Catholicos Aboon Mor Baselios Thomas-I, the spiritual head of the Syrian Christians of India, was born in the Cheruvillil family of Vadayambadi, Puthenkuriz to Mathai and Kunjamma on 22nd July 1929. Early part of his life was full of sufferings. Though he belonged to an aristocratic family, by the time he was born the family had seen bad days. As a child he had frequent bouts of illness which affected his education. His mother used to take the young boy frequently to the nearby Malecuriz Dayro where the relics of late Patriarch St. Ignatius Elias-III and Saint Gregorios Geevarghese (Parumala Thirumeni) had been interred. One night, as his mother prayed with the young boy on her lap, she had a vision which prompted her to dedicate the boy to the service of the church. Within days, the boy’s illness was entirely cured. God was with him, guiding him and shaping him.
His priestly formation was under the guidance of Mor Philoxenos Paulose (late Catholicos Mor Baselios Paulose-II) who ordained him ‘Korooyo’ in 1952 and ‘Shamshono’ at Kadamattom Church in 1957. In August 1958, C M Thomas was ordained ‘Kassisso’ (full priest) by Mor Yulius Elias at the Majanikkara Dayro. In 1959 he was appointed as the vicar of St.Peter’s church, Puthencuriz. Later he served the churches at Vellathooval, Keezhumuri, Fort Cochin, Valamboor, Calcutta and Thrissur. For a period of seven years from 1967, he was the organizing secretary of Kolenchery Medical Mission Hospital. He also served as the Chief organizer of the North Indian mission at Bhilai in 1970’s and as the secretary of the Pourasthaya Suvishesha Samajam in 1974. He was well known as a great revivalist preacher and was also recognized as an excellent organizer.
In January 1974, Fr. C M Thomas was elected to the episcopate by the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Christian Association convened at the Karingachira St. George Church and was consecrated Metropolitan with the title ‘Mor Dionysius’ by H.H. Mor Ignatius Ya`qub-III on 24th February 1974 at Damascus, Syria. He was entrusted with the charge of Angamali diocese, the largest of all the Syrian Orthodox dioceses which has a membership of more than half a million. (Click here for a newspaper report dt. 26th February 1974 on the Metropolitan ordination of Mor Dionysius & Mor Gregorios)
The untiring efforts of Mor Dionysius in those days had helped a lot to revive the confidence of not merely the faithful of the diocese, but the entire Malankara Church. Metropolitans Mor Dionysius, Mor Gregorios Geevarghese (late) and Mor Koorilos Kuriakose (late) together were a great support to the (late) Catholicos Aboon Mor Baselios Paulose-II, the then Chief of the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church. As the Metropolitan of Angamali Mor Dionysius had successfully initiated many welfare programs and also reorganized the diocesan administration. In 1978 Mor Baselios Medical Mission Hospital at Kothamangalam was started under his patron-ship.
Following the demise of Mor Baselios Paulose-II in 1996, Mor Gregorios Geevarghese (Perumpally Thirumeni) become the President of the Episcopal Synod of the Church in India. After the passing away of Mor Gregorios Geevarghese in February 1999, Mor Dionysius assumed the Presidency of the Malankara Church Synod. On 27th December 2000, His Excellency was chosen as the Catholicos-designate by the Holy Episcopal Synod. The Church delegates meeting held at Puthencuriz on the same day, unanimously approved this decision. H.H the Patriarch, however, waited for two more years in expectation of a peaceful settlement to the longstanding dispute between the two factions of Malankara Church. But as it became clearer that the chances for reconciliation is remote because of the insincerity on the part of the opposite faction; a crucial convention was convened at Puthencuriz, Kerala on 6th July 2002 in which delegates from all the parishes participated and they approved a new constitution for the effective administration of the Indian Church, with the consent of the supreme head, the Patriarch of Antioch & all the East. H.E. Mor Dionysius Thomas was elected as the Catholicos and the Metropolitan Trustee of the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church at this historic Church Association. The election was later ratified by the Holy Episcopal Synod of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church on 22nd July 2002.
On Friday the 26th July 2002, His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka-I Iwas the Patriarch of Antioch & all the East, consecrated the 73-year old Mor Dionysius Thomas as the CATHOLICOS with the title ‘BASELIOS THOMAS I’ at a solemn function held at the St. Peter & St. Paul Cathedral in Mor Ephrem Monastery, Ma`arat Sayyidnaya, near Damascus. Thus, fulfilling the wishes of multitude of faithful, the Malankara Church received a Catholicos after a gap of six years (Catholicos Mor Baselios Paulose II died in 1996). In the Syrian Orthodox Church hierarchy, the Catholicos is second in rank to the supreme spiritual head, the Patriarch of Antioch.
