|OCTOBER 2005||THOSE WHO LED US||
Arch Bishop Geevarghese Mar Ivanios, who had committed himself for self-negation and total submission to Lord was a man of reverence for his distinctive personality, rare genius and prayer life. With his great conviction that an educated and cultured young generation might pave the way for contemplation of real mission work, he acted as a visionary of education in Kerala. Inspired by ancient Indian traditions of Sanyas, he could succeed to establish an ascetic order based on Christian faith. He accepted women into sisterhood and ordained them for a life of dedication. He had reformed the hermitage of the Indian Church on the footsteps of the rishis of ancient Indian culture. He attired Christian worship with a new spiritual aura true to Indian tradition. His life of sacrifice and prayer had been beacon for many souls.
Arch Bishop Mar Ivanios was born into the reputed Panickar family in Mavelikkara as son of Thomas Panickar and Annamma, daughter of Areeppurathu Mathai Asan of Pallickal near Kayamkulam on September 21, 1882 which happened to be the Feast of St. Mary. The child was named as George. Baby George was baptized at the Puthiyakavu Jacobite Church given with a baptismal name as Geevarghese. He was known in the family and in his village by a pet name 'Kochukeevarchan'. Skariah Kathanar, brother of Thomas Panickar, a devoted priest who embraced celibacy was a great inspiration for Kochukeevarchan to grow in the Grace of God with a prayerful, fasting life style and to make up his mind for the full dedication of his life in service of God.
There were many instances in the life of young Kochukeevarchan for the experience of miraculous providential escape from dangers. As narrated by his autobiographers, one of the stories goes like this: Kochukeevarchan was of age less than four years. His home servant of Panickar house put the boy on the front beam of the bullock cart and started riding out. On the way, something frightened the oxen which turned out to be agitated and infuriated. With the violence of the oxen, the boy fell down on the road below the cart. The boy was lying just in front of the wheel few inches away to be stamped on. All on a sudden as a divine protection, the oxen suddenly stopped and stood still, so that the wheel of the cart did not run over Kochukeevarchan.
At the age of five, P.T. George was put in David Asan's local nursery school which was run at Asan's house itself. George learned the basic alphabets and minor mathematics there. Most of the village children of the school dropped out for helping their fathers in farming. Thomas Panickar, father of P.T. George also was wishing that his son being the elder in his house, to start helping him in the farming. But his mother earnestly desired that George should get higher education and he should be sent in priestly service. Skariah Kathanar earnestly supported the mother to fulfill her dreams. She had already dedicated her son in her prayers for the service of God especially as he was born on the nativity of St. Mary. Accordingly, P.T. George was enrolled in the Puthiakavu CMS English School for further preliminary education. George used to kneel down and pray at the Puthiakavu Jacobite Church on his way up and down from the school every day. With his brilliancy in studies, extraordinary courage and humble behavior, P.T. George became the apple of the eye of the teachers, schoolmates and all his villagers.
There is a strange incident reported by which the boy became well acquainted with then Malankara Metropolitan. One day Malankara Metropolitan Pulikkottil Joseph Mar Dianasius had arrived at Puthiakvu Jacobite Church after sunset. Many people gathered in the Church to meet and to seek blessings from the Metropolitan. Metropolitan had come to the Church on a special mission and in this regard he wanted to meet the Veettinal Semmassan very urgently. Semmassan was living in a remote Vazhukattil village which was one mile away from Puthiakavu. Thirumeni had instructed that somebody may go to the house of Semmassan and bring him to the Church very urgently. It was undaring pitch-dark and raining heavily. Nobody of the crowd dared or ventured to go to Vazhukkattil during that odd hour of the night. All on a sudden a young boy of fourteen years old came forward and kissed Thirumeni's hand and confidently told that he will go and bring the Semmassan in the night itself. The boy went with a lantern to Vazhukkattil and brought Semmasan to Thirumeni. The boy was none other than P.T. George who became the Arch Bishop later.
Though P.T. George was first put to the local C.M.S. School in Mavelikara, later as per the instruction of Parumala Mar Gregorios, the first canonized saint of Malankara, he was transferred to the Government School, Kottackakom, Mavelikkara, when Thirumeni visited the Puthiakavu Jacobite Church. George completed fourth Form from that school with distinction having been a model student with merit in studies and with esteem cultured behavior.
