http://SaintGregorios.org

BIOGRAPHY

died on  27th April AD 1681;  entombed at the St. Thomas Church North Paravur, INDIA


 

Photo published by St. Thomas Church, North Paravur

St. Gregorios Abdul’ Galeel, the Syrian Orthodox Metropolitan of Jerusalem who came to India in AD.1665 on the request of the Malankara Church to reinstate the Holy Apostolic faith here, is remembered by the local Syrian Christian community with great veneration. It was his untiring efforts that helped to revive the ancient faith and traditions of the Malankara Syrian Christian Church.

His Holiness was born in the city of Mosul in Iraq.  In AD.1654 he was ordained Metropolitan by name 'Thimotheos' for the Omid diocese (Ameed/Diyarbaker) in Turkey by the Patriarch of Antioch Mor Ignatius She'mun. After ten years, the Patriarch elevated him as the Archbishop for the Syrian Orthodox Archdiocese of Jerusalem. In view of the historical importance of the city of Jerusalem in the Christian Church, the Metropolitan residing here was often referred as the 5th Patriarch in the Syrian Orthodox Church. 'Mor Gregorios' was the honorable title entrusted to this Jerusalem Patriarch who was within the spiritual supremacy of the Holy Patriarchal See of Antioch. Thus from his assumption as the Metropolitan of Jerusalem diocese,  Mor Timotheos came to be known as 'Mor Gregorios'.  

During the 16th and 17th Centuries, Malankara Jacobite Syrian Church was subjected to different kinds of religious persecution and suppression from external forces. In that period, first the Nestorians through their emissaries, and later the Catholic Church with the help of Portuguese, established their foothold in Malankara. In 1653, Patriarch Mor Ahatullah who was on his way to Malankara was murdered by the Portuguese navy and drowned in the Arabian Sea. The desperate Malankara church leadership appealed to the Patriarchate for immediate help. To discuss about the serious situation, the Patriarch of Antioch summoned an Episcopal Synod and decided to send his delegate to protect the interests of the Syrian church in Malankara. The mission was boldly undertaken by Archbishop Mor Gregorios Abdul' Jaleel Bava. During his journey he had to encounter many hardships, ultimately he landed near Ponnani, then an important port in north Kerala, in 1665. Bava was fully conscious of the situations prevailing in Malankara and was prepared to face any untoward instances. He stayed there in disguise until some parishioners of the St. Thomas Church, North Paravur visited the place to whom he revealed his identity. They took him to their church and informed others. Thomas Arkadiyokan (the one who was giving leadership to the Malankara church) and others rushed to place, all were very happy to see the delegate from the Apostolic See. Soon after, Mor Gregorios Bava ordained Thomas Arkadiyokan as bishop in the name 'Marthoma I'. With this single act, the holy father reestablished the Malankara-Antioch relationship which was cut off during some time. Later both these bishops jointly travelled the length and breath of Kerala, visiting various Churches and preached to the people and revived the spiritual traditions and faith of the Syriac Christians. In 1670 Mor Gregorios and Marthoma the first, together ordained Marthoma the second. But for His Holiness timely action, the Malankara Church in its present form should not have been in existence. As he was responsible for the re-establishment of Jacobite (Orthodox) faith, Mor Gregorios is known as "Yakub Burdana" of Malankara. Due to the abound love and respect showered on Him by the faithful of the St. Thomas Jacobite Syrian Church, North Paravur, the holy father stayed on for about 7 years there. On 27th April, 1681 A.D. (M.E. 857 Medom 14th, Friday), His Holiness was called to eternal rest and entombed in the North Paravur Church. The sacred tomb of the saintly father has subsequently became a Holy Place for the Syrian Christians.

Thousands of Pilgrims visit the tomb every year seeking his intercession. On April 9, 2000, the supreme head of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch & all the East, H.H the Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I, through an historical bull, permitted to recite the Quqalya hymns and prayers of the Zadeeqo (saints) at the tomb of Mor Gregorios Abdel`Jaleel Bava and beseech his intercession.      12

For a proper understanding of the events that led to the arrival of Mor Gregorios in Malankara, a brief history of the Malankara Church of the 17th century is included in this page. Also a special emphasize is given on the life histories of 'MarThoma I' (the first known native Metropolitan of the Syrian Church) & Anjilimottil Itty Thommen Kathanar who led the Malankara church in that difficult era of religious persecutions, and the historic 'Koonan Kurishu Oath'  of AD 1653. 

