In Malankara Syrian Church, the throne of Catholicose is a topic of debate, even after the elapse of one century. Let us have a glimpse on the facts of this subject.
EVOLUTION OF THE HISTORIC OFFICE OF CATHOLICOS OF THE EAST
At the dawn of Christianity in the 1st century, there were two great political powers that stood against each other in the Near and the Middle East; the Roman (Byzantine) Empire and the Empire of the Parthians (or Sassanaid Persians since the early 3rd century). This traditional enmity had a determining influence on the history of that area for centuries. The border line between these rival empires divided the landscape of Mesopotamia with the Syriac speaking population on either side. The great city of Antioch was where a Christian presence appeared for the first time outside Palestine, the capital of the Syrian Province, in the Eastern part of the Roman Empire. The Patriarchs of the city of Antioch have special importance in the history of Christianity as it was here St. Peter, the chief of the Apostles, established his Apostolic See in AD 37. Antioch and regions east of it were placed under the care of the Patriarch of Antioch and all the East. (The Christian Church laws that took shape in the early era through regional and ecumenical councils reaffirmed the ecclesiastical jurisdictions of the Patriarchs of Antioch, Alexandria and Rome).
In the first Synod at Nicaea, in AD 325, three Global Centers of Church were present and was further legalized in Universal Church arena. Again, in the second Synod in Constantinople in AD 381, a forth Center of the Universal Church was established, which was Constantinople. Thus Christians living in the four human inhabited centers of the world then, such as East Europe, West Europe, Asia and Africa were being religiously administered by four dedicated Patriarch or Pope. In the first Synod in Nicaea itself, Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch was given the jurisdiction of Antioch and all the East (complete Asian continent).
CATHOLICOSE AT SELEUCIA- RISE AND FALL (88 YEARS):
Now let us look more in-depth about Catholicose in the global perspective of the Antiochan Syriac Orthodox Church. It was hard for the Antiochan Syrian Orthodox Church members in the Persian Empire to consecrate Bishops from Antioch. Accordingly, the Patriarch of Antioch through His delegate Bishop Mor Marutha consecrated the Bishop of Seleucia (a place near the present Bagdad, Iraq), MOR ISHAQ (Issac) as the first �Catholicose of Seleucia� in AD 410. Catholicos of Seleucia acted as the Ambassador of the Patriarch of Antioch, in the Persian Empire, with some exclusive privileges to consecrate bishops on behalf of the Patriarch. After 88 years (i.e. on AD 498), a Nestorian supporter Bersaumma betrayed then Catholicose of Seleusia to the Persian Emperor Feroz. The Catholicose was assassinated and a Nestorian was elevated as the Nestorian Catholicose of Seleucia and Patriarch of Babylon. This is the history of the decline of Catholicose of Seleucia and regeneration of Nestorianism.
MAPHRIANA AT TIGRIS -RISE AND FALL (1231 YEARS):
Even though the Church in Persia had officially accepted Nestorianism, a substantial group of Christians in Mosul, Niniveh and Tigris (Tagrit) continued to keep their loyalty to the old faith. A few decades later the Orthodox wing of the Church in Persia that continued to be under the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch & all the East, got reorganized under St. Ya`qub Burdono and installed St. Ahudemmeh as 'The Great Metropolitan of the East', but he too found it difficult to discharge his ecclesiastical duties smoothly. However by the 7th century the situation changed for the better which finally led to the formation of an office of the �Maphrianate of the East� at Tigrit in Tigris, after an ecclesiastical power vacuum for 131 years. In AD 629, the Patriarch of Antioch and all the East H.H. Moran Mor Ignatius Athanasius �I (AD 595 -631) consecrated Marutha, a Monk in Mar Mathai Dayara (south east of Mosul) as the first �Maphriana of Tigris�. Later the centre of the Maphrianate was shifted from Tigrit to St. Mathew�s Dayro in the city of Mosul in Iraq. This Maphrianate continued functioning well for 1231 years. But in the context of the declining position in Iraq due to the changing geo-political situations, the Maphrianate became more of a nominal position in nature and hence in AD 1860 the Synod chaired by the Antiochan Patriarch, H.H. Moran Mor Ignatius Yacoob II decided to abolish it. The records of this Synod decisions are available in the library of Kurkuma Monastry or St.Hananyo�s Monastery in Turkey.
ESTABLISHMENT OF CATHOLICOSE IN MALANKARA � FAKE AND REAL:
Let us see in detail the position of Catholicose in the Malankara perspective. In 1912 the �throne (?)� of Catholicose was established in Malankara by the enthronement of Murimattom Mar Ivanios Paulose as the First Catholicose of the Indian Orthodox faction with the name Mor Basliose Paulose I by the already deposed Patriarch of Antioch Mor Ignatius Abdul Masih II, which has no legal, ecclesiastical or canonic validity. Besides, this consecration of Catholicose, breached basic canonic tradition that there should be the presence of minimum of three Major Bishops. However he passed away on 1913. His reign lasted only for 1 year.
Then there was a power vacuum for the Indian Orthodox faction for 12 years.
