H.H. Basalios Mar Thoma Mathews I succeeded Moran Mar Basalios Augen I as the fifth Catholicos and Malankara Metropolitan of the Malankara Orthodox Church. He was elected as the successor of Mar Augen Catholicos by the Malankara Association held at M.D.Seminary, Kottayam on 31 December 1970. Though it was not a tradition in Malankara that the prelate get retired from the position of Catholicos, it was the first time in the history of the Malanakara Orthodox Church that due to ill health, the fourth Catholicos, Basalios Mar Augen, had relinquished, with his full will, the position of Catholicos and Malankara Metropolitan and his successor was consecrated during his life time.

Catholicos Basalios Mar Thoma Mathews-I was born as the ninth child out of ten children of Vattakkunnel Cheriyan Kurien Kathanar and Mariam who was the elder daughter of Ollassa Pulikkaparampil Itty Iype, on March 27, 1907 and the child was affectionately known by his pet-name, Kuttachen. Kuttachen was baptized at North Mannoor Church on May 27, 1907 with baptismal name Mathews. Famous Advocate V.K. Cheriyan, Bank Official V.K. Joseph, Sub Registrar V.K. Kurien were his brothers. His father, Fr. Cheriyan Kurien, was Vicar of three Parishes at a time with full acceptance and admiration of all members of all the three Parishes. V.K. Mathews joined M.D. Seminary School, Kottayam for his preliminary education and further studied Intermediate in C. M.S College, Kottayam. During his school days, Kuttachen was a very good sportsman especially in football and tennis. His family people, especially his brother V.K. Cheriyan, wished to send Mathews for medicine to become a doctor. However the circumstances made that hope to fail and eventually got graduated from the Science College, Trivandrum [B.A.] at the age of 21.

Further, Mathews learned Syriac at Manganam Ebenezer Dayara under discipleship of Cheriyamadthil Malpan. At that time B.D. Course was newly started at the Bishop's College in Calcutta. Vattasseril Geevarghese Mar Dianasius sponsored V.K. Mathews for B.D. Course in Bishop's College in Calcutta under the eminent discipleship of Bishop Herat Pakenham Walsh . Mathews acquired B.D. Degree in 1936 from there and returned to Kerala. His family people wished that Mathews should get married and then get ordained as a priest. However as per the divine call, Mathews decided himself to live an ascetic life doing the ministry of the Lord.

With an immense erudition accumulated in Mathews, he had mastered Canon Laws of the Church and religion. With his in-depth knowledge in language and religious faith matters, V.K. Mathews was instructed to teach Syriac, Worship Service Procedures, Church History, canon law etc. in Old Seminary, Kottayam. Even as a laity, he could achieve a unique distinction as a Scholar of faith matters and he continued to teach in the Seminary from 1937-1940. With his hard working lifestyle and with his intense fervency to the Church, he became a favorite of Catholicos Basalios Geevarghese II. In appreciation of his brilliance in the Canon Laws, Geevarghese II Catholicos had gifted a golden ring to Mathews.

While V.K. Mathews was teaching in the Theological Seminary, the Seminary was housed in a temporary shed attached to a thatched old house. The two permanent teachers of that time V. K. Mathews and Deacon Philipose [Later Philpose Mar Theophilus Metropolitan] saved money renouncing their salary from the Seminary and they were used to go for collection house to house in the evening after the evening prayer. With the fund they could raise this way, a new building was constructed for the Seminary.

In 1942, as per the recommendations of Geevarghese Mar Philaxenos [Puthenkavu], Diocesian Metropolitan of Thumpamon Diocese and A. M. Varkey, Principal of U.C. College, Catholicos Geevarghese II had nominated V.K.Mathews as a member of the Church Working Committee and was given charge of Church buildings and worship.

On August 18, 1945 Mathews was ordained to first order of Deacon at the age of 39 and as full deacon on the next day by Geevarghese II Catholicos at Old Seminary Chapel. On October 27,1946 Mar Geevarghese II ordained Dn. Mathews as priest in the presence of Augen Mar Timotheos at his home Parish, Manarkadu Marthamarium Church. As a token of the affection with the newly ordained Fr. V.K.Mathew, the chief celebrant of the ordination, Bava had gifted him a set of Chalice and Paten, which are the Holy Mass Utensils. Fr. Mathews was the 28th clergy in the Vattakkunnel family.