 

I.      History of the Malankara Church prior to the arrival of Mor Gregorios Bava

II.    Arrival of Mor Gregorios Bava in Malankara & the revival of the Orthodox faith

III.   St. Thomas church at North Paravur

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{I}.  Malankara Church in the 17th century

   the historic 'Koonen Kurissu Oath'

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From the days of  the Synod of Diamper (Udayamperoor), which was convened by a Roman Catholic Archbishop Alexis De Menezes in AD 1599, the Jesuits with the support of Portuguese military power were forcefully transforming the Christians of Malankara into their (Roman Catholic) fold.  As the situation became intolerable, the MarThoma Christians (Syrian Christians of Malankara) send several representations to the prelates of their mother Church in the Middle East.   

Hearing about the severe persecutions suffered by the Church in India, Mor Ignatius Ahatulla, the Jacobite Patriarch1 of Antioch, set out to reach his flock in Malankara. But as soon as Mor Ahattula Bava reached Surat in North India, the Portuguese imprisoned His Holiness and was taken to Madras.  Later on their way to Goa, reached the Portuguese fort at Cochin.  Receiving the information about their arrival at Mattancherry, Anjilimoottil Itty Thommen Kathanar, a Priest from the Knanaya community who was one of the leading figures in the Malankara Church, went to the Raja of Cochin and requested his help for the release of their Prelate.  Though the King initially appealed for the Syrian Christians, he later turned back at their request under pressure from the Portuguese.  When the Syrian Christians found it impossible to convince either the Raja of Cochin or the Portuguese, they gathered together under the leadership of  Itty Thommen Kathanar and went directly to the Portuguese Military headquarters at Cochin Fort to release their Patriarch by any means.  Several of those who rushed to Mattancherry were  the parishioners of the St. George Jacobite Syrian Church at Karingachira and nearby areas.

1.  Though most of the historical records proves that Mor Ignatius Ahattulla (Hidayatulla) was a Jacobite Patriarch of Antioch, some modern-day writers who defected from the Syrian Orthodox Church in the last century, claims that the holy father was either a Nestorian or a Coptic Church representative. But for many centuries, the Malankara Church & historians other than the Roman Catholics, firmly believed him to be the Patriarch of Antioch. The circumstantial evidences also points to the fact that he was a Patriarch of the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church. All the available ancient records support this belief. Niranam Grandhaveri, the earliest recorded historical work of Malankara Church, written just a century after the arrival of Mor Ahathulla Bava, also confirm this. There is a great possibility for him being a Archbishop of Tur'Abdin (present Turkey) under the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, who in the middle ages were referred as Patriarch because of the prominence of that diocese. This is considered as the most acceptable notion as there was a Metropolitan by that name who lived in Tur'Abdin around this period.

Also in p.695 of the Travancore State Manual (the Government directory of historical records), it is mentioned that "in AD 1652 there came to Malankara a Bishop sent by the Patriarch of Antioch". 

Prof. Sreedhara Menon, a renowned historian in his book, 'A Survey of Kerala History' explains, "In 1653 the Jacobite Patriarch of Babylon sent to Kerala, in response to a request by the Syrians, a Bishop named Ahatalla".  These views are contradicted only by a very few like Agar who said that Mor Ignatius Ahatulla was an emissary of the Egyptian (Coptic) Patriarch. Some Catholic supporters say that Mor Ahatulla was a Nestorian, but this theory is believed to have been build up to safeguard their vested interests.  However most other historians including McAnzee, Hough, Ittop writer, and E M Philip emphasizes the fact that  Mor Ignatius Ahattulla Bava came from the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and this is what believed by most of the historians, and the Church.     Back to top

 

The Historic 'KOONAN KURISHU PLEDGE'

Seeing the agitated crowd, the Portuguese initially tried to hide the imprisoned Patriarch, but as they found it difficult, they drowned him in the Arabian sea with a millstone tied to his neck.  [another version says that he was burnt alive in Goa].  As the news of this cruelty spread, the Syrian Christians were on the verge of an emotional outburst. But realizing the superiority of the Portuguese military power, Thomas Arkadiyokan and Itty Thommen Kathanar prevented the huge gathering assembled there from a direct clash which would have resulted in great bloodshed.   

In the mean time, more faithful rushed to the spot. They under the advice of Itty Thommen Kathanar, tied a huge rope around the ancient Stone Cross in the Churchyard at Mattancherry (Cochin) and everyone of the large gathering, numbering about 25000 held on to it, and pledged that they, or their future generations, will never accept the Roman Catholic faith that the Portuguese tried to forcibly introduce and also vowed to ever remain loyal to the Holy Apostolic See of Antioch, maintaining the ancient rites and traditions. This great incident that happened in the month of January AD 1653 (Friday, 3rd Makaram) is recorded in the history as 'KOONAN  KURUSHU  SATHYAM' -- "the PLEDGE before the KOONAN (leaning) CROSS" .   

