|FEBRUARY 2006||THOSE WHO LED US||
H.H. Baselios Marthoma Mathews II was the sixth Catholicose of Malankara Orthodox Church and 89th Apostolic Successor of St. Thomas. The life of His Holiness was a well-celebrated one and he lived his life to the full, the richness of which touched the hearts of millions and made an indelible mark on the history of Malankara. Being anointed to His Holy Episcopate by the descent of the Holy Spirit, Mar Basalios guided the Malankara Orthodox Church with diligence of a most devoted shepherd for fifteen years from 1991 to 2006 in his apostolic struggle in the New World.
Mar Basalios was one of the most innate charismatic people, to ever grace, with a never fading smile and features corresponded with the greatness of his soul. With his natural personal sources of charisma came from his disarming smile where the whole face smiled, when his mind smiled. The Metropolitan had earned a special place in the minds of his flock through his total devotion and principled life. He was well respected by religious and community leaders. He mingled very well with young and old, rich and poor, educated and uneducated. His uncompromising attitude in the fundamentals of Church and incessant asceticism, he won the respect of one and all. Reaching to the pinnacle of self-discipline through fasting, penance and meditation coincided with his compassion towards the downtrodden, H.H. Marthoma Mathews became a god-man in all sense.
Marthoma Mathews was born at Puthusserazhikath Puthenveedu in Perinadu near Quilon in the Trikkunnathu Panchyath area on January 30, 1915 to Idiculla and Annamma couple. His paternal root family was Menattil and mother Annamma belonged to Nellikkunnathu Family at Kottarakara. Known by a pet name 'Kochunnoonni', Mathews was the eldest son among the eight children of Idiculla family, five sons and three daughters. Being eldest in the family, Kochunnoonni enjoyed a special respect from his siblings, very near to the paternal respect and affection. The original mother-church of Menattil family was the St. Thomas Church, 6 K.M. away from the residence of Idiculla family. Later a Church was constructed at Perinadu and family of Mathews started their fellowship at this new Church.
As per the prevailed custom of that time, after studying alphabets and minor mathematics from a local Guru, Kochunnoonni joined Inchavilla Kavara North Lower Primary School under the discipleship of Ayyappan Master. Incidentally, Ayyappan Master was the teacher of his father Idiculla also. Most of the friends of Mathews were Hindus and Muslims. Mathews studied upto forth standard in Kavara School. Further Mathews joined Prakulam N.S.S High School for his higher secondary education. Mathews was very fond of reading biographical sketches of Hindu ascetic Sanyasis.
Kochunnoonni used to attend the Bible Class conducted by Ala Achen of Marthoma Church. He found it very hearty and inspirational. During his childhood, it was a time when MoonnamPackal Sadhu Kochoonj Upadeshi was spreading the seed of personal spirituality and relationship with Jesus, with his sermons and songs across the southern zone of Travancore. His spiritual experience and touchy sermons inspired Kochunnooni to become an evangelist. Kochunnooni prayed to this cause and finally knew the call of God and decided to dedicate everything for the Glory of the God.
Parents of Mathews, specifically his father, were not initially in favor of sending him for the priestly service. While Mathews was studying in the High School, the third Catholicos of Malankara, H.H. Basalios Geevarghese Second visited Kundara Seminary, and Mathews got a chance to meet His Holiness very near to him and to kiss his hands. Immediately after seeing the Grace of the Catholicos, Mathews got attracted to Bava and installed him as his role-model in his mind. Mathews was very studious, calm and quite with a great love to God. With the great inspiration he received with memory of his role-model in his mind, Mathews self determined to dedicate himself for the priestly service.
The Perinad Parish people greatly desired to have a local priest from their own parish. With the graceful and holy appearance of Mathews and his devout nature, his parish fellows wished and selected Mathews to get ordained as their local priest. Being Idiculla against this idea, Mathews started praying earnestly for a change of mind of his father. Incidentally, some untoward incidents happened in the family and Idiculla turned flexible, being with an intuition that these misfortunes were due to his opposition for allowing Mathews to be ordained.