On June 27, 1948 Fr. V.K. Mathews was appointed as Vicar of Karappuzha Mar Gregorios Chapel by Mar Gregorios Metropolitan of Kottayam Diocese. On April 15, 1948 he was appointed as Vicar of Kottayam Cheriyapally, Puthen Pally and Kurissupally. Also Fr. Mathews was appointed in-charge of the spiritual revival programs in the Church. He became member of the Church Publications, Malankara Sabha Magazine and Church Weekly.

In 1951, Fr. Mathews was nominated to be ordained as a Bishop along with Fr. P.E. Daniel and on September 21, 1951 both were elevated as Rambans. Many times, during the crisis situations, Mathews Rambachen's timely actions rejuvenated the spirit of the Church. His courage and faith had strengthened morale of his followers and the entire Church. These timely actions enlightened and awakened the entire Church during her difficult scenarios. On May 15, 1953 Ramban Mathews was consecrated as a Bishop with title Mathews Mar Athanasius by Catholicos Geevarghese II, at Elia Cathredral, along with Mookancheril M.P.Pathros Ramban [Pathrose Mar Osthathios], M.P. Mathew Ramban [Mathews Mar Ivanios], Fr. V.K.Mathew [Mathews Mar Coorilos - Later Basalios Mar Thoma Mathews II, Sixth Catholicos] and Fr. P.E. Daniel [Daniel Mar Philoxenos].

In 1951, Metropolitan Mathews Mar Athanasius was appointed as the Principal of the Orthodox Theological Seminary, Kottayam. He was involved with the Seminary as a teacher, administrator, Principal etc. at his various order of Laity, Deacon, Priest, Ramban and Metropolitan from 1935 to 1966, for a long span of 32 years. In addition to the responsibilities of the Seminary, he was holding the charge of Catholicate Office, Vice Presidentship of the Church Action committe, Presidentship of Management Board of all Corporate Schools of the Church, Presidentship of the Special Committe appointed for Catholicate College Pathanamthitta etc.

In 1958, Mar Athanasius visited Singapore and Malaysia and consecrated the Church in Kola Lumpur. In 1959, he was given the charge of Diocesan Metropolitan of the Outside-Kerala Diocese. The period, over which Mar Athanasius was in charge of this diocese, it was an age of a big growth of the horizon of the Church extended outside Malankara with 150 Churches around the globe. In 1973, Mathews Mar Athanasius along with Daniel Mar Philaxenos of Thumpamon Diocese visited Russian Orthodox Church, as delegates from Malankara Orthodox Church, during the consecration ceremony of Russian Patriarch, Mar Alexios.

The Malankara Association held on Dec. 30, 1970 nominated Mathews Mar Athanasius as the Catholicate designate to succeed Mar Augen Catholicos. Due to ill health, Mar Basalios Augen Catholicos expressed his desire to retire from the position of the prelate of the Church and wished to see his Successor being consecrated while he is alive. As per his desire and with his full willingness, Mar Augen was allowed by the Church to relinquish his position as Catholicos on October 26, 1975. Subsequently Dr. Mathews Mar Athanasius was consecrated as the fifth Catholicos of the Malankara Orthodox Church with title as Basalios Mar Thoma Mathews I. The consecration ceremony was held at Old Seminary Premises, Kottayam on October 27, 1975. Chief celebrant of the ceremony was Daniel Mar Philaxenos of Thumpamon Diocese assisted by Mathews Mar Coorilos, Philipose Mar Theophilus, Yuhanon Mar Savarios, Thomas Mar Thimotheos, Geevarghese Mar Osthatheos and Paulose Mar Gregorios. The consecration ceremony was blessed by the presence of Bishops from the Sister-Churches in Malankara; Tiruvalla Bishop Zacharias Mar Athanasius, Paulose Mar Philaxenos of Thozhiyur Edavaka, CSI Bishops T.S. Joseph and M.M. John etc., dignitaries of the state and society and a huge crowd of Church believers and public. After the consecration, the new Catholicos visited retired Catholicos Mar Augen and took over the Charge.

