HH Moran Mar Baselios Paulose I – May 3 I First Catholicos of Malankara Orthodox Church
The first Catholicos of Malankara Orthodox Church, H.H. Moran Mar Baselios Paulose I, was born on January 19, 1836 at Vettithara village near Kolenchery to the couple Mariamma and Kurien of the Murimattom family, belonging to the ancestral Pakalomattom family, from Bharananganam, a family that was christened by St. Thomas. The Murimattathil Family initially comprised of more than 600 families living near the banks of Muvattupuzha river, Ramamangalam. One branch settled at Kolenchery. Thus, Murimattathil Bava was born in a Murimattathil family of Kolenchery.
Paulosekutty, as per the customs of the village that time, was sent to the local village school for the formal education of reading and writing. Paulose was very studious and followed a much-disciplined life. His wisdom and inquisitiveness had won him affection from all around. His life was enriched with prayer, fasting, Bible reading, Church worship etc. With the enthusiasm derived from the stories of the saints narrated by his mother, he started reading the biographies of many traditional saints and Church fathers. This has inspired him more to lead a chastise life and dedicate himself for the Service of God. Very shortly, his uncle Fr. Joseph was appointed as the Vicar of the Kottoor Church. Paulose and his parents also moved to Kottoor along with Fr. Joseph. After his formal education, Paulose started his education in Syriac. He learnt Syriac at a very early age and read many religious books from the collection of his uncle, Fr. Joseph. On being very impressed by the qualities of their son, parents of Paulose, wished, that he becomes a priest. Young Paulose also decided in his heart to dedicate himself for the Lord. When his elder brother, Dn. Kunjikkuru died, his parents and Uncle Fr. Joseph expressed their desire that Paulose becomes deacon to take the place of Kunjikkuru and follow in his priestly steps. Paulose was consecrated as a deacon by then Malankara Metropolitan, HB Cheppad Philipose Mar Dionysius, at a tender age of seven, in 1843.
Dn. Paulose started to live in Pampakkuda Dayara with Konatt Joseph Malpan and continued the study of Syriac. Though his parents wished him to become a married priest, Dn. Paulose had chosen to lead an unmarried life. Later, Dn. Paulose got his theological training from Yuyakim Mar Coorilos of Syria while the Metropolitan was in Malankara. Mar Coorilos initiated to ordain him into the priestly order. At the age of sixteen, Dn. Paulose was ordained as a priest in 1852 by Cheppad Mar Dionysius. Fr. Paulose had celebrated his first Holy Qurbana at his home parish at Kolenchery. Known as Muriamattom Paulose Kathanar, further he was appointed as vicar of the Kolenchery parish and later as the Secretary of Mar Coorilos.
After one year of his ordination as priest, Fr. Paulose lost his father and his uncle Fr. Joseph and all the burden of his family came to his shoulder along with the heavy responsibility of his parish at a very young age of seventeen. Considering his proficiency in Syriac Yuyakim Mar Coorilos, the then patriarchal of Antioch, extended him intensive training and elevated Fr. Paulose as a Malpan and entrusted him for the training of deacons. As a trustworthy accomplice, Malpan Fr. Paulose traveled extensively with Mar Coorilos and visited many Churches in Malankara. Further he was appointed as the Vicar of the Kottoor Church so that he could pay some attention for his family matters also as he was responsible for the same in absence of his father and uncle.
During the visit of Patriarch Mar Peter III to Malankara, he came to know about this Syriac Guru and persuaded him to be ordained as a Bishop. Though Malpan Fr. Paulose told excuses of his family problems, Patriarch could eventually convince him of the call of God for His Episcopate. On his consent, Patriarch himself elevated Murimattom Paulose Kathanar as a Ramban. On May 17, 1877 Patriarch Peter III ordained Paulose Ramban as Bishop with the title of Mar Ivanios at St. Lazarus’ Church, Chiralayam, Kunnamkulangara. Paulose Kathanar was one of the six Metropolitans consecrated by the Patriarch Mar Peter III, in 1876. The newly consecrated Paulose Mar Ivanios was given the charge of Kandanad diocese.
As a diocesan Metropolitan, Mar Ivanios had established fifteen more churches along with the existed twenty-one Churches. In the absence of a diocesan center for his diocese, Paulose Mar Ivanios had to live at different Churches at Kolenchery, Kadamattom, Piravam, Vadakara etc. He had constructed many Church buildings and many old worshiping places were renovated. He was extremely strict in his ascetic way of life and never compromised for any taboos or erratic traditions in the Church. As an example, there was an erratic tradition of liquor offerings, prevailed for many years at Kolenchery and Kadamattom Churches. Mar Ivanios fought rigorously to eradicate this rotten tradition in the Church, though it was age old and very popular among the masses.
During 1912, Patriarch announced his plan of action in a Circular, which envisaged consecration of Catholicos and few Metropolitans for Malankara. In due solemnity, he revived and established the Catholicate in Malankara during this year. On Sunday, 17th September 1912, Patriarch Moran Mar Abdul Messiah assisted by Malankara Metropolitan Vattasseril Geevarghese Mar Dionysius and the Metropolitan Mar Gregorios Kallacheril (who became the third Catholicos) consecrated 76-year-old, Murimattom Paulose Mar Ivanios as the Catholicos with the title of Moran Mar Baselios Paulose I, at St. Mary’s Church Niranam. When His Holiness was crowned on the Throne of Saint Thomas, HH Ignatius Abded Mshiho II declared the Malankara Orthodox Church as an independent Church with its own constitution and powers, which included the right to ordain Metropolitans, to consecrate Holy Chrism and perform other holy services. This was an epoch-making event in the history of Malankara Church.
He continued to administer the Kandanad diocese as earlier. The large enthusiastic crowd of devotees greeted their first ever Catholicos with shouts of joy pronouncing him as worthy and eligible. Abded Mshiho Patriarch of Syrian Church has written about the elevation of Paulose Mar Ivanios as Catholicos, “Worthy to the call, Mar Paulose Ivanios was declared and elevated as Catholicos. Just as the disciples were bestowed by our Lord, Jesus Christ, he was also bestowed authority by Holy Spirit to serve the Church and to dispense the spiritual gifts necessary to exercise the prerogatives of the Church….” HH as Catholicos of the East lived at Orthodox Seminary, Kottayam.
Baselios Paulose I designed the order and style of the prayers and Holy Qurbana that is still followed in the Church. He established Malankara Suriani Suvishesha Sangham as well as Sunday schools in the church. As Metropolitan he had built 17 churches in the Kandanad Diocese. He also started many schools. He trained many priests at St. Peters and St. Pauls Church of Kolenchery. He bought land at Muvattupuzha to build an Aramana (palace) which became the Church headquarters and also built a small church there.
Catholicos Baselios Paulose, along with the Patriarch Abded Mshiho consecrated two Metropolitans viz. Kandanadu Karrot Yuakim Mar Ivanios and Vakathanam Kaaruchira Geevarghese Mar Philoxenos on February 7, 1913. The most revered prelate of Malankara could not, however, live long. He was the Catholicos till his last breath in 1914 and joined His flock. The First Catholics of the Indian Malankara Orthodox Church was in power from September 15, 1912 till his death on May 3, 1913. HH predicted the day of his demise and a large crowd of people visited him and waited in prayer. On May 3, 1913 His Holiness died in peace. His holy remains are interred St. Thomas Orthodox Syrian Church, Pampakuda.