One night Mathews had a dream of calling from God similar to the call received by Prophet Samuel. Next day Mathews mentioned about the dream to his cousin Thalavoor Charuvilla John. Understanding the mental status of Mathews, John informed about this incident to their parents and Church fellows. Then diocesan Metropolitan of Quilon, Alexios Mar Theodosious heard about this episode and encouraged the boy for priestly vocation. A group of envoys from the parish informed the Catholicos Mar Geevarghese II who was residing in Kundara Seminary. Bava consulted and took advice from the Manager Father Modisseril Mathews who knew very well that Kochunnonni is a very deserving boy for this vocation. Immediately Bava sent an ecclesiastical letter to father of Mathews to come with Mathews to Seminary. When Idiculla reached the Seminary with his son and met Thirumeni, Bava told as an order to Idiculla, 'I need your son.' Further everything moved fast.
On 17th April 1938, Mathews was ordained to the first stage of deaconate at Kundara Seminary. Thus, Mathews fulfilled his cherished goal which he was nurturing in his mind for a long time. Dn. Mathews set off to Kottayam and joined in M.D. Seminary for his theological studies under the discipleship of Cheriamadathil Skariah Malpan and Karikkott Fr. K.B. Mathews. Malpan liked and loved this young fair and handsome Semmassan and gave him lessons of Syriac. When the M.D. Seminary was closed for a while, Dn. Mathews moved along with other deacons to the petty Basil Seminary at Makkamkunnu, Pathanamthitta established by H.G. Geevarghese Mar Philaxenos. Clerry Daniel [Later H.G. Daniel Mar Philaxenos] was the Principal and Warden of the Seminary. Malpan of the Seminary was V. Rev. Geevarghese Thengumtharayil Cor-Episcopa. Dn. Mathews had his lessons in Bible, Church History, and Theology etc. at this seminary. Deacon Mathews learned Syriac Music from Fr. Yohannan Parakamoottil.
Being at the primitive stage, the Seminary did not have any convenience for the accommodation or class rooms for the deacons. Warden Clerry Daniel was living in an unprovided room on the Veranda of the Aramana. Dn. Mathews and other inmates used to sleep in classrooms of Catholicate School keeping two benches adjacent as their cot. Clerry Daniel was very keen to attend the needs of deacons and he acted as the beloved local guardian of all inmates. Philaxenos Thirumeni was in place of their father in their home away from home. Mar Basalios himself had exposed that the Mantra taught by the Philaxenos Thirumeni, 'I am nothing', was the life force through out his life.
H.G. Geevarghese Mar Philaxenos was much concerned about the impecunious state of the Church in the spiritual field and deficiency of gifted and spiritually inspired preachers of the Word of God. His Grace could foresee a great hope in Dn. Mathews towards this cause. So Thirumeni was used to take along him, the Deacon to the loneliness of the lawn under the shade of a big tree behind the Catholicate College during the evenings. Thirumeni induced him to read a Bible portion after the night prayer, meditate to God to enlighten the inner eyes to perceive the profundity in depth of the Word of God and to ruminate the ideas behind it, on the bed. In the morning, plentifulness of the spiritual ideas will arise in the mind and these ideas are to be well preserved in the brain. Mar Basalios confessed himself during later years that as he pursued this advice of his Guru, he never had any dearth of commentary and interpretation of the Words of God, throughout his life.
After completing theological training in the Basil Dayara, Dn. Mathews returned to the Catholicose Mar Basalios Geevarghese. Catholicose found him ripe for the priestly service and ordained him as full deacon at Pandalam Pongaladi Church and further in 1939 ordained Dn. Mathews as a priest at the Old Seminary, Kottayam. With his intense desire to acquire the heights of theological knowledge, Fr. Mathews did not intend to limit his service for his home parish as a vicar. Mar Philaxenos was a student and inmate of Bishop's College in Serampore, Calcutta as a deacon while Fr. P.T. Geevarghese of Malankara Church was serving as a Professor of that College and His Grace used to attend the yearly convocation of the college on the later years. During that year, Thirumeni returned after the convocation with the great news that one seat in the college is reserved for the Malankara Orthodox Church. Thirumeni did not have to think twice to choose Fr. Mathews and seek consent from the Catholicose to sponsor him to Bishop's College for theological higher education. Accordingly Fr. Mathews proceeded to Serampore in Calcutta.