Further higher studies in High School level remained a hurdle for George for many reasons. High school education, that time, was possible only at Kottayam which was 30 miles away from Puthiayakvu and there were no transportation facilities available between these two places except the slow unpowered boats. Living at Kottayam was too expensive that Panickar family was not able to afford. It was at that time, Pulikkottil Thirumeni visited Puthiakavu Church. Thomas Panicker presented Thirumeni of his desire to send his meritorious son for higher studies at Kottayam. Thirumeni was too glad to do something for that courageous boy whom he marked in his mind while he had very courageously brought the Veettinal Semmassan in the witching hours of the night during Thirumeni's earlier visit to the Church.
Pulikkottil Thirumeni had done all the arrangement for the higher studies of P.T. George at Kottayam. George joined M.D. Seminary High School at Kottayam in fifth Form in 1897. His accommodation was arranged by Thirumeni at the Old Seminary, Kottayam. At the instance of Pulikkottil Thirumeni, George's school name was changed in the school record to his baptismal name, P.T. Geevarghese. K.C. Mammen Mappilai was the Head Master of the school that time. P.T. Geevarghese turned out to be the best and most brilliant student of the M.D. Seminary High School and became the most admired of the Head Master K.C. Mammen Mappilai.
Immediately on passing Matriculation, Pulikkottil Thirumeni desired to ordain Geevarghese as a deacon. With consent of his parents and the home Parish at Puthiakavu, Pulikkottil Joseph Mar Dianasius ordained P.T. Geevarghese to the order of deacon on January 9, 1900 in the presence of many priests and a big crowd of laity. Dn. Geevarghese continued his higher education at C.M.S College Kottayam. His accommodation was arranged in the Old Seminary in a room adjacent to that of Vattasseril Geevarghese Malpan [Later Malankara Metropolitan Vattasseril St. Geevarghese Mar Dianasius].
After finishing his FA [First examination in Arts] from the C.M.S. College with distinction Dn. Geevarghese joined Madras Christian College for B.A. with Economics and Indian History as electives. Geevarghese Semmasan was the first clergyman from Orthodox Jacobite Church to pursue his graduate education in Madras Christian College. Initially he started living in Sullivan Hall and later he was forced to move to YMCA Hostel as clergies were not allowed to live in that Hall.
Geevarghese Semmassan was a good orator, tactician, successful organizer and community visionary. With his great capability and popularity among the community people of his surroundings, he organized a group of Malayalees in Madras area and a Malayalee Samaj was formulated. This social organization further flourished and grew strong. Every second Saturday, the deacon's room was crowded with Malayalee students who came to hear his stirring speeches. He had read much, and now he started sharing his vast learning with those who attended the meeting. His speeches about History, theology and Bible enthralled the audience unaware of the hours that slipped by. Each session followed by a group discussion. The Malayalee Samaj and its organizer became well known in the College even to the Principal Dr. Miller. Deacon's aim was to create a society of students who would be conscious of their religious heritage and he started working towards it.
After meritorious accomplishment of the B.A. degree, Semmassan further set forth for his M.A. degree. He chose a very controversial topic for his M.A. dissertation; 'Were the Syrian Christians Nestorians?', in fulfillment of his M.A. requirements. This great effort was a powerful axe to the canard spread by Portuguese, after the Synod at Udayamperoor, which was an aberrant and strange perspective that the Syrian Christians in Kerala before sixteenth century were Nestorians in the matter of faith, and accordingly the literal works in all our libraries and personal collections were burned and destroyed by them, leaving us blank about the information of our history.
[Nestorius was the Patriarch in Constantinople in the forth century. Nestorius refused to attribute to the divine nature, the human acts and sufferings of Jesus. Nestorius promoted a form of dyophysitism, speaking of two natures in Christ, one divine and one human. This doctrine of Nestorius which was known as Nestorian faith, was challenged by Holy Church and condemned him as a heretic at the Council of Ephesus in 431. When the Synod met at Ephesus, the new teaching was discussed, as a result of which Nestorius was excommunicated as an enemy of the Church. Nestorios fled for safety to Persia, which was at war with Constantinople.]
