Gregorios Abdul Jaleel
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Mor Gregorios Abdul Jaleel Bawa (died 27 April 1681) was a Syriac Orthodox bishop of Jerusalem from 1664 until his death. He is chiefly remembered for his 1665 mission to India, in which he established ties between the newly independent Malankara Church and the Syriac Orthodox church. He is venerated as a saint by his church.
Abdul Jaleel was born in Mosul, Iraq. In 1654 he was ordained metropolitan bishop for the Ameed (Diyarbaker) diocese in Turkey by the Patriarch Mor Ignatius She'mun. In 1664, he was elevated as the Metropolitan of Jerusalem with the title Mor Gregorios. He traveled to India in 1665 to regularize the ordination of Mar Thoma I, archdeacon of the Saint Thomas Christian community who been declared a bishop by his followers after refusing to submit to the Portuguese. In India Gregorios established ties between Thoma's Malankara Church and the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch, and introduced the West Syrian Rite (later known as the Malankara Rite in India). He died in India in 1681, and his remains are interred in the St. Thomas Church at North Paravur. On April 4, 2000, Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I declared Mor Gregorios Abdul Jaleel a saint.
Mission in India
Christianity in South India is believed to have started with the arrival of St. Thomas the Apostle in AD 52. They continued to maintain close contact with the Church of the East over the centuries. Towards the end of the 16th century, the Portuguese Inquisition used its military might and influence with certain local rulers to forcibly convert the East Syrian Nasrani Christians to Latin Rite. The Nasranis responded with the Koonan Kurishu Sathyam proclaiming their unique and apostolic identity. After this incident, Archdeacon Thomas was ordained as bishop by the laying on of hands by twelve priests. This was considered necessary in view of the extraordinary circumstances. Appeals were sent to various Eastern Christian centers and Mor Gregorios Abdul Jaleel Bawa of Jerusalem was the first to respond.
Mor Gregorios reached Ponnani, then an important port on the south Western coast of India, in 1665. The 'Travancore State Manual' Vol II Page 187, records the arrival of Mor Gregorios as follows - "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".
Knowing the prevailing political climate, he traveled further south by land in disguise until he came across some Syrian Christians from the North Paravur church. He revealed his identity showing them the 'Sthathikon' from the Patriarch of Antioch. They led him to their church and sent word to others. The Archdeacon and many people rushed to the place to welcome the Bawa. Soon after, Mor Gregorios canonically ordained the Archdeacon as Metropolitan Mor Thoma I. Together, they traveled to various churches reaffirming the Orthodox faith and traditions. In 1670 March Gregorios and Mor Thoma I together ordained Mor Thoma II as the second Malankara Metropolitan.
An important encyclical by Mor Gregorios dated 5th Kumbam 1668 gives us a record of the Malankara Church during the period. Referring to the Synod of Diamper, it says "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. 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."
Gregorios died on 27 April 1681 (M.E. 857 Medom 14th, Friday). It is said[by whom?] that he knew beforehand the exact hour of his demise. In accordance with his instructions, he was dressed in the pontifical habits with cross and staff in hand and taken to the church seated in a chair. A large number of people gathered at the church and, as he died, it was reported that the people witnessed a bright glow inside and outside the church and several other miraculous signs. His mortal remains were interred in the 'Hykala' of the St. Thomas Church at North Paravur which has since become a pilgrimage centre.
On April 4, 2000, Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I of the Syrian Orthodox Church declared Gregorios Abdul Jaleel a saint. On 7 February 2006, the Patriarch issued a decree authorizing the recital of the name of Mor Gregorios Abdel`Jaleel in the Fifth 'TUBDEN' (diptych).
The relics of Mor Gregorios is preserved at St. Thomas Church, North Paravur which include his vestments, a golden cross, a golden chalice, paten set and an arulikka worn by Mor Gregorios. The holy 'Arulikka' has 12 partitions of which 11 contain the relics of saints and the twelfth partition in the middle contains a piece of the cross on which Christ was crucified. The Chalice and Platen are still used in the Holy Qurbana celebrated on the feast of Mor Gregorios. The relics are ceremoniously taken out and exhibited for public veneration on the feast day.
The Perunal (Malayalam) or Dhukrono (Syriac) of Mor Gregorios Bava is celebrated for 4 days starting from 24 April every year and culminating on the 27th. During these days, the North Paravur is declared as a festival area by the Kerala government considering the large flow of pilgrims. Thousands of pilgrims from different parts of Kerala, mostly from the northern part of Malankara, travel by foot covering many miles to reach the tomb every year.
The Feast of Mor Gregorios Abdul Jaleel is also celebrated at Elanjikal Palli in Niranam on 28 April.
- Extracts from this encyclical were later published in the book E M Philipose, Indian Church of St.Thomas, 1907. The original is preserved at the Kottayam Valiyapally.