The term “Catholicos” is derived from the Greek word katholikos which means “the Universal or General”. The title seems to have arisen sometime after the establishment of the five patriarchs (of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem). The Catholicos of the East is the title of the autonomous Primate of the East whose succession is to the See of St. Thomas the Apostle, and who has a spiritual primacy of honor over all churches of the East. He is the supreme head of the Indian Orthodox Church and he is called the Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan. Two titles for a single individual are given with separate responsibilities. The Catholicos of the East consecrates Bishops for the Orthodox Church of the East, presides over the Episcopal Synod, declares its decisions and implements them, conducts administration as the President of the Holy Synod and consecrates the Holy Mooron (Oil) and consecrating bishops. The Malankara Metropolitan is the head of the Malankara Church, the President of the Malankara Syrian Christian Association and the Managing Committee. The prime jurisdiction regarding the temporal ecclesiastical and spiritual administration of the Malankara Church is vested in the Malankara Metropolitan subject to the provisions of the Church constitution.
The Catholicate of the East was re-located from Persia, and established in India by H.H. Abdul Messiah, the Patriarch of Antioch in 1912, when H.H. Baselious Paulose I was ordained as the first Catholicos of the Indian Orthodox Church, at the St. Mary’s Orthodox Syrian Church, Niranam (Niranam Valiyapally). The present Catholicos is His Holiness Baselios Mar Thoma Paulos II Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan.
His Holiness Baselios Marthoma Paulose II
His Holiness Baselios Marthoma Paulose II was enthroned as the Catholicos of the East & Malankara Metropolitan (the Supreme Head of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church of India) on Monday, 1st November 2010. His Holiness is the 91st Primate on the Apostolic Throne of St. Thomas. Born on 30th August 1946 in a village called Mangad near Kunnamkulam, Trissur District, Kerala as the son of the late K. I. Iype of the famous Kollanur family and the late Kunjeetty of the Pulikootil family, the boy K. I. Paul had his early education in local schools. After graduating from the St. Thomas College, Trichur, Paul joined the Orthodox Theological Seminary, Kottayam from where he obtained G.S.T diploma and B.D. degree of the Serampore University. After taking the holy orders, he joined the C.M.S College, Kottayam and took his M.A in Sociology.
From his childhood Paul showed a keen interest in spiritual matters. His parish church, St. Mary’s Orthodox Church was the nerve centre of his spiritual growth. At the age of 13, he was selected by his parish priest to be a part of the Feet Washing service celebrated by Metropolitan Paulose Mar Severios. This marked a turning point in the life of the young Paul when the metropolitan invited him to the priesthood. The influence of his parents, especially that of his mother who hailed from the famous Pulikkottil family, played a great role in moulding his early life. Even from his childhood, he use to learn Syriac chants and prayers and was very keen in attending the church services.
The late Yuhanon Mar Severios, Metropolitan of Kochi Diocese ordained him as a sub-deacon at Parumala Seminary on 8th April 1972, as a deacon at Sion Seminary, Koratty on 31st May 1973 and was ordained as a priest by him at Sion Seminary, Koratty on 2nd June 1973. Fr K I Paul celebrated his fist Holy Qurbana at the Mar Gregorios Orthodox Chapel, Mangad.
Fr Paul served as a model shepherd of St. Mary’s Orthodox Church, Ernakulam, the Moolepat Orthodox Church Pazhanji, St. Mary Magdalene Convent Aduppootty, Kummanmkulam and the Medical College Chapel, Kottayam. The Malankara Syrian Christian Association, held at MGM Thiruvalla, on December 28th 1982 elected Fr Paul as a metropolitan. The late Mathews Mar Coorilos (later H.H. Baselius Mar Thoma Mathews II) professed him as Ramban on 14 May 1983 at the Parumala Seminary. On 15th May 1985 H.H. Baselius Marthoma Mathews I consecrated Paul Ramban as Episcopos with the name Paulose Mar Milithios.
Subsequently, His Grace was elevated as the first metropolitan of the newly-formed Kunnamkulam Diocese on 1st August 1985. Besides shepherding the Kunnamkulam Diocese His Grace served as the President of the Orthodox Syrian Sunday School Association of the East (OSSAE), MBCH Mannapra Vadavucode, Pulikottil Mar Dionysius Bhavan, Kottapady. His Grace was the Vice-President of the Mar Gregorios Orthodox Christian Student Movement of India, MMM Hospital, Kunnamkulam and Manager of M. D. College, Pazhanji. His Grace has also served as the President of the Orthodox Youth Movement.
