Patriarch Abdul Messiah in Malankara 1912-13
News of the activities of Patriarch Mar Abdullah in Malankara had reached the deposed Patriarch Mar Abdul Messiah in Syria. Fr.P.T. Geevarghese, a close associate of Mar Dionysius, had communicated with the Patriarch in all the developments and also had requested the Patriarch to come to Malankara. The cable mentioned earlier was in response to this communication. The Patriarch had accepted the request and agreed to come. In pursuance, the Patriarch was sent a sum required for the travel expenses to Malankara. It was in these circumstances, that the Patriarch undertook a journey to Malankara.
It may be recalled that Mar Abdul Messiah had succeeded Mar Peter III in 1895 but was deposed in 1906 consequent on the withdrawal of the royal Firman by the ruling Sultan Abdul Hamid of Turkey. Nevertheless, he was recognized by the Church as Patriarch and was never deprived of the spiritual prerogatives.
On Edavom 23, 1087 (June 5, 1912) Patriarch Moran Mar Abdul Messiah II arrived at Bombay, accompanied by three Rambanss Fr. P. T. Geevargbese and N.I. Pothen received them. All of them proceeded to Malankara. The Patriarch halted at Kunnamkulam, Fort Cochin, Manthuruthel, South Paravur, Kanjiramattom and later at Parumala in July where he camped for deliberations.
Claim for Catholicate Acceded
The Patriarch was fully aware of the need and claim of the freedom-loving Malankara Church claim for a Catholicos. It dated back to the time of Pulikottil Joseph Mar Dionysius. The earliest reference may be found in a letter dated January 2,1891 (Dhanu 19,1067) from Patriarch Mar Peter III to Malpan Konat Mathan Kathanar. It says, ‘You have required us to send an able Catholicos or Maphrian who is a Malpan also. We shall consider the request. God willing, we shall send a suitable person.’12. The request was repeated in 1906. Mar Dionysius, Vattasseril Geevarghese Ramban and Malpan Konat Mathan Kathanar had specifically bid Deacon Sleeba (Mar Osthathios) and Deacon Mathai (late Catholicos Ougen) to raise the issue with Patriarch Mar Abdul Messiah, when they were proceeding to Syria. The Patriarch had heard and assented to their proposal. Later in his detailed and lengthy letter dated Dhanu 30, 1083 (14 January 1908), Konat Mathan Malpan had invited Mar Abdul Messiah to revive and re-establish the Catholicate of Tigris in Malankara and install “one amongst us” as Catholicos. Relevant excerpts from the letter13 is reproduced below … ” Again I beseech that your Holiness should come down to listen and set right all our matters … ln case His Holiness is either unwilling or unable due to old age to come to listen, one amongst listen whom we shall name later, should be raised as Maphrian for us. Without a Maphrian, how shall we consecrate Metropolitans and Episcopa? People of Malayalam are scared to go to distant places. If none is willing to come forward to become Metropolitan, our Church will be widowed. As Your Holiness is aware, the Maphrian of the East at Tigris who was subject to Patriarch of Antioch was ruling Malankara in the East. Although, there is no Maphrian at Tigris now, we commemorate “our father Baselios” in the first Diptychus. If there is no Maphrian, why should we commemorate his name? If we commemorate his name, it is necessary that Maphrian should be there really. How come, the shifting of the Maphrianate from Tigris to India is wrong if the Patriarchate could be shifted from Antioch to Mardin? We, therefore, request that the Maph rianate of Tigris should be shifted to and reestablished in Malankara and one amongst us should be consecrated as Maphrian who should be titled as “Mar Baselios Maphrian of the East.”14
Mar Abdul Messiah, however, could not do anything in the matter at that time since he had been de-recognized by the ruling Sultan and was deprived of administrative authority. After having come to know of the tragic predicaments of the Church at the hands of Mar Abdullah, Mar Abdul Messiah was convinced of the appropriateness and inevitability of an independent Catholicate and a Catholicos for Malankara Church. So, even before he landed in Malankara, the Patriarch had decided to take steps in that direction.
Catholicate Re-established 1912
Soon after the Patriarch reached Parumala, Mar Dionysius convened the Managing Committee on Chingam 14, 1088 (August 29, 1912). The Committee decided to request formally the Patriarch to raise Murimattathil Paulose Mar Ivanios, Metropolitan of Kandanad diocese, as Catholicos. The Patriarch conceded.