Fourteen Syrian Orthodox Bishops, from India, Syria, Sweden, Netherlands, Germany, Lebanon, Jerusalem, Turkey and Australia attended the enthronement ceremony as the co-celebrants. Thirty five Rambans, many Nuns of the Church and lay people were also present on the occasion to participate in the historical ceremony. Representatives from Government of Syria & India attended the consecration ceremony as special guests. Besides the three Metropolitans who were the co-celebrants, the Church in India was represented by Very Rev Eraalil Geevarghese Ramban (Kerala), Rev. Fr. Prince Mookkanottil (Vicar Mor Ignatius Syrian Orthodox Church Dubai), Rev. Fr. Eldho Valiyaparambil (Vicar-St.George Abu Dhabi), Rev. Fr. Kurian Maliyil (Vicar Sharjah), Rev.Fr. Mathews (Muscat) and Rev. Fr. Varghese Maikkulangara (Kerala). The consecration ceremony started with the celebration of Holy Qurbono at 8 AM by His Holiness the Patriarch, followed by enthronement ceremony, signing of ‘SUSTHATHIKON’ (Agreement) and ‘OKSIOS’ (Rising and Declaration). The ceremonial Services ended with the completion of the Holy Qurbono by the newly consecrated Catholicos.
After the enthronement ceremony a reception was given to the Catholicos His Beatitude Mor Baselios Thomas the First. During the speech delivered on the occasion, His Holiness emphasized the commitment of the Holy See to the Church in India. Replying to the congratulatory messages, His Beatitude the Catholicos Aboon Mor Baselios Thomas I reiterated that he like his predecessors, will always take great care in the continuance of the faith and traditions of the Syrian Church.
Catholicos reaching India
On Saturday 27th July at 10.50 am, His Beatitude arrived at Cochin International Airport where he was given a rousing reception by thousands of people from all walks of life. The representatives of the State government including Cabinet Ministers were present at the Airport to welcome the new Catholicos. Soon after his arrival His Beatitude went to the nearby Akaparambu Mor Sabor Mor Aphroth Church and offered prayers.
The Catholicos then proceeded to the Kothamangalam MarThoma Church where the mortal remains of Maphriyono St. Baselios Yeldho (1685) is entombed. Later His Beatitude visited Malecuriz Dayro and offered prayers at the tomb of his immediate predecessor Aboon Mor Baselios Paulose-II. By around 7.00 PM the Catholicos reached St. Joseph’s Cathedral, the headquarters of Kottayam diocese and then visited the Manarcaud MarthMariam Church, a major Syrian Orthodox pilgrim centre in Kerala. All through the way, huge gathering of faithful assembled at various places to have a glimpse of their beloved Catholicos and chanted, ‘long live Patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas’, ‘long live Catholicos Mor Baselios Thomas I’, ‘long live Antioch-Malankara relationship’. On Sunday the 28th, H.B. the Catholicos celebrated the Holy Qurbono at the Kyomtho Seminary chapel to commemorate the second dhukrono of Mor Osthatheos Thomas, the former Metropolitan of Kochi diocese.
On 31st July 2002, the Sunthroniso of Aboon Mor Baselios Thomas-I Bava was held at the Kothamangalam Marthoma Cheriapally. H.E. Mor Julius Kuriakose, the first secretary to the Patriarch of Antioch read the Susthathicon, the Patriarchal Bull, proclaiming the enthronement of the new Catholicos for the Church in India. The function was attended by all the Metropolitans of the Malankara Church, hundreds of priests and very large number of laymen who came from all parts of Malankara.
As the head of the Church in India the Catholicos presides over the Holy Episcopal Synod of Malankara Church which includes all the Metropolitans of the Syrian Orthodox Church in India. His Beatitude is also the Metropolitan Trustee of the Jacobite Syrian Christian Association.
The Catholicate office of His Beatitude Baselios Thomas I functions at the Patriarchal centre in Puthencuriz near Kochi, which is also the headquarters of the Syrian Orthodox Church in India.SOURCE: www.suriyanikkarudearadhana.com/