geevarghese Ramban lived in Kadampanad Church for some time. For thirteen long years, the future Catholicos remained as Ramban. During this period, Ramban assisted Mar Gregorios in the administration of the diocese of Niranam and Thumpamon. In October 1902, when Parumala Mar Gregorios had fallen Sick, Geevarghese Ramban was appointed as in-charge of the affairs of Parumala and for the service to the ailing Metropolitan Mar Gregorios. After the demise of Mar Gregorios, on November 2, 1902, Ramban Geevarghese took charge as the Manager at Parumala Seminary. He also helped in teaching of Deacons at the Old Seminary and translated into Malayalam a few Syriac books viz. 'Pardaiso and Youhanon Maumiono', Private Prayers and 'Lives of Martyrs.'

In 1908, Geevarghese Ramban accompanied the Metropolitan Designates Vattasseril Geevarghese Ramban and Kochuparampil Paulose Ramban to attend their ordination ceremony as Metropolitans at Syria. While in Syria, Ramban got fortune for the first time to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and other holy places. After the ordination of the two Metropolitan designates, Abdulla Patriarch expressed his willingness to ordain Geevarghese Ramban also as a Metropolitan. Ramban had politely refused for the ordination, as the mother Church in Malankara did not officially decide it. In 1912 Patriarch Moran Mar Abdul Messiah visited Malankara and consecrated Geevarghese Ramban as Metropolitan, with title as Gregorios on September 10, in the presence of Vattasseril Geevarghese Mar Dianosius and Murimattom Mar Ivanios, at the Parumala Church. The newly consecrated Mar Gregorios was assigned the charge of the diocese of Niranam and Thumpamon. Mar Gregorios had also the fortune to be present as a celebrant in the ordination ceremony of First and Second Catholicos.

For about seventeen years Mar Gregorios remained as Metropolitan before being called upon to adorn the throne of Catholicos. On December 11,1928 the Second Catholicos expired. Mar Gregorios was soon designated as Catholicos and was consecrated to the throne of Catholicos with title Basalios Geevarghese II, on February 15, 1929 by the Malankara Metropolitan Vattasseril Geevarghese Mar Dianosius in the presence of Mar Ivanios of Bethany at Elias Chapel, Kottayam, in witness of around 25000 believers.

During his long tenure of thirty-five years as Catholicos, Basalios Geevarghese II had the rare opportunity of celebrating six consecration ceremonies ordaining eleven Metropolitans. The Catholicos also ordained not less than thousand priests and deacons, by which ministry of the Church was greatly strengthened.


14.2.1929:

Kuriakose Mar Gregorios

Rev. Fr. Pezahmattom Kuriakose, Pampadi

Jacob Mar Theophilus

Ramban Jacob Bethany


9.11.1930:

Geevarghese Mar Philoxenos

Rev. Fr. K.T Geevargese Puthenkavu


5.5.1932:

Joseph Mar Severios

Rev. Fr. V. O Ouseph Valakuzhy, Mallappally


7.4.1938[Kandanad Carmel Dayara]:

Alexios Mar Theodosius

Rev. Fr. Alexios Mattackal Niranam


6.5.1940[Mavelikkara Puthiayakavu Church]:

Thomas Mar Dionysius

Rev Fr. C. M. Thoma, Kallumpurath, Poovathur, Mavelikkara


15.5.1953[Elia Chapel, Kottayam]:

Patros Mar Osthathios

Rev. Fr. Patros, Mookencheril, Thrippunithura

Mathews Mar Ivanios

Rev. Fr. Mathew Paret, Puthuppally

Mathews Mar Coorilos(Sixth Catholicose)

Rev. Fr. V.K.Mathew Othara

Mathews Mar Athanasius (Fifth Catholicose)

Rev. Fr. Mathew Vattakunnel Kottayam

Daniel Mar Philoxenos

Rev. Fr. P.E. Daniel Basil Pathanamthitta


In 1931 the Catholicos exercised his high-priestly authority of consecrating the Holy Chrism (Holy Mooron), the sacred oil preserved for the use for anointing on occasion of sacraments Baptism, Holy unction and consecration of Churches. The Catholicos performed this solemn ceremony on April 22, 1931 and repeated the performance on April 20, 1951.

The Catholicos Basalios Geevarghese II suffered an irreparable personal loss with the demise of his master and guide, the Malankara Metropolitan Vattasseril Geevarghese Mar Dionysius VI on February 20, 1934. After the demise of the Malankara Metropolitan, Mar Basalios was elected as the Malankara Metropolitan in 1934 by the Malankara Syrian Christian Association held at M.D. Seminary Kottayam. The two offices of Catholicos and the Malankara Metropolitan were vested in the same person for the first time. Consequent of this election as Malankara Metropolitan, Mar Basalios became the ex-offico President of the Malankara Association.

The current headquarters of Catholicos, Devalokam at Kottayam was constructed in 1951 during the tenure of Basalios Geevarghese II. He had also initiated the emergence of two missionary movements in the Church viz. The Society of Servants of the Cross at Mulanthuruthy and the St. Paulís Missionary Society at Mavelikkara.