After this historic event, a vast majority of the Syrian Christians in Malankara who were being suppressed for more than century by the mighty Portuguese invaders, came forward to safeguard their ancient faith and traditions ignoring the strong opposition they had to face

 

Leaderships of  Mar Thoma I (Thomas Arkadiyokon) & Anjilimoottil Itty Thommen Kathanar 

Those assembled at Mattancherry on that historic day, also had decided to ordain Thomas 'Arkadiyokan'2 of Pakalommattom family as their Episcopo (Bishop) in accordance with the special permission3 given earlier by the martyred Patriarch Mor Ignatius Ahatulla, when he was in Portuguese prison at Mylapore.  Accordingly, after the historic Oath at 'Koonan Kurishu', the Syrian Christians under the leadership of Itty Thommen Kathanar proceeded to 'Alangad' and elevated (?)3 Thomas Arkadiyokan of Pakalomattom family (Angamaly) as their Prelate.  A four member advisory council was also chosen to assist the Arkadiyokan. The newly elected committee members were (1) Kallisserril Anjilimottil Itty Thommen Kathanar, (2) Kaduthuruthy Kadavil Chandy Kathanar, (3) Angamali Vendoor Geevarghese Kathanar and (4) Kuravilingad Palliveettil Chandi Kathanar. 

Later they returned to Mattancherry and once again renewing their Oath in front of the Cross (Koonan Kurishu), vowed to continue forever as part of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East, from where they received the faith taught by their forefathers.  Malankara Syriac Christians thus once again expressed their gratitude towards the Syrian fathers who sacrificed for them.

2.  'Arkadiyokan' or 'Arch-deacon' was the title conferred to the Chief administrator of the then Malankara Church - he was not a bishop, but was given special powers to administer the Malankara Church in the absence of proper episcopacy. The title was supposed to be introduced as a consequence of increased Nestorian influence of 16th centaury. Thomas Kathanar became the 'Arkadiyokan' at the age of 30 immediately after the demise of his predecessor Geevarghese Arkadiyokan in AD 1637.      Back to top

3.  When Mor Ignatius Ahatulla was under Portuguese custody in Mylapore, two deacons by name Itty & Kurien, who were on a pilgrimage to the tomb of St.Thomas at Mylapore, came to accidentally meet the imprisoned Patriarch in prison. On knowing the grave situation, His Holiness is said to have given special permission in writing ('Stathikon') to the Malankara Church, appointing their chief (Thomas Arkadiyokan) as the 'Episcopa' of Malankara with the condition that proper ordination would be obtained as soon as the situation permitted. Only after proper consecration was he permitted to execute all the canonical rights such as ordination of Metropolitans and other important sacraments. Accordingly twelve priests of Syrian community under the leadership of Itty Thommen Kathanar ordained Thomas Arkadiyokan of Pakalomattom family as the Episcopa with the name 'Mar Thoma', the first known native Bishop. There is also a view that such an ordination never had happened. Unfortunately there is no clear evidence to prove the exact nature of this ordination. Anyhow it is a recorded fact that, Thomas Arkadiyokan alias MarThoma I, continued as the Chief Prelate of the local Church and received ordination from Mor Gregorios Abdul' Galeel in 1665.     Back to top

 

Malankara Church after the 'Koonan Kurishu Pledge'

The aftermath of the Koonan Kurishu Oath astonished  the Jesuits. As they lost the confidence of the entire Christian community, Jesuits were forced to flee from Malankara. It was then the Carmalite fathers (another missionary group under the Roman Catholic heresy) began to establish their foothold in Malankara under instruction from Pope Alexander VII. They, wanting to exploit the fluid situation, initially acted as an adversary of the Jesuits and supported the Malankara Syrian Christians.  

Thus, at least for a very brief period, the Malankara Syrian Christians remained in a peaceful atmosphere. Meanwhile the Malankara Syrian Church under the leadership of MarThoma (Thomas Arkadiyokan) was trying hard to rebuild the Church. But the lack of proper Episcopacy, which he was conscience of, prevented him from executing full authority as a Bishop. Carmalite priests tactfully exploited this weakness of the Malankara Syrian Church. As per the traditions of an Episcopal Church like the Orthodox Church or the Roman Catholic Church, a Metropolitan can be ordained only by the active participation of either the Chief Prelate (Patriarch) of the Church or by a Metropolitan authorized by the Chief Prelate. A Metropolitan receives full authority only by such ordinations. Therefore Malankara Church tried to contact  their supreme head, the Patriarch of Antioch, to come in person or to send Metropolitans for the proper ordination of their chief as Metropolitan.