The Malankara Syrian Christian Association held at Parumala on 12th October 2006 unanimously elected Metropolitan Paulose Mar Milithios as the Catholicos-Designate and the successor of the Malankara Metropolitan. On 1st November 2010, following the abdication of his predecessor, His Holiness Baselios Marthoma Didymus I, Metropolitan Paulose Mar Milithios was enthroned as the Catholicos of the East & Malankara Metropolitan with the new name His Holiness Baselios Marthoma Paulose II. Incidentally, Kunnamkulam, which is a stronghold of the Orthodox Community in Kerala, has given birth to three Malankara Metropolitans, including the reigning Catholicos. His Holiness’ illustrious predecessors Pulikottil Joseph Mar Dionysius II and Pulikottil Joseph Mar Dionysius V were towering personalities who contributed much to making the Malankara Orthodox Church what it is today.
It was His Holiness’ keen interest that the Church should have effective and meaningful ecumenical relations. It is with this emphasis that His Holiness has already finished journeying to all the Oriental Orthodox Churches. Once in this short span of time as Catholicos, he has already had meetings with all the present heads of the Oriental Orthodox Churches. The fraternal relations with the sister Churches too have been given prime importance. The meeting with the present Pope of the Catholic Church has enhanced the bilateral relations between the two Churches. His Holiness’ unassuming character and his philanthropic interests, have given new dimensions to the life of the Church. He has authored a few devotional and contemplative books in Malayalam.
Thought for the Month
By all accounts (narrated only in the Synoptic Gospels) the birth of Jesus is an event revealed only to a select group of people. When we put together the birth narratives we will find that those who are recipients of this birth are the poor shepherds and the Wise Men in addition to St. Joseph and St. Mary. As such it must be seen as an event that received scant attention and by and large the general public is exempt from this revelation. This is one of the reasons that the Eastern Orthodox Churches prefer to celebrate the appearance of Jesus at His baptism (Epiphany) rather than the Christmas. For, at His baptism the declaration of Jesus’ identity was clearly made public.
Why only this restricted announcement? Even with the angelic hosts announcing the event only the shepherds become aware of the significance of the child born in a stable in Bethlehem; St. Luke does not indicate that anyone else became aware of this announcement. We also have to ask why only the Wise Men in St. Matthew’s gospel? Were there no other persons who qualified for this revelation? The answer to these questions lie in the fact that these two categories of people alone met the condition who found favour with God as the angels pronounced. The shepherds were poor in spirit, which meant that their economic and social situations left them with no other support other than God. They could not avail of the subverting influence of gold or silver or political and social clout to gain a privileged positions. Their only hope was in God alone. Similarly the Wise Men sought to meet the great God who would alter the destiny of humankind and nations. They were not mesmerised by the glow of the star or of the lure of worldly wisdom. They sought the One God, and that One God alone. It is probably for these reasons that they alone were able to perceive the greatness of Jesus’ humble birth.
As we celebrate the Christmas with its joy and revelry it would be appropriate to ask ourselves if we own the necessary characteristics displayed by these two groups. Is our life based on God alone or does God come as a footnote to our power and prestige? What is it that we seek after during this Christmas season? Another fat bonus that swells our accumulated financial resources or the many gifts that provide us with fleeting joy? Let us be aware of the fact that even though the first coming of Jesus was announced to a restricted few, His Second Coming will be universally visible. And when we are called to account before our Lord and King, certainly to characteristics He will seek in us will be our complete faith in Him alone and that we have surrendered ourselves totally, body, mind and soul to Him. We have to also keep in mind the fact that at that juncture we will not have the option of either rejecting or accepting Jesus Christ.
For a moment let us imagine the scene around the crib. The birth of Jesus had the additional benefit of integrating all of creation. In addition to the Holy Family there are the angels, the Wise Men, the shepherds and the cattle. While such a scene is not found represented in the gospels it is nonetheless a familiar Christmas card picture. It certainly carries a message. Do our celebrations and services serve to unite all creation or are we isolated in commemorating the birth of Christ within our own preferred circles. The integration of all creation is an intrinsic part of the theology of the Eastern Church, yet another reason why it prefers the celebration of the baptism of Jesus as opposed to the Christmas. However, in this season of Christmas let us try to include all within the circle of our joy and happiness. Let us announce the divine birth to all so that all creation can join in the joyful celebration of our God becoming human so that we could become transformed into His likeness.
I wish you all a blessed Christmas and a joyful New Year!