Fr. Mathews was a model student of the Serampore College. Though the college had a protestant atmosphere, Fr. Mathews was very strict and punctual to observe prayer and fasting as he used to do in Kerala. In addition to the Christian theological lessons, Father acquired keen knowledge in Bhagavalgeetha, Quran, Upanishad and various other Vedic literatures. In addition, he could acquaint with many world renowned scholars of theological field. His acquaintance with Fr. Robins of Cambridge Mission House was a big blessing for Fr. Mathews. Robins had a Church in Delhi. With his friendship with Fr. Robins, he could get permission to use his Church in Delhi to celebrate Holy Qurbana according to the Malankara tradition. Later, Fr. Robins became Bishop of a Protestant Church. Also his contacts with Fr. Shore, Fr. Macbeth, Fr. Douglas etc. broadened his vision of ascetic life. Once Fr. Mathews returned from Calcutta after his graduation, the Principal Fr. P.C. Canon had written an appraising letter to Catholicose mentioning Fr. Mathews was a great inspiration to the College both to the staff and to the students.
After accomplishing his higher studies in Calcutta, Fr. Mathews became a dear personality in Malankara. His diocesan Metropolitan and Bethany Ashram Superior Alexios Mar Theodasios desired that Fr. Mathews should join the Bethany Ashram. By this time, Mar Philaxenos envisaged a Dayara at Othara to train deacons. Mar Basalios Geevarghese Bava appointed Fr. Mathews for the service of strengthening the new Othara Dayara. Accordingly, Fr. Mathews proceeded to his designated new pasture at Othara without even seeing or knowing about the condition of Dayara in advance. At that time, the Othara Dayara was administered with out any central or institutional monetary aid from the Church. It was a small establishment with a three bed room and a kitchen building and an attached small chapel accommodated in 1 Acre 13 Cents land. There was no source of constant income for the Dayara and day to day expenses were met with petty local donations. His mentor and originator of the Dayara, Mar Philexenos also was under severe monetary paucity and lived in a small cottage on the bank of Pothael pond at Chengannoor, even without a cook. This Pothael was later turned as the Bethel Aramana.
Fr. Mathews was struggling very much to meet even the daily food expenditure of the inmates of the Dayara. Virtually he and the inmates were starving in the Dayara. The staple food of the inmates was Bajara and jack fruits grown in their own compound. Rice was a luxury and rare festival feast for the inmates. Many inmates returned to their home due to this starving state of affair of the Dayara. However, Fr. Mathews was very reluctant to expose the scenario to his Guru or any Church authorities. After a while, when Fr. Mathews visited Mar Philaxenos, he was seen turned very thin and swollen due to lack of nutrition. Thirumeni was very upset with the figure of this young priest. Hearing about the new Dayara, many priests and laymen including Fr. K.C. Thomas [Later H.G. Thomas Mar Makarios] started visiting Dayara and they had to satisfy with normal cooked jack fruit and small fish curry lunch of the inmates during noon. While, once, K.C. Mammen Mappila and Elanjickal John Jacob visited Dayara during a noon time, Fr. Mathews was embarrassed to serve them the normal lunch of the inmates. With a quick make-shift arrangement, rice appeared on the dining table. While seeing water stained rice in the plate, the guests could easily make out that it was sudden turnout from Kanji to water drained dry rice. Knowing this pathetic situation of the Dayara, John Philipose arranged to collect paddy from the farmers of Kuttatanadan area after harvest for the inmates of Othara Dayara. Hence forth the Deacons of the Dayara personally used to go and bring this collected paddy from the western provinces of Kerala during the harvest season. By this time a trusted layman, one Pappachen of Mangalam also joined Dayara and helped the inmates for cooking and cleaning. Later Pappachen became the driver and constant associate of Mar Coorilose Thirumeni [Fr. Mathews].
With the enormous theological knowledge gained by Fr. Mathews and with the maturity attained at Othara Dayara, Bava appointed Fr. Mathews to teach in the Old Seminary along with the charge of the Dayara. Augen Mar Timotheos was the Principal of the Seminary during that time. Fr. Mathews used to walk early in the morning to Kallooppara and go by bus to Kottayam and in the evening by bus to Kallooppara and walked back to Othara. This became a daily routine of Fr. Mathews. However, he enjoyed to teach in the Seminary as it was a great opportunity for him to distribute the knowledge he gained in Serampore to the students. H.G. Thomas Mar Makarios was a student of Fr. Mathews in the Seminary, that time. Very incomprehensible theological ideas, Fr. Mathews explained to his students in simple words and common parables.