The Carmelite missionaries in the mean time pretending to help the Syrian Christians, tried to influence the Malankara Church leadership. First they acted as friends, but very soon  began to spread confusion among the faithful alleging that the Malankara Church lacked proper episcopacy. This propaganda war by the Carmalite fathers compelled many of the innocent Syrian Christians to join the Roman Catholic Church. As these foreign missionaries had the support of the local rulers, these conversion were much easier for them.

The church was hurt the most when the Carmelites succeeded in persuading two of the newly formed council members (Fr Kadavil Chandy and Fr Parambil Chandy) who were with the Arkadiyokan until then. They deserted the Holy Church in search of better positions in the Catholic Church and one among them even attained bishoprics in that church. But regardless of such tempting offers, Thomas Arkadiyokan and Itty Thommen Kathanar remained in the pledge taken at Mattancherry and propagated the true Orthodox faith. This prompted Joseph Sebastian (the new Archbishop appointee of the Carmalite fathers) to target Arkadiyokan and his supporters. Freedom of Arkadiyokan was again curtailed with the support of Portuguese. While Bishop Joseph administered the Roman Catholic followers with their headquarters at Udayamperoor church, Thomas Arakadiyokan and Itty Thommen Kathanar led the Malankara Syrian Church staying at the Mulanthuruthy MarThoman church. As the conflicts increased, the King of Cochin convened a special court at Thripunithra near Cochin. After hearing the arguments of both groups, the Court took a decision in favour of the Carmelites.  From this period onwards, Joseph Sebastian, with increased vigour, tried to enforce the Roman Catholic faith among the Syrian Christians.    

Since the law of the land was in favour of Joseph Sebastian, the two prelates of the Syrian Church, Arkadiyokan and Itty Thommen Kathanar, had to function in secret. Both had narrowly escaped the attempt on their life many a times, the Mulanthuruthy incident being the closest. They were able to escape from the church only because of the self-sacrifice of two unidentified parishioners of the Mulanthuruthy church. In Oct 1661, on the instruction of Bishop Joseph, the Raja of Cochin issued orders to capture Thomas Arkadiyokan and Itty Thommen Kathanar who were staying at Mulanthuruthy church. On knowing this, two of the parishioners of Mulanthuruthy church (their identity is not known), who were so much concerned about the safety of their spiritual leaders secretly went inside the church premises and upon mutual consent, the faithful disguised themselves in bishop’s and priest’s attire and in turn Arkadiyokan and Itty Thommen Kathanar took layman’s dress and escaped. The Hindu guards of the King failed to recognize them and thus both Arkadiyokan and  Itty Thommen Kathanar miraculously escaped unhurt.  Had they not escaped, they would have had the same fate of Mor Ignatius Ahattula. After a while the King handed over the two to the Portuguese. Only then Bishop Joseph, who came with men to kill Arkadiyokan and Itty Thommen Kathanar, found that they were cheated.  The two who disguised themselves as clergies were severely tortured. Realizing the fact that both Arkadiyokan and Itty Thommen Kathanar had escaped, out of anger & desperation, Bishop  Joseph  immediately went to the Mulunthuruthy church and burned the vestments, ancient Syriac liturgical books, and other important belongings including the palanquine used by Arkadiyokan. He at the moment is reported to have said that he wished to burn Arakadiyokan and Itty Thommen Kathanar  alive,  just as he burned the vestments and other belongings of Arkadiyokan. About this, Hough in his book has explained -- "The fire of the sacrament was lighted to burn the spoils, but he could not get the Archdeacon's body to burn". 

Without the self sacrifice of these two unknown parishioners of Mulanthuruthy Church, the leadership of the Malankara Syrian Church would have been wiped out by then.  The Mulanthuruthy Church always remained as a safe haven for Thomas Arkadiyokan (MarThoma I) and Itty Thommen Kathanar.  