Semmassan collected manuscripts and historical data about Eastern Syrian Christians from all possible libraries and other sources surrounding Madras. Through his comprehensive research work, he could very convincingly dismiss the Nestorian controversy linked with Syrian Christians in Kerala, with help of logical arguments based and supported by historical findings. The dissertation eventually turned out to be a very important historical work due to his innate historical sense adapted to the religious topic. By his deep insight presented in his thesis, he could also counter and hack down the contention of the tentative suggestion that St. Thomas had never come to Kerala coast and that the Christian community in Kerala had a history only dating back to the 6th century.
With controversial topics and with academic excellences, this dissertation turned out a hot topic of discussion. Very assuredly, he presented that St. Thomas came to Kerala and baptized people to Christianity. In Malankara, there was no bishop here to consecrate a new Metropolitan. At that time twelve priests had together undertaken the consecration of the Metropolitan. He then wrote to several Patriarchs to send a bishop to have his consecration ratified. Metropolitan of the Jerusalem Mor Gregorios Abdul’ Galeel volunteered to come to Malankara, ignoring the difficulties he may have to overcome. Before that Patriarch Ahathulla who had been a close confidence of the Babylonian Patriarch, had set out for India, but he never arrived here. His thesis was later published as book and further C.P. Tharakan translated the book to Malyalam.
Geevarghese Semmassan created history by passing his MA with distinction. After his post graduation, Semmassan returned from Madras to Malankara. He was accorded with warm welcome on his return and reception meetings were convened at various Parishes in Malankara.
M.D. Seminary School was the prime institution of the Orthodox Church during that time. E.M. Philipose was the Principal and K.C. Mammen Mappilai was the head master of the school. Considering the meritorious accomplishment of the postgraduate degree by the Semmassan, Malankara Metropolitan Pulikkottil Thirumeni and Vattasseril Malapn decided to appoint Geevarghese Semmassan as the HM of the School as Mamman Mappilai had gone on sick leave to Trivandrum. Once Mammam Mapilai returned Semmassan went to the Parumala Seminary. Later when E.M. Philipose retired voluntarily, Geevarghese Semmassan was appointed as the Principal of the Seminary school and further when Mamman Mappilai retired he assumed both post of Head Master and the Principal.
While Semmassan was in Parumala, there were many scheduled caste people living there. It was Parumala Thirumeni who brought them there and convinced them to faith and baptized them. The high caste society people lived in the surroundings wanted to chase away these dark-skinned people, like rabid dogs. But Semmassan used to visit their homes of these poor and hear their complaints and concerns. Very passionately he listened to their sad experiences from the rich people when they tried to visit the temples. He drew those weeping poor near to him and hugged them.
As Semmassan had already opted for ascetic life, newly Ordained Vattasseril Thirumeni was very eager to ordain Semmassan as a priest. Mar Dionasius Metropolitan ordained Geevarghese Semmasan as priest on 15 September 1908 at the Parumala Seminary. Geevarghese Achen was generally referred to as 'M.A. Achen' because he was the first among the ordained priest who took M.A. He became well known as an educationalist and a good orator.
Valia Methrachen [Senior Bishop] Pulikkottil Joseph Mar Dionasius who was the spiritual mentor and inspirer of Fr. P.T. Geevarghese left for heavenly abode in 1909. By this time, he had already translated all the Church positions to his successor Vattasseril Geevarghese Mar Dionasius who was the Guru and inseparable supporter of M.A. Achen. Patriarch Mar Abdulla of Antioch initiated for a visit to Malankara during 1909. M.A. Achen was the one whom Malankara Metropolitan Vattasseril Thirumeni deputed to welcome the Patriarch when he landed in Bombay. So Fr. Geevarghese went to Bombay along with Vattasseril Thirumeni and received the Patriarch. After two years stay in India, Mar Abdulla Patriarch returned to his country on Oct. 12, 1911.