The Patriarch also announced his plan of action in a circular issued on Chingam 17, 1088 (September I, 1912) which envisaged consecration of a Catholicos (Maphrian) and four or five Metropolitans. Accordingly, the Patriarch, in the first instance, consecrated Kurichi Kallacheril Pun noose Ramban as Metropolitan with the title Mar Gregorios at Parumala on September 10, 1912 with the assistance of Mar Dionysius and Mar Ivanios. Seven days thereafter, on Kanni 2, 1088 (September 17, 1912), Patriarch Mar Abdul Messiah, in all solemnity revived and re-established the centuries old majesty of an autonomous Catholicate of the East, which once adorned the enchanting shores of Tigris of Persia, in Malankara at St. Mary’s Church, Niranam, which was made sacred by the foot steps of the Apostle St. Thomas nineteen centuries ago and installed Murimattathil Paulose Mar Ivanios with the title of Moran Mar Geevarghese Baselios, Catholicos of the East, that is of India of the throne of St. Thomas, the Apostle, with the installed and assistance of Malankara Metropolitan Geevarghese Mar Dionysius and Metropolitans Mar Gregorios and Mar Ivanios. The large enthusiastic crowd of devotees greeted their first ever Catholicos with shouts of joy, “Oxios,Oxios, Oxios. Moran Mar Baselios Catholicos is worthy”.
The re-establishment of the Catholicate was an epoch making event in the nineteen centuries old history of Malankara Church. It was the fulfillment of a desire, cherished for long. It meant the realization of and the end of an unabated struggle for independence and autonomy which the Malankara Church enjoyed in the early centuries. Obviously, the stature of the Catholicate provided a much needed self-assurance and hope for the future.
Immediately after the investiture ceremony on September 17,1912 and prior to his departure, on February 8, 1913 the Patriarch issued two Bulls relating to the status and powers associated with the Catholicate. * In the second Bull dated 8.2.19 J 3, the Patriarch stated: (to quote) , according to your request, by the grace of God we have consecrated the Maphrian, that is Catholicos, in the name of Baselios Paulose and three new prelates, Geevarghese Gregorios, Yoyakim Ivanios and Geevarghese Philoxinos.
Since we understood that if we do not consecrate the Catholicos, our Church of Malabar will not continue in purity and holiness for many reasons. Now then we know that by the power of the Lord, she will be sustained for ever in purity and holiness and that more than before she shall be established in the communion of the bond of love towards the Throne of Antioch and this is the joy of my heart. I have hope that your shepherds that is the Catholicos and the Metropolitans shall fulfill your every need. The Catholicos along with the Metropolitans shall consecrate for you chief priests and hallow for you the Holy Mooron in accordance with the canons of the Holy Fathers. And when a Catholicos shall die, there is permission and authority to your prelates to consecrate in his place one as Catholicos and there is no power to any body to restrain you from it. Everything shall be done in order according to custom in consultation with the members of the Committee of which the President is the Metropolitan Dionysius of Malabar”, 15
The establishment of the Catholicate was the beginning of an evolution in the Church’s hierarchy and coming to uphold an independent stature under a Catholicos with dignity and honor. The Church is greatly indebted to Patriarch Mar Abdul Messiah for this significant contribution. With a view to strengthen the Church heirarcby, the Patriarch consecrated two more Metropolitans on February 10, 1913 (Makaram 29, 1088) viz. Kandanad Karot Yoyachim Ramban and Vaakatha na 111 Kaa ruchi ra Geevarghese Ramban with the titles Mar Ivanios and Mar Philoxinos. Mar Dionysius and Mar Gregorios had associated with the Patriarch in this consecration.
The revered Holy Father was indeed happy over his flock s happiness and having fulfilled his mission returned on March.3, 1913 to Jerusalem. There, the faithful escorted him to Mardin, the headquarters of Patriarchate, and installed hi m once again as the rightful Patriarch. Two years later, on August 30, 1915, the Patriarch departed from this world to his heavenly abode.
12. Paulose, Rev. Fr. K.B.: Abdul Messihayum Catholica Sthapanavum. p. 12
13. Paret Z.M.: Vattasseril Mar Dionysius (1969) pp. 109-110
14. Pau!ose, Fr. K.P. : ibid p. 10
15. Appendix VJI B.
* Appendices VII A and Vll B.