 

Demise of Anjilimoottil Itty Thommen Kathanar (Kallissery)

Anjilimoottil Itty Thommen Kathanar, the renowned priest from the Knanya community of the Jac0bite Syrian Church died on 10th May (M.E- Medam 27) AD.1659  and was buried at the Kallissery Knanaya Syrian Church. He was a rare personality who successfully withstood all  the trials and hardships of the time, and had remained as the closest and most trusted aide  of Arkadiyokan Mar Thoma I.  Portuguese at many times tried to influence or torture him, but unlike the two (Fr. Kadvil Chandy & Fr. Parambil Chandy) who defected the Syrian Church for material gains, Anjilimoottil Itty Thommen Kathanar stood with the Malankara Syrian Christians, ignoring even the most adverse situations. His efficient leadership helped to maintain the true faith of the Malankara Church. At the event of the murder of Patriarch Mor Ignatius Ahattulla, popular resistance was organized by him. He brought the scattered Malankara Syrian Christians together at 'Koonan Kurishu'. There is no other leader of this period who dedicated his wealth, efforts and life for the progress of the Syrian Christians.

Stone inscription at the burial place of Anjilimoottil Itty Thommen Kathanar

Meanwhile the Portuguese military power started to decline in Kerala following the Dutch occupation of Cochin Fort in 1663. As they (Dutch) were against the Portuguese, the Syrian Christians got some relief in matters concerning their faith. But still the Roman Catholics had the upper hand. Just before Bishop Joseph Sebastian left for Goa under instruction from the Dutch, in 1663 Paramabil Chandy Kathanar was ordained as Bishop Alexander De'Cambo for the section of Syrian Christians who adorned the Roman Catholic faith. Though by now the Portuguese lost its military power in Kerala, the new native Archbishop of the Roman Catholic faction had an upperhand because of foreign support. Bishop Alexander  continued to ill-treat Thomas Arkadiyokan and the Malankara Church. Lack of Episcopacy for Thomas Arkadiyokan  was the main propaganda used by Bishop Alexander to attract Syrian Christians into his fold. So Thomas Arkadiyokan continued to contact the mother Church at Antioch. But  the Portuguese influence that continued in the Arabian Sea and other parts of India, made the communication difficult. Finally a detailed letter written in Syriac, explaining  the events that took place (from the brutal killing of the Patriarch of Antioch Mor Ignatius) and about the continuing Roman influence, reached the Patriarchal Monastery at Tur'Abdin. It was send  through a merchant 'Sthephanous' of Omid (a Turkish town) who came to Malankara from the middle eastWhen the news reached the Church headquarters at Turabdin, the Patriarch of Antioch in AD.1665 summoned the Holy Synod and decided to depute a Metropolitan for the Malankara Church.  

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 [II]. Arrival of Mor Gregorios Abdul' Jaleel Bava, the Metropolitan of Jerusalem

in Malankara & the subsequent revival of Orthodox faith

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In the Holy Synod convened at the Patriarchal Monastery of Tur'Abdin (Turkey), Metropolitan of the Jerusalem Mor Gregorios Abdul’ Galeel volunteered to come to Malankara, ignoring the difficulties he may have to overcome. Only a year back (in AD 1664) was he elevated as the Archbishop of Jerusalem. (Syrian Orthodox Metropolitan of Jerusalem was also known as the 5th Patriarch which is the most prestigious order in the church after the Patriarch of Antioch and the Mafriyono).  

With the permission of the Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Abdul Mesiha the first (Ignatius 23rd, 1662-86), Mor Gregorios Abdul’ Galeel Bava travelled to India and reached Ponnani (Northern coast of Kerala) after a tedious journey in AD 1665. There he stayed for a while hiding his identity as the Portuguese military presence continued to be present in most parts of India and also in the sea routes. The Portuguese were also very alert to prevent any Syrian prelate reaching Malabar following the instructions from the Catholic Bishops based at Goa. Hence it took many months for Mor Gregorios Bava to reach the Kerala coast.  

In the 'Travancore State Manual' Vol II Page 187, the arrival of Mor Gregorios is recorded as following. "Two years afterwards, in 1665, the position of the Archdeacon Thomas altered by the arrival on this coast of a Bishop named Gregory, Patriarch of Jerusalem sent by the Jacobite Patriarch of Antioch Ignatius XXIII the quarter whence had come Ahathalla, thirteen years previously".

Even after reaching the destination, His Grace remained in nearby places in disguise for some more months to escape from the possible wrath of the Roman Catholics. Only when he came across some Syrian Christians, did he reveal his identity. He showed them the 'Sthathikon'4 from the Patriarch declaring his appointment as delegate of the Holy See. They immediately took him to their Church at North Paravur and informed Arkadiyokan, the administrator of the Malankara Church. Arkadiyokan who earlier send many representations to the mother Church in the Middle East, was very happy on the arrival of a Metropolitan from the Holy See.   