After eight months of the return of Mar Abdulla, Abded Messiah Patriarch visited Malankara in 1912. During this visit of the Patriarch, the Catholicate was reinstated on Sept. 19, 1912 and installed Murimattom Mar Ivanios as the first Catholicose of Malankara. MA Achen was also present during the ordination ceremony. Patriarch Mar Abded Messiah lived in Malankara for about nine months. Geevarghese Achen acted as a translator to the Patriarch while he lived in Malankara. The Patriarch had brought with him an ancient manuscript of Church Canon which was about 500 years old. Inquisitive clergies of Malankara including P.T. Geevarghese Achen verified the manuscript with the one which was available in Malankara and found they are same. When Patriarch went back to his country, M.A. Achen accompanied him to Bombay
The protestant missionary from America, Dr. John R. Mott had convened an all India meeting of Christian students in Serampore with the intention of debating possiblities for initiating a spiritual awakening in India. To schedule a specific scheme for the propagation of Christianity in India was the major item on the agenda. All Indian Church groups were invited for the conference. Malankara Metropolitan also had an invitation to send delegates to attend the meeting held in Calcutta. Malankara Metropolitan Mar Vattasseril Dianasius Thirumeni participated the one-week conference, accompanied by MA Achen. It was a great opportunity for Geevarghese Achen to get in touch with outstanding delegates from all over the world and he could impress whoever he could meet during the session.
After the conference Dr. Howells, Principal of Serampore Theological College invited MA Achen to join his College as a Professor. Though it was very painful proposition for Achen and his Guru Vattasseril Thirumeni to detach themselves out of their closely bonded relations to proceed to Serampore, eventually with mutual consent they came down with the decision in favor of M.A. Achen accepting the offer of Professorship of Serampore College.
Serampore College was founded in 1818 by English Protestant Missionaries William Carey, Joshua Marshman, and William Ward of Baptist Missionary Society to give education in Arts and Sciences to students of every 'caste, colour or country' and to train a ministry for the growing Christian Churches in India. From the beginning the College has been ecumenical. In 1826, the College is upgraded as a University with privilege to confer theological and art degrees for all Christian denominations in India. By 1960, twenty other Indian colleges and seminaries affiliated themselves with Serampore. Many of the Orthodox and Protestant Seminaries and Bible Colleges in India and abroad are now affiliated or associated to Serampore University. Interdenominational character of the College is evident as Anglicans, Baptists, Congregationalists, Disciples, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Syrian Orthodox, and Welsh Calvinists either enrolled or served on the faculty.
Thus MA Achen proceeded to join the Serampore institution which focused on English education and Theological studies. He took along with him Deacon K.S. Yakob who just matriculated from M.D. Seminary [Lately consecrated as Yakob Mar Theophilus Metropolitan]. Fr. Geevarghese was given a position equivalent to the English Professors from abroad. Many Church fathers graduated and post graduated from Serampore later. Deacon Alexandrios Mattackal, Deacon Mathew Parett [Later consecrated as Mathews Mar Ivanios], Deacon Pathrose Mookkancheril [Later consecrated as Pathros Mar Osthathios] and Dn. Geevarghese Puthencavu [Later consecrated as Geevarghese Mar Philaxenos] were few among them.
About 20 students had enrolled themselves during that period at Serampore. They were housed in a two storied building nearby. Fr. P.T. Geevarghese was as much concerned with the advancement of women as with higher education possibilities for the Malankara youth. He recognized the role of educated women in the progress of the family as well as the society. He expressed his wish to the Principal of the Diocesan College Calcutta, Sr. Mary Victoria. This college was being run by European nuns. The sister-Principal who appreciated this commendable suggestion soon accepted a few young women from Malankara on the College rolls. This opened up possibilities for them to train in the Convent in Barisole, East Calcutta and pursue studies in the English language simultaneously. A few young from Kerala were regularly taken into the Convent by Mother Superior Edith, at the instance of Fr. Geevarghese.
During that time a magnificent project of an educational complex came up at Thirumoolapuram, Thiruvalla with support of Kandathil Varghese Mappilai, a social activist, language scholar and founder editor of Malayala Manorama News Paper. He had the great intention of establishing a girl’s school also. But Varghese Mappilai passed away before his dream was realized. It fell upon Fr. P.T. Geevarghese to take up the unfilled dream and Achen fulfilled his duties very well. Many girls from Central Travancore sent to this school for higher studies and training.
While serving at Serampore College as Professor, a great desire was initiated in the mind of MA Achen to establish an ascetic Ashram in the linage of Indian Rishies but with Christian faith and ideologies. The environment in Bengal during his living there was invigorating and steeped in spiritual fervor to augment his ideologies. In his experimental voyage of learning Indian ascetic tradition, he visited Shantinikethan of Rabindra Nath Tagore. His mind expanded to the horizon of ideas he could gain from Shatni Nikethan. The dress code he designed later for his dream Ashram was very similar to that in Ashram originated by this Bengali Sage Poet. He also visited and studied the way of life and discipline of Sabarmati Ashram of Mahatma Gandhi.