Service of Fr. Mathews was not restrained to the Seminary and Dayara. He started to travel throughout Malankara conducting retreats and inspiring the faithful in their spiritual experience. His spiritually stimulating divine voice started echoing in Churches, convention halls, youth and student conferences, womenís associations etc. in the east to west and north to south across Malankara. He spoke in simple words and with parables and paradigms of our own surroundings which pierced deep to the mind of the listeners. He used to well prepare in advance even to address small gatherings. Also, he was too emotional and enthusiastic to share his spiritual thoughts with his audience.
While he was a priest, Fr. Mathews served the parishes at Perinadu, Mangalam, Madras, Calcutta and Delhi as vicars. Very beloved Fr. E. Mathews was known as Angel Achen throughout Malankara. On May 17, 1951, Malankara Association held at M.D. Seminary decided to nominate three priests towards His Episcopate: Vattakkunnel Fr. P.K. Mathews, Vaduthala Fr. E. Daniel and Fr. E. Mathews of Othara Dayara. Though Fr. Mathews was bit reluctant to get ordained as a Bishop along with his Guru Fr. E. Daniel, eventually he submitted himself to the will of God. On September 21, 1951 Fr. Mathews was elevated as a Ramban at Old Seminary Kottayam by Mar Basalios Geevarghese II.
On May 15, 1953 Ramban Mathews was consecrated as Bishop with ecclesiastical title Mathews Mar Coorilos at Elia Chappel, Kottayam. Along with him four other Rambans were also consecrated as Bishop. Vattakkunnel P.K. Mathews Ramban as Mathews Mar Athanasios [Later fifth Catholicos Basalios Mar Thoma Mathews I], Vaduthala E. Daniel Ramban as Daniel Mar Philaxenos, Parott Mathews Ramban as Mathews Mar Ivanios and Mookancheril Pathros Ramban as Pathros Mar Osthathios. The third Catholicos Basalios Geevarghese II celebrated the ordination ceremenony. Mathews Mar Coorilose was at age of 38 years at the time when he was ordained as a bishop. The new Metropolitan was appointed as Asst. Metropolitan to Alexios Mar Theodeosios at Quilon diocese
Though the diocese had more than 100 parishes, most of them were financially stricken and worshipped in thatched sheds. Also many of the Churches were in hilly areas with unprovided approach road. Thirumeni liked to visit each parish and get acquainted with all members of the parishes personally. As it was difficult to run around the diocese without a car, the ex-inmates of Othara Dayara formed an association and 100 members took Rs. 100 each and bought an Austin Car for him. Later when Mar Theodeosius expired Mar Coorilose became the full Metropolitan of Quilon diocese. After his consecration as a Metropolitan he served the Church in many capacities. He was also nominated as the president of All Malankara Youth movement. From 1958 onwards he started publishing the 'Orthodox Youth' magazine from Kundara. He had ready organized a women wing 'Martha Mariam Samajam' all over the diocese.
Coorilose Thirumeni was instrumental for regular worshipping service and origination of two diocese of Malankara: Delhi and USA. During the early days celebration of Holy Eucharist in Delhi was conducted on availability of any visiting priest. From 1942 onwards, some regularity came to be introduced by Fr. Mathews by conducting Holy Qurbana twice a month as he traveled regularly from Serampore College to Delhi, when he was a student there and conducted Holy Qurbana at his friend Fr. Robin's Church in Delhi. The worshipping story of the diocese of USA is also inspiring and fulfilling. The history of the Orthodox congregation in USA began to unfold from 1960s. Mathews Mar Coolrilos Thirumeni was studying in the Union Theological Seminary, New York, during that time. The services started with a humble beginning in the worshipping congregation headed by the saintly bishop Mathews Mar Coorilose at Union Theological Seminary. Both these two seeds had now grown up as mighty big trees and as two great pillars of Orthodox Church: Delhi Diocese with its magnificent Orthodox Church Centre and diocese of North America and its offshoots of Canada, Europe etc.