4.   Sthathikon is the statement of empowerment given in writing by the Supreme head of the Church the Patriarch, to a Metropolitan on his appointment on a particular mission. The 'Sthathikon' given to Mor Gregorios Bava is now kept in the library of the Thozhiyoor Syrian Church of Kunnamkulam; an exact copy acknowledged by the Metropolitan of Thozhiyoor is kept inside the North Paravur Church.     Back to top

Sthathikon of  St. Gregorios Abdul' Jaleel Bava

 

Ordination of  'MarThoma I'  &  the Missionary activities of  Mor Gregorios Bava

The very first mission of Mor Gregorios Abdul’Galeel after he reached Malankara, was to confirm the Episcopal consecration of  'MarThoma'. Thus in AD 1665, Thomas Arkadiyokan with the title 'MarThoma', became the first canonically5 ordained Metropolitan (Archbishop) of the Malankara Syrian Church. Together they visited most of the churches in Malankara and reaffirmed the ancient faith and traditions of the Syrian Christians.

5.  Earlier records regarding the history of the Malankara Church is obscure; Roman Catholic Archbishop Menazis, at the Udayamperoor Synod, destroyed almost all the historical records, so there is no clear evidence of any native bishops prior to this ordination.     Back to top    

The Roman Catholics now started to create more trouble for the rejuvenated Syrian Church. Earlier they were criticizing the Holy Church for its lack of Episcopacy, but the arrival of Mor Gregorios and the subsequent Episcopal consecration of MarThoma made their arguments weaker and hence they became much more aggressive. But Mor Gregorios Bava along with Marthoma I, unmindful of all the threats to their life, travelled throughout Malankara. Meanwhile the weakening of Portuguese military power in Malabar prevented the Catholic Church from getting support from the local rulers. However the Roman Catholics still received external support and a great deal of money. Anyhow in the next few years, Mor Gregorios Bava was able to convince a vast majority of Syrian Christians thus helping to retrace their ancient faith and traditions. Though he was from a foreign country, Bava's commitment to the Malankara Church was so immense. Unlike the Roman Catholic missionaries who had political and money power, he had nothing except his faith in God. Hence he had to suffer a greater hardship, more particularly in an age in which transport and communication facilities were minimal. Mor Gregorios was doing a great missionary work very similar to the Holy Fathers of early centuries.  

Mor Gregorios changed many of the undesirable practices that was forcibly introduced by the Portuguese. He broke the idols which the missionaries had established inside the churches and advised to change the other practices such as the decrees of the Roman Catholics which did not allowed marriage of Priests etc.. (The Syrian Church insisted for the marriage of parish priests to avoid adulterous practices as they always interact with the laity. Those priests who wish to lead a monastic life were not given charge of parishes). The proposed changes were extremely difficult to implement as the Malankara Church was under Nestorian and Roman Catholic influence for more than a century. However the sincere co-operation of the senior Priests helped Mor Gregorios a great deal. If the Malankara Christians were not Jacobites earlier, ie; prior to arrival of Portuguese & Nestorians, it would have been nearly impossible to reaffirm them in the Syrian Orthodox faith in such a short period.  In other words, Mor Gregorios preached a faith which was familiar to all or at least the elderly people. But above all, the Godly gift of Mor Gregorios Bava to convince even his detractors was a major factor, which attracted many to the Jacobite faith. 

One of the famous Encyclicals of Mor Gregorios Abdul'Galeel dated 5th Kumbam (February-March) AD.1668, addressed to the Priests of some of the prominent Churches in Malankara, namely N. Paravur, Mulunthuruthy and Kandanad,  gives us an idea of the early Malankara Church and is an authentic record.  (Extracts from  the Encyclical was later published in the book "Indian Church of St.Thomas", the original was available at the Kottayam Valiyapally. These encyclicals of the 17th century gives a clear indication of the faith followed by the Syrian Christians of Malankara before the Portuguese & Nestorians periods. It is considered to be one of the few authoritative records available6 on the earlier connections that the Malankara Church had with the Holy Patriarchal See of Antioch.  Extracts from this Encyclical can be accessed from here

6.   Most of the early records on the faith and history of the Malankara Church prior to the arrival of Portuguese were destroyed in the aftermaths of the Synod of Diamper (the Synod convened by the Roman Catholic Archbishop Menezis in AD 1599). They did this in order to establish a new chapter in Malankara. The ultimate aim of the Synod was to transform the Syrian Christians into the Roman Catholic fold by use of force and in this process, they managed to destroy all the earlier records. The support of Portuguese military and the local Kings made their task much easier.       Back to top

 

Ordination of Mar Thoma II and the demise of Mar Thoma I

In 1670, Mor Gregorios together with MarThoma I, ordained 'MarThoma II' as the second Metropolitan of the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Christians.   