Fr. Geevarghese opened his mind and desire to his Guru, mentor and friend Vattasseril Geevarghese Mar Dianasius Thirumeni and bagged consent and blessings from him. It was in 1917, while he was still in Bengal serving Serampore College; the Monastic order of Imitation of Christ of Bethany was officially established. He wrote his plans in detail to his friends back in Kerala. E. J. John Elenjickal offered him a piece of land admeasuring 1 Acre in Mundan Mala, near to Pampa river bank at Ranni Perinad. Fr. Geevarghese visited the project site during his next vacation and found the place quiet and away from the inhibited area apt for his dream project. Few more Acres of surrounding land also was acquired.
In 1919, MA Achen resigned the job of Serampore College, returned to Kerala and concentrated full time for the Bethany Ashram project. Kalappurackal Yakob Semmassan [Later Jacob Mar Theophilus] and Mattackal Alexander Semmassan [Later Alexios Mar Theodeasios of Quilon Diocese] were directly involved with him for the development of the Ashram. Many rich and poor people of Malankara and outside contributed liberally for the construction of the Ashram. Initially grass-thatched huts were erected with splintered bamboo windows, doors and walls. The dry mud floors were polished with cow dung smear. Ashramites started cultivating the surrounding land planting coconut palm, aracnut palm, mango groves, jackfruits, plantains etc.
Ashramites had to follow a very strict daily routine. Getup with the bell at 5. A.M, followed by morning ablutions and a customary bath. Proceed for Holy Qurbana in the chapel which will conclude by 7 O' Clock. Then it was the time for breakfast and cleaning of Ashram and surroundings till 9.30. Classes in Bible, theology, training for priesthood, lessons of faith and tradition etc. were followed till 12 O' Clock. 12-12.30 was the time for Noon Prayer in the Chapel. 12.30 lunch was served and till 3, Ashramites had time for self study. After the tea, it was time for hard work in the field and all Ashramites irrespective of age or level of order turned to be the farmhands. At 5 O' Clock wash themselves and get ready for vespers. From six to nine it was supper, discussion, debates, newspaper reading, discourses and mild entertainment like jokes, talks etc. At 9 O' Clock Suthara [Bed time Prayer] and allowed to read silently in their rooms. At sharp 10, lights off and perfect silence.
Earthen pots and cups were used for eating and drinking. Food was purely vegetarian with milk and egg served during non-lent period. Diary and poultry were in-house. Palm-leaf umbrellas were used during rainy season and headgear made of palm frond was used while laboring in work field in hot sun. Single mat served for bed. White clothes dipped in saffron were the regular wear. Nobody owned anything except their own dress and sandals. All others were considered common property. There was no distinction between young, old, clergy, laity; all were equal. Material honor or popularity was not a concern for the Ashramites. The ordained ones used to go out for organizing retreats, meditations etc. for the members of the Church in addition to the regular Church Worshipping Services. After well organizing the Bethany Ashram, next step of Fr. Geevarghese was to shape an order for dedicated women. As it was mentioned some where else, he encouraged many women from Kerala to undergo higher education in Calcutta at Diocesan College and College in Barisole run by Oxford Mission of Epiphany of England. It was Accamma, daughter of Advocate E.J. John Elenjickal was the first to enroll in this institution.
Fr. Geevarghese approached Mother Edith of Barisole for starting a spiritual and theological training center in Malankara. However Mother Edith discouraged Fr. Geevarghese but offered to reserve seats in Barisole for girls sponsored from Kerala. Barisole was a small city slightly away from Calcutta and situated on the bank of river Ganges and Brahmaputhra. This was the only non-catholic training college for the training of women to a spiritual order. The first girls who ventured to enroll in Barisole for missionary training were Mariamma daughter of Kuttiyil Kuriakose Achen, Kunjamma a niece of Fr. P.T. Geevarghese and Annamma daughter of Puthenpurackal Philipose. The first girl who offered to join the Sanyasini group of Fr. Geevarghes was Kunjilachi [M.P. Sosamma] of Mookancheril Padinjare Veettil [Family of Pathrose Mar Osthathios Thirumeni]. Kunjilachi was widowed at the age of nine years. As the child marriage was prevailing that time she was married at age of eight years and lived with her husband for few months, then husband expired of typhoid, a killer disease of that time. She refused to get remarried and offered her life for prayer and missionary life.