Mar Basalios Augen expired on December 8, 1975 and Mar Basalios Mar Thoma Mathews I took over the full responsibility of the Church as Catholicos and Malankara Metropolitan. Mar Basalios Mathews I shepherded the Church for 16 years till he retired in 1991. The tenure of the fifth Catholicos was a golden age for the Church specifically for its administrative reforms. There was tremendous progress for the Student's movement in the Church and for the Spiritual nourishment and educational enlightenment, a study program for elders in the Church by name Divyabhodhanam was introduced and patronaged by eminent theological academicians of the Theological Seminary.

The fifth Catholicos maintained a healthy and cordial ecumenical relationship with other Churches and with the secular society. As the Catholicos of the East, he had visited Europe and received the Order of Vladimir award of the Russian Orthodx Church. In turn, Russian Patriarch Mar Pamman visited Malankara in February 1977. During 1983, Catholicos visited Pope Mar John Paul II at Vatican and invited Pope to Malankara. Subsequently Pope visited Malankara and met the Catholicos at Elia Chapel, Kottayam on February 8, 1985. In 1982, Zail Singh, then President of India visited Kottayam to inaugurate the Sapthathi [70th Birthday] of the Catholicos. Many other Church dignitaries from many countries participated the functions. Georgian Church honored Catholicos with Order of St. George. Dr. Paulose Mar Gregorios was appointed as the President of the World Council of Churches during this period, which led to an active participation of the Malankara Church in ecumenical relations with other world Churches. Catholicos was very keen to keep the good relationships and spiritual sharing with other churches in the homeland. Metropolitan Geevarghese Mar Osthathios was appointed as the Kerala Christian Council, which coordinate the ecumenical relations with Catholic, Marthoma and CSI Churches.

Malankara Church had extended its hands of Charity whenever needs arose in the country. Special mention needed for the timely help sent to the victims of the cyclone in Andra Pradesh where thousands of people lost their houses in the calamity in 1978.

During the tenure of the fifth Catholicos, many new dioceses were introduced for better administration of the Church. Two Mooron Consecration were held on April 1, 1977 at Kottayam Old Seminary and on March 25, 1988 at Devalokam Aramana Chapel. Two Bishop Consecration ceremonies were held in 1978 and 1985 and ordained ten Bishops By Mar Mathews I. The new Bishops ordained by him are:

Ordination Ceremony on May 15, 1978 at Pazhanji St.Mary's Church:

  1. Yakob Mar Polycarpose

  2. Zachariah Mar Divanasios

  3. Geevarghese Mar Diascoros

  4. Mathews Mar Barnabas

  5. Yuhanon Mar Athanasius.

Ordination Ceremony on May 15, 1985 at Mavelikkara Puthiyakavu Church:

  1. Mathews mar Epippaneos

  2. Philipose Mar Eusabius

  3. Thomas Mar Athanasius

  4. Geevarghese Mar Ivanios

  5. Poulose Mar Milithios

The contributions of Basalios Mar Thoma Mathews I at his different ordained stages in the literary Liturgical publications were tremendous. As exemplified by Church History auther and his biographer Shri. K.V. Mammen, fifth Catholicos was a Bar Ebraya [A Jacobite Syrian bishop, philosopher, poet, grammarian, physician, Biblical commentator, historian, and theologian] of the Malankara Church for his great encyclopedic works in the Liturgy of the Eucharist and Prayer Lyrics. Wednesday Prayers, Second Part of the Qurbanakramam, Good Friday Worship Service, etc. were compiled with the help of the Church poet Vennikkulam C. P. Chandy. In 1966, Kurbanakramam and Daily Prayers for the Children were published in English language for those who live outside Kerala. He had the unique distinction as the the first metropolitan who consecrated Holy Qurbana in English. The full year sermons, which he had written according to the Church Calender, so far, have not been published.

Due to ill health, Mar Mathews I relinquished the position of Catholicos on April 27, 1991. On November 8, 1996 Mar Basalios Mar Thoma Mathews I expired and joined His flock for the heavenly abode at the age of 90. His body was laid to rest in Develokam Aramana.


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