Mar Dionysius IV
Philipose Mar Dionysius of Cheppad
|Malankara Syrian Church|
|Installed||27 August 1825|
|Predecessor||Mar Dionysius III-Givargis Mar Philexinos of Thozhiyoor|
|Successor||Mathews Mar Athanasius|
|Consecration||27 August 1825|
|Died||9 October 1855
|Buried||Cheppad Valiya palli (St. George Orthodox Church)|
His