Subsequently, Fr. Geevarghese started Balikamadom girls school at Thirumoolapuram in the building complex of Kandathil Varghese Mappilai, with the help of two teachers given by the Mother Edith of Barisole. Fr. Geevarghese was giving personal instructions to the school and it being a boarding school, he acted as the local father to every child admitted who lived away from their home and parents.
Being his beloved disciple Vattasseril Thirumeni desired to order Fr. P.T. Geevarghese as a Bishop. Accordingly, on May 1, 1925, P.T. Geevarghese was ordained as a Bishop by H.H. Basalios Geevarghese I, the Second Catholicose of Malankara with Vattasseril Geevarghese Mar Dianasios as co-celebrant at the Niranam Church. The Episcopal title given to Fr. Geevarghese was Geevarghese Mar Ivanios. It was on the next day of the consecration of Vaakathanam Karuchira Geevarghese Mar Philoxenos, Metropolitan of Kottayam Diocese as Second Catholicose Basalios Geevargese I and it was his first consecration ceremony after his ordination. The new Bishop was appointed as the Episcopa of Bethany Monastic order of Imitation of Christ.
With his ecclesiastical authority as Episcopa of Bethany, Mar Ivanios ordained first three nuns to the Bethany Order for women on September 25, 1925, the day of remembrance of St. Mary and his own birthday. This was the first time in the history of Malankara Church to ordain women to the Church Order. The first ordained woman of Malankara was M.P. Sosamma with ordained name Saina who was the sister of Pathros Mar Osthathios Metropolitan.
Mar Ivanios, who was ordained as an Episcopa of Orthodox Church was distinct from other Bishops of the Church. He did not take charge of any diocesan administration. His robe and headgear were of saffron and his crook was made of wood. In 1928 Mar Ivanios was elevated as a Metropolitan and was made independent charge of Bethany Ashram and his aide in Ashram Yakoob Ramban was ordained as an Episcopa with ecclesiastical name of Theophilus. By this time Mar Ivanios started to establish Bethany Churches also across the land. Also he started propagating his ideas for merging with Old guard group of Bent Cross oath, as they too are same flesh and blood of Syrian Christians. He got support from Bishop Kallassery of Syro-Malabar Church and Bishop Aloysius Maria Benziger of Diocese of Kollam Latin Hierarchy. To this effect Mar Ivanios had sent a memorandum to Rome, which proposed a union with Catholic Church preserving the ancient rites and rituals and accepting the supremacy of Holy See of Rome. The Catholic Church took a decision in favor of the memorandum in the Plenary Session of the Sacred Congregation for Oriental Churches on 4th July 1930, accepting the pure Syrian Rite of Antioch, which is distinct from the Syro -Malabar Church whose Rite, is of Syro-Chaldean origin. Mar Ivanios Metropolitan of Bethany and his Suffragan Mar Theophilus, Bishop of Thiruvalla accepted the decision of Holy See together with their followers.
On August 20, 1930 Mar Ivanios bid his farewell to the Bethany Ashram in Mundanmala which he had originated leaving the charge of ashram to Fr. Alexios. Around twenty monks of the Ashram and some orphan children followed him. The new monk team started living in a school at Vennikkulam near Thiruvalla. Further on September 18, Mar Ivanios and Mar Theophilus reached Kollam diocesan center and joined Catholic Church after having made profession of Faith before Msgr. Benziger O.C.D., bishop of Quilon. Now onwards the history of Mar Ivanios entered into another chapter of his life.
On September 21, Mar Ivanios offered Holy Qurbana at the Metropolitan Chapel Kollam, first time as a Catholic Bishop and in the Thubden read in the Holy Qurbana he accepted and acknowledged total allegiance to Pope Pius XI.