It was one of biggest achievement of the third Catholicos of the unprecedented rate of progress made to expand the frontiers of the Church beyond the limits of Malankara. He established two new dioceses one for the Outside Kerala parishes including that at overseas and the other for Malabar parishes. Both these diocese had tremendously grown up in future as the key centers of the Malankara Church.

The Catholicos had paid keen attention for the development of educational activities in the Church. Many Catholicate/Mar Dionysius Memorial schools, which were started earlier, were brought under a corporate management of which His Holiness was the Corporate Manager. The Church also started three colleges during his tenure viz. the Catholicate College at Pathanamthitta, Mar Basalios College at Kottayam and St. Mary's College at Sultan Battery.

Mar Basalios also strengthened the organizational set up of Sunday School Samajam, Orthodox Christian Youth Movement and Martha Mariam Samajam. Very particularly His Holiness personally attended and blessed the activities of these organizations.

In 1946, an official publication of the Church, Malankara Sabha was launched for the deliberation of matters concerning faith, history and all other developments in the Church. As a part of litergical composition of worshipping, Catholicos had appointed Church Poet C.P. Chandy for translating the liturgical lyrics from Syriac to Malayalam.

Mar Basalios could also bring the so far secluded Malankara Church to the limelight of the Christian Churches in the World. It was during the tenure of Basalios Geevarghese II that the Malankara Church enrolled herself as a member of the World Council of Churches. Participation of the Malankara Orthodox Church in the Ecumenical relationship brought honour for the Church and acquaintance with Oriental Orthodox and other churches in the world. It was a milestone in the history of the Church to send delegates to the 'Faith and Order' Conference at Oxford and 'Life and work' conference at Edinburgh. More than hundred churches of the world of Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican denominations attended these conferences. The Catholicos personally attended along with other delegates in the Edinburgh conference held in August 3-9, 1937, in which the strategic decision was taken for establishment of World Council of Churches. It is reported that the Catholicos of Malankara was the most photographed person in the conference and News Papers of Edinburgh published many photographs of the Catholicos. After the Edinburgh Conference, the Catholicos invariably sent representative delegates of the Church to the later Conferences held at Amsterdam (1948), Evanston (1954) and New Delhi (1961). Taking into account the need for close co-operation among the Orthodox Churches, the Catholicos sent Philipose Mar Theophilus and Daniel Mar Philoxenus as representative of the Church to the Conference of the Pan Orthodox Churches held in Rhodes in 1960.

Out of many dignitaries Basalios Geevarghese II hosted, special mention need for the visit of Emperor Heille Sellasi, Emperor of Ethiopia in Oct.21 1956 and Pandit Jawharlal Nehru Prime Minister of India on Feb 1957. Also many Patriarchs, Catholicos and Church leaders of Oriental Orthodox Churches visited Malankara during the reign of the third Catholicos.

Another epoch making event in the tenure of the third Catholicos was that Chathuruthy Mar Gregorios of Parumala [Malankara Church] who died on Nov. 2, 1902 and Catholicos Moran Mar Basalios Yaldo of Persia who reached Malankara and died at Kothamangalam were canonized as saints on Nov 2, 1947 in consultation with Synod. Today the shrines of both Saints are pilgrim centers.

Traveling in the Car and posing for photographs were of great fascination for the Basalios Catholicos.

Being an acute diabetic patient, in 1954, Basalios Bava was admitted to Christian Medical College, Vellore for his physical ailment due to urinal obstruction. A surgical operation was done on him on January 18, 1954. As he was bedridden at Vellore during the Silver Jubilee of his Consecration, the celebrations were conducted at the hospital premises. In March 1954, Catholicos returned from Vellore. Though he was temporarily cured, age and sickness was taking its toll on him.

Considering the old age and sickness of the Catholicos, Episcopal Synod had nominated senior Metropolitan Augen Mar Timoteous as the Catholicate-designate and same was endorsed by the Malankara Association meeting on May 17, 1962 at St. Mary's Church Niranam.

The last Holy Qurbana His Holiness could celebrate was on August 15, 1963. A bruise appeared on his right toe and caused acute distress and pain. It is said that at night he had the vision of St. Mary beckoning him. On September 3, 1963, the sacrament of Holy Unction was performed on him and it gave great relief for his pain. He had a great desire to attend the feast of St. Gregorios on November 3, 1963 at Parumala and by the grace of God he could accomplish it. Thereafter, his bodily weakness got aggravated. On January 2, 1964, the Bava fell unconscious and passed away peacefully on Friday January 3, 1964 at 4.30 A.M for his heavenly abode at 90 years of his life, 89 years 6 months and 19 days to be exact. His tomb is beside the Catholicate Chapel at Devalokam.

As a person, the third Catholicos, Basalios Geevarghese II was known for his integrity, deep faith in truth and justice, sharpness of his devotion to the Church, strong endurance in Orthodoxy, deep knowledge, great sense of humour, strict observance of prayers and fasts, and implicit faith in divine guidance, so much so that no one of his generation equaled the divine grace and charisma His Holiness had.


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