In 1925 Mor Philoxenos Vakathanum was consecrated as the second Catholicose with the name Mor Basaliose Geevarghese I. This consecration also was not canonical due to the absence of Patriarch of Antioch and the presence of only two Metrapolitans (canonically minimum three Metrapolitans are required for consecration). He passed away on 1928. His reign lasted for 3 years.
In 1929, Mor Gregorios was consecrated as the third Catholicose with the name Mor Basaliose Geevarghese II. This consecration also was not canonical due to the absence of Patriarch of Antioch and the presence of only two Metrapolitans. In 1957, H. H. Moran Mor Ignatius Yacoob III was consecrated as Patriarch of Antioch. Since He had directly witnessed the problems of Malankara Church during his long stay in Manjanikara Dyara, took the initiative to reconcile the division in the Malankara Church. The Patriarch expressed his willingness for reunification of the two factions of Malankara Church in his first Kalpana, when all the court verdicts were in favour of the Jacobite faction. Accordingly, in the year 1958 Patriarch expressed his willingness to consecrate a Catholicose in Malankara. This paved the way for peace in Malankara. Eight years later, the Catholicose Geevarghese II passed away (1964), but in a peaceful atmosphere. His reign lasted for 35 years.
In 1964, Mor Augen Thimothios was consecrated as the Fourth Catholicose, with the name Mor Basaliose Ougen I, by the Antiochan Syrian Orthodox Patriarch, H. H. Moran Mor Ignatious Yacob III with all his ecclesiastical blessings. Thus for the first time a canonical Catholicate was established in India.
Now let us see the Statement of Oath taken by Mor Basaliose Augen I, during his consecration as Catholicose:
�I the feeble and meek Ougen Mor Themothios, chosen for ecclesiastical office of the Catholicose, confess my belief before this synod and before the Head of this synod, H. H. Moran Mor Ignatius Yacob III, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, that the Patriarch is my Head, that I accept from St. Peter the Head of the Holy Apostles up to your Holiness all the canonical Patriarchs who have reigned on your Holiness�s throne and all those who come after Your Holiness. Once again, I repeat my canonical connection with the Holy throne of Antioch. I swear that I shall not depart from this solemn Oath. (Note: This has been published in �Sabha Varthakal� dated February 9, 1973 printed in Good Hope Printers, Kottayam and �Illustrated weekly of India, Vol.XLVI-51 dated December 21-27, 1975).
But, Mor Basaliose Augen I, breached his oath systematically. He started preaching on the throne of St. Thomas and had been trying to segregate the Church from the See of Antioch. This has been reported to H. H. Moran Mor Ignatius Yacob III, Patriarch of Antioch. The Patriarch advised him several times to correct himself. But the Catholicose ignored his requests. Finally, Patriarch, H. H. Moran Mor Ignatious Yacob III send the Catholicose a memo with a warning note on January 10, 1975, which was almost 11 years after his consecration as Catholicose. But the Catholicose continuously ignored the Patriarch. Eventually, the Patriarch ex-communicated the Catholicose Mor Basaliose Augen I on August 21, 1975.
On September 7, 1975, H.H. Moran Mor Ignatius Yacob III consecrated Metropolitan Paulose Mor Philoxenos as the Catholicose of Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church with the name Mor Basaliose Paulose II. He underwent several trials and tribulations. Even he was pushed out from his own Aramana at Moovattupuzha. But the Catholicose demonstrated our Lord Jesus Christ�s forgiveness and he walked away. He later started residing in Piramadom Dayara and was leading a simple and ascetic life of fasting and prayers. He passed away on September 1, 1996. He believed Antioch as the spring of grace (kripayude uravidam). Thus he (Malankarayude Prakashagopuram) reigned the Malankara Antiochan Syrian Orthodox Church for 21 years, which was the most difficult time in our church�s history.
On November 6, 1996 Malankara Church selected Metropolitan Geevarghese Mor Gregorios (Perumbally Pally Thirumeni) as Malankara Jacobite Church Episcopal President. But on February 22, 1999, He passed away.
Metropolitan Thomas Mor Dionysius became the Malankara Jacobite Church Episcopal President. All the efforts of peace failed. Finally on December 27, 2000, Metropolitan Thomas Mor Dionysius was selected for the position of Catholicose of Malankara Jacobite Church. Eventually on July 26, 2002, he was consecrated as the Catholicose of Malankara Jacobite Church. He too is undergoing trials, tests, tribulations and persecutions. The Indian Orthodox faction has given more than 425 cases against Him in the Court, whereas he in return didn�t give a single case against the Indian Orthodox faction. He too has been demonstrating our Lord Jesus Christ�s forgiveness. It is no wonder our H.H. Moran Mor Patriarch have bestowed up on him, the title � �Jacob Burdana of Malankara�. By the grace of God even at the age of 84, H.B. Catholicose is victoriously leading and guiding our Malankara Church with dedication, hard work, love, tolerance, fasting and prayers under the Holy See of Antioch where our beloved patriarch H.H. Moran Mor. Ignatius Zakka Iwas I reigns.
In Episcopal dignity the Catholicos ranks second to the Patriarch. As His Holiness�s deputy, the Catholicos preside over the provincial Holy Synod. He and all the clergy of the faithful in India pledge loyalty to the Patriarch of Antioch, the supreme spiritual authority of the Syriac Orthodox Church throughout the world.
By Dr. Leena George Thekkekara