MarThoma I died [25th April AD.1670 - M.E, Medam 12], soon after the ordination of his successor and his mortal remains were interred at the southern side of the 'Hykala' of the Angamali Jacobite Syrian Church.  It was in 1637, at the age of 30, Thomas Kathanar (Mar Thoma I) succeeded Geevarghese Arkadiyokan as the administrator of the Malankara Church. Since then he had to overcome the trials and pressures of the Portuguese. Anjilimoottil Itty Thommen Kathanar always remained as the closest aide of Mar Thoma. Together they provided a great leadership for ousting the Portuguese from Malankara and reaffirmed the bond of Syrian Christians with Antioch. Their leadership to the desperate Syrian Christians during the turmoil in the Church was so great and courageous.   

With the consecration of Thomas Arkadiyokan as Metropolitan by Mor Gregorios Bava in 1665, the Malankara church got its first native Archbishop. (There is no evidence to show that there were any previous bishops from Malankara for the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church). Together they led the Church in Malankara for six years. Their close association was the main reason for the revival of the Syrian Orthodox (Jacobite) faith in Malankara. Mar Thoma I dedicated his whole life to protect the faith and ancient traditions of the Syrian Church. He always remained loyal to the Holy Patriarchate at Antioch for the wholehearted support the Malankara Church received from the Apostolic Throne. 

Sacred tombs of  'Geevarghese Arkadiyokan'  &  'Mar Thoma I',

 in the  Jacobite Syrian Church of Angamali

Mortal remains are interred inside the wall of Madboho

 

Click the image below for the enlarged view of the

inscription at stone erected at the tomb

 

Heavenly abode of Mor Gregorios Abdul Jaleel Bava

With the demise of Mar Thoma I in 1670,  his successor Mar Thoma II administered the Malankara Syrian Church along with our Holy father for another decade. After successfully accomplishing his mission in Malankara, Mor Gregorios Bava entered eternal rest on Friday the 27th April AD 16817.  His mortal remains were interred in the 'Hykala' of the St.Thomas Church at North Paravur as per his last wishes. 

More than an administrator, Mor Gregorios is considered to be a man of prayer which helped him to overcome the grave situation that existed in Malankara. His missionary activities were similar to the services of the Holy fathers of the earlier centuries which was an era of Christian persecutions. Syrian Christians of Malankara respected him very much, they considered him to be a person with extraordinary Godly influence. 

It is said that the holy father was well aware of  the exact hour of his demise. As the time of his heavenly departure approached, as instructed by him, he was dressed in the pontifical habits and with sleeba and staff in hands taken to the church seated in a chair. At the time when he breathed last, the weeping people witnessed a bright glow inside and outside the church and several other mysterious signs. Historians like Whitehouse Padiri had recorded the miraculous powers of Mor Gregorios Bava. There is a never ending stream of pilgrims from all religious faiths around the year, as they make their way to His Holy Tomb.  Believers seek his intercession for the miraculous recovery from chronic diseases, child birth, dispossession from evil spirits etc. 

7.  There is a controversy based on the exact year of demise of Mor Gregorios Bava. According to some, he died just two days after the demise of MarThoma I, ie; on 14th Medam 1670. Others have recorded the year of demise as 1671, 1685 and 1690. But an old Syriac Manuscript which is available even now, mentions the date as 14th Medam 1681. The most reliable among all these is the year 1681. Circumstantial evidences also support this. Anyhow the date of demise of Mor Gregorios in all these records is the same ie; 14th Medam  {April 27th, Friday}. Controversy exists regarding the year of demise only.         Back to top

 
Sacred tomb of  Mor Gregorios Abdul' Jaleel
{Click the above image for the enlarged view of the Tomb}

Mor Gregorios Bava being the descendant of a rich family, had brought his belongings to Malankara and donated it to the Church. Among the valuables still preserved at the North Paravur St.Thomas church includes a golden Cross and a silver ‘Kasa & Pilasa’ (Chalice & Platen, this is still used in the Holy Qurbono celebrated during Bava's annual feast).  In addition to all these, he had a large collection of gold coins, with which he bought land at 'thorakkal'  for the Church and until recently it was in the possession of this church. 

On the festival days, viz. 27th April,  his Vestments,  Holy Kasa (Chalice) and the Golden Cross which is kept in 'Arulikka' worn by Mor Gregorios, which contains 12 Holy relics in separate compartments, are ceremoniously taken out and exhibited for public veneration. The holy 'Arulikka'  has 12 partitions of which 11 contains the holy mortal remains of Saints. 