Thirumeni was a great visionary in the field of social and educational services. He had a great vision that rendering higher education for the children can create a cultured and refined society. As a first step, he established the first school in the diocese, St. Thomas School at Kadampanad. Later, three other schools were started: UPS at Kottarakkara, LPS at Adoor and H.S. at Mangad. Further many unaided schools were started in the diocese. As per great desire of Thirumeni, a college of was also established at Kottarakkara.
Thirumeni believed that moral strength of the church and its manifold services depend upon a dedicated band of Sanyasins who live for poor and he could give a new lead of spiritual life to the monastic movements of the church. He architected many Ashrams across Malankara and outside. Mathews Mar Coorilose founded the Bethlehem Ashram, in Chengamanad in 1960. The priests of the ashram in Chengamanad are engaged in the activities related to St.Gregorios College, Kottarakara, B. Ed College, Chengamanad I.T.C, and School and in discharging the responsibilities of the different parishes of the Kollam - Thiruvanthapuam dioceses. Kuttikonam Bethel Ashram, Kottarakara Mount Ashram, Pattazhi Calvary Ashram,Chengamanad I.T.C, St. Gregorios College, Kottarakara, B. Ed College and Baselios School, Kottapuram are the different institutions attached to the Ashram. St. Thomas home for Chidren at Sasthamkotta was started by Mar Coorilose in 1983 for the refuge of poor and orphan children and their education.
Sasthamkotta Mount Horeb Ashram and Bible College was established with aim of social and educational activities, ascetic life training, spiritual confederations etc. Short course of one-month faith and bible class are conduced very efficiently here. Eventually this Ashram had turned out as his eternal resting place for his mortals as per his special wish. St. George Mount ashram was started in Chayalode on March 2,1968. Leadership is here being given for spiritual - social- educational activities. The Chayalode St. Goerge High School  and U.P School  are owned by the Ashram. In 1976, Mar Coorilose founded the Bethel Ashram in Kuttikonam as a branch of Bethelehem Ashram in Chengamanad. Later St. Gregorios English Medium L.P.School and Malayalam Medium U.P School were started and got associated with this Ashram. Calvary Ashram in Pattazhi was started in 1976 with objectives of social and educational activities, training the inmates in monastic life and spiritual discipline. In 1978 Metropolitan founded St. Thomas Ashram in Sooranad. Mar Coorilose founded in 1978 the Mount Carmel Ashram in East Kallada in order to set up educational institutions in the name of Mar Elia, the prophet. In 1978, adjacent to the ashram an I.T.C and in 1982 an English Medium School was started.
On May 1, 1980, the Malankara Association elected Mathews Mar Coorilose as the successor to the throne of Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan. Due to ill health, the fifth Catholicos abdicated his position as Catholicos and Malankara Metropolitan on April 27, 1991. Consecutively, the Catholiose designate Mathews Mar Coorilose was consecrated as the Sixth Catholicos with title Basalios Marthoma Mathews II on April 29, 1991 at Parumala Seminary Church. Dr. Philipose Mar Theophilus was the chief celebrant of the consecration ceremony. Thus, eventually the apple of eye to each Malankarite, Angel Achen, became sixth Catholocos of Malankara and all the East. After being the prelate of Orthodox Church for 16 years Marthoma Mathews 1 expired on November 8, 1996 at the age of 90 years. Mar Basalios II was very keen for attending to his sick predecessor. Basalios I Bava who was sick on his bed for 7 years, three days before his death, handed over all the documents of the church to his successor Basalios II.
The sixth Catholicos Mar Basalios II is identified as the first Catholicos of the modern age. However, he was on a thorny bed ever since he was consecrated as the prelate. However he faced all the problems with calmness, confidence, prayer and with full confidence in God with a full smile on face and heart always till he breathed his last. On the very next day of consecration as the Catholicos, he ordained five Bishops for Malankara Orthodox Church. On March 26, 1995 the new Catholicos has done the Mooron consecration.