In 1932, Mar Ivanios got invitation to participate in 32nd International Congress of Divine Grace in Dublin, Ireland. Also he was invited by many European Universities to talk about Indian Literature, Religion and Philosophy, Indian Political, Cultural and religious history etc. During this visit he lived in Rome also and met Mar Pope many times. Mar Pope Pius XI constituted special Hierarchy with Trivandrum as an Archdiocese and Thiruvalla as a diocese. Mar Ivanios was made the Arch Bishop Metropolitan of the new community with residence at Trivandrum and Mar Theophilus as bishop of Thiruvalla with ecclesiastical province for the reunited Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. As there was no Church in Trivandrum for the inauguration of the new Hierarchy and to solemnize the ordination of the Arch Bishop, a cinema theatre Pompidore in town of Palayam was purchased and converted as a Church and bishop Aloysius Maria Benziger conducted the inauguration. Further he transported the Bethany Ashram and convent to Trivandrum.
Later, the views of Thirumeni was for setting up a higher education institution and seminaries for training the priests. He purchased a large piece of land in Nalanchira hills and established Infant Jesus Minor Seminary in Thiruvalla and St. Aloysius Minor Seminary in Pattom, Trivandrum. Also a number of churches, cemeteries and mission centers were established in different parts of Travancore. A sisterhood named daughters of Mary was established at Marthandom which offered education for unprivileged class of children. Again he purchased land in Pattom on M.C. Road and planned for the Arch diocesan Cathedral Church there and another land in Pattom as the headquarters of the Arch Bishop. He started many more schools and planned to start a college in Nalanachira. To contemplate his visions Mar Ivanios had to fight relentlessly with then Travancore ruler, Sir C.P. Ramaswamy who was a sharp and shrewd administrator and advisor of Sree Chithira Thirunal Maharajah. Very shrewdly he could overcome all oppressive measures at the behest of Sir C.P. His will power and wisdom was capable even to raise question in House of Lords in London about the so-called religious oppression in Travancore, which is a part of India. Two Metropolitans Ouseph Mar Savarios and Mar Dioscoros of the Cananyite joined Mar Ivanios in November 1937 and 1939.
While he was planning for the Nalanchira College, he received invitation to attend the Divine Mercy Congress at Ottawa. The prospects of a proposed lecture tour in various universities in United States of America caused to emerge assuring possibilities. During that visit he got chance to well present himself in the United Nations headquarters in New York. His photographs appeared in many leading news papers in USA and he was exemplified by some papers as the 'The most photographed person of the year'. He also got oppertunity to meet President Truman and hold discussion with him. The severe winter in New York made Thirumeni sick and he was hospitalised. It was during that time India got independence. In spite of his illness, he sent message to the Free India and visited Vijaya Laksmi Pandit in person. He was well honoured in the international conclave and received invitations to many countries.
After returning from USA he established the college in Nalanchira by the name Mar Ivanios College. By the time he was managing around seventy primary schools, five English High Schools, two Malayalam High Schools and five Middle schools under his control. With these credentials and his proposal for distinct new courses, he could easily grab the permissions from the goverment authorities.
With the hard work and struggles, his health was slowly deteriorating. He was infected with nodules in the liver which could not be removed by surgery. The rite of 'Kantheela' was solemnised for Thirumeni by Mar Savarios in the presence of Mar Augustine Kandathil. Fr. Bendict, a Bethany ashramite and Vice-Principal of Mar Ivanios was elevated as Mar Gregorios and installed as his successor. On July 15, 1953 Mar Ivanios left this world for his heavely abode. The mortal remains of Mar Ivanios was entombed at the Cathedral Church at Pattom, Trivandrum.
Mar Ivanios was a man of incessant perseverance and incomparable dynamism. He aimed and served for ascetic perfection. Mar Ivanios was a warrior with phenomenal spiritual strength to fight ignorance by establishing educational institutions as his mission. His contribution towards women's emanicipation through education was indeed unique. He played a vital role for the education of youth as he was convinced that it will enhance social progress and transformation. His commanding stature and prudent decision making made him distinct and rendered the praise from even his ardent enemies.
Most Rev. Geevarghese Mar Ivanios, is declared as 'Servant of God' on July 14, 2007 which marked the 54th Remembrance Day and 125th birth anniversary of the late Archbishop. Major Archbishop of Syro-Malankara Church, Most Rev. Baselios Mar Cleemis had made this annoucement amid the Holy Mass conducted at St Mary’s Cathedral, Pattom, Trivandrum. Declaration of 'Servant of God' is the initial step in the canonization process of beatification to be followed by elevation to the status of 'Venerable' and 'Blessed' before conferring sainthood by Vatican.
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