The middle partition of this 'Arulikka' contains the HOLY PART OF THE CROSS IN WHICH JESUS CHRIST WAS CRUCIFIED. 

 Holy 'Kappa' 

Holy 'Arulikka'

A large number of pilgrims, irrespective of their caste & creed, visits the Holy tomb of Mor Gregorios Abdul' Galeel Bava, seeking his intercession. Special intercessory prayers held on 27th (date of his demise) of every month, attracts many faithful. Many participate in these prayers by taking "Ohari" (shares) and is already reserved up to 2012. The dukrono (annual feast) of Mor Gregorios Bava is normally celebrated for 3 days starting from 25th April every year. During these days, the place is declared as a festival area by the Kerala government considering the large flow of pilgrims. Over a lakh of devotees from all religious faiths visits the Holy shrine on this day and participate in this 'perunnal' (feast) to receive blessings from the miraculous Holy tomb of the Saint. In addition, thousands of pilgrims from different parts of Kerala, mostly from the northern part of Malankara, tread on foot covering many miles to reach the Holy tomb every year. There are also some churches in the south dedicated to the Saint, the church at Niranam owned by the Elanjikkal family being one among them. 

 

Proclamation

On 9th April 2000,  the spiritual supreme of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church, Patriarch of Antioch & all the East 'His Holiness Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iywas', through an historic bull, permitted to recite the Quqalya hymns and prayers of the Zadeeqo (saints) at the tombs of Mor Gregorios Abdel`Galeel Bava and Mor Osthatheos Sleeba (Arthat Simhasana Church, Kunnamkulam) and beseech their intercession.  

Patriarchal Bull being read in the St. Thomas church

by Catholicos-designate (2000)

A Scene of the Holy Procession during the

annual feast of St. Gregorios

The Patriarch in his encyclical, proclaiming Mor Gregorios Abdul'Galeel & Mor Osthatheos Sleebo (Kunnamkulam) as 'Saints', said  "With love and patience and through peaceful means Mor Gregorios taught the people the true Apostolic Faith. He had to face many threats, even to his own life. But placing his trust in God Almighty, he braved all odds. By his prayers and piety he gained souls for our Lord Jesus Christ.......    He fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith.......     in accordance with the Apostolic authority vested in us, hereby declare Mor Gregorios Abdul Galeel and Mor Osthatheos Saliba SAINTS, and permit you to recite the Quqalyon for the Saints (Zadeeko) at their holy tombs and whenever you remember them and beseech their intercession.......   On this solemn occasion, we exhort you to imitate their faith and rededicate yourselves to God. May their intercession be a blessing to all........ " (courtesy:- Patriarchal Encyclical dt. 9th April 2000).

From the year 2006 onwards, the name of 'St. Gregorios Abdul Jaleel is remembered in the fifth Tubden (diptych) of the Malankara Church. The holy father's name is being recited immediately after the name of St. Gregorios of Parumala. The concerned Apostolic bull from the supreme head of the Church, the Patriarch Ignatius Zakka-I Iwas was issued on February 7, 2006. St. Gregorios Abdul Jaleel Bava is one among the five fathers of the Church whose name has been added in the fifth Tubden after the 7th century.

 

Apostolic Bull of H.H. Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, permitting the Malankara Church to recite

the name St. Gregorios Abdul Jaleel Bava in the fifth Tubden

 

Remarks of the renowned Church historian Very Rev. (Dr) Curien Corepiscopus Kaniamparambil

The contribution of Mor Gregorios, for the revival of the Holy Apostolic faith and the establishment of Episcopacy in Malankara, is remembered with gratitude by the Malankara Church. Without  his sacrifice, the Orthodox faith in Malankara would have been diminished. It's appears to be very relevant to mention the remarks by Very Rev. (Dr.) Curien Corepiscopus Kaniamparambil on the contribution of Mor Gregorios Abdul 'Galeel Bava, the emissary of the Holy See of Antioch.  

In an article published in the 'VISION' in 1995 he wrote, "The first, ever to be remembered with gratitude is that- "Had not throne of Antioch sent it's delegate  Mor Gregorios of Jerusalem in 1665, there would not have been a Jacobite (orthodox) Syrian Church in Kerala". All might have been Roman Catholics as they were from 1599 to 1653: and the history of the Malankara Church would have been something different. The faith, liturgy and practices - above all the priesthood of the Jacobite (Orthodox) Church in Kerala are nothing but the contribution of the throne of St.Peter in Antioch. It is really a precious privilege to be loyal to the Throne of St.Peter, the Head of the Apostle." 

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