As seen earlier, he was the chief architect of the development and growth of many educational institutions, charitable homes, seminaries etc. from the time he was a Metropolitan. Sasthamkotta Bible College and St. Thomas Orthodox Theological Seminary, Nagpur were founded in addition to the growth of his favorite Othara Dayara for the education and training of the future priests of the church. Orthodox Theological Seminary was established in Bhilai in 1995. Two engineering colleges were started one at Peerumed and another at Sasthamkotta. The engineering college at Sasathamkotta is named after him as Baselios Mathew II College of Engineering. The Bilai Engineering College also had taken its shape during the tenure of sixth Catholicos. Basalios Marthoma Mathews II also started many other charitable institutions. Mar Basalios Mathews II Snehabhavan Kottarakkara was originated for deaf and dump children and their education. He initiated several programmes to facilitate aid to the poor for building houses, employment opportunities and also launched a group marriage programme for conducting marriages of those girls who hail from economically backward homes. Establishment of Mar Theodesius Hospital at Sasthamkotta, elevating the Kolenchery Medical Mission Hospital into a Medical College, development of hospitals in Kangazha and Parumala, establishment of Civil Services Academy in Thiruvananthapuram etc. also goes to the credit of the sixth Catholicos.
St. Gregorios of Parumala built the Old St. Pauls and St. Peter Parumala church in the pattern of the Jerusalem Church in 1895. The old church was demolished and Basalios II built a modern Parumala church with design of world famous Architect Charles Korea.
During his tenure as the prelate of the Malankara Orthodox Church, Mar Basalios II maintained a very harmonious relation with other Christian denominations and other religious sects of Kerala. Mar Basalios was very keen and enthusiastic for promoting the ecumenical movements in India ever since its inception in 1979. He was one among the founders of the Ecumenical Movement in Kerala. Official ecumenical dialogue with Roman Catholic Church was commenced from 1989. The whole church under his leadership was always well associating with the Christian Orient and its projects. He advocated for complete liquor prohibition and strongly believed that liquor is the cause for ruin of many families in Kerala.
Mar Basalios played a key role in amicably resolving the Nilackal issue, which could have snowballed into a major communal problem in the State. He was the President of Ecumenical Committee and Chairman of Nilackal Ecumenical Church Committee, which is the symbol of unity among various Churches in the State. Consequently, he had taken upon himself the mission of spreading the message of love and generosity. He displayed his great leadership quality on this and several other occasions. He always stood for peace in the Church and made many sacrifices to achieve peace. An Ecumenical Priests Gathering was formulated as an offshoot of the Nilackal Ecumenical Trust in which priests of most of the church denominations from the Central and South Kerala actively participated. The Christian Orient theologically supported all the ecumenical endeavors with the Councilís vision on ecumenism.
Mar Basalios also met with various world religious heads, including the then Pope. He was a very widely traveled religious head who visited the Middle Eastern Countries, Europe and United States of America many times. On his visits the state's heads paid him due respect and admiration. On April 9 1995, the Catholicos participated the consecration of Armenian Supreme Catholicos at Echmiodos.
Navathy celebrations of the sixth Catholicos were celebrated and on the culmination of the yearlong fete, on his 91st birthday he was accorded a rousing reception at the Kannamkode Church, Adoor. The Hon. Chief Minister of Kerala, Mr. Oommen Chandy, Water Resources Minister, Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, Food and Civil Supplies Minister, Adoor Prakash, M.P [Later Central Minister] Vayalar Ravi and many other political, social and religious dignitaries were present during the occasion which was a clear mark of the influence and honor of Thirumeni in various circles.
Due to ill health, the sixth Catholicos abdicated the position as the Supreme Head of the Church on 25th Oct. 2005 and lived a rest life at Devalokam Aramana, Kottayam. He had the great fortune to attend the enthronement of his successor His Holiness Baselios Marthoma Didimos I and H.H. graciously handed over his staff to Mar Didimos on 29th Oct. 2005.
His Holiness departed for heavenly abode on Thursday the 26th of January 2006, at the Devalokam Aramana, Kottayam at the age of 91 years. The mortal remains were carried to Mount Horeb Asram Chapel in Sasathaamkotta and interred there on January 30, 2006.
Mar Basalios was the symbol and apostle of love, peace, godliness and universal brotherhood with a great leadership quality. He respected and cared for the rich and poor. He mingled with young and old and all kind of people. His personal relationships even with the poorest of poor were well known. He was not mere a father of Orthodox believers, he was loving father of all the people of Kerala who lives in and out of Kerala and to all who he met during his long life. During the tenure of the sixth Catholicos Basalios Marthoma Mathews II the church had grown to a universal Church with four and half million members all over the world in 22 Dioceses, 1395 Parishes, 205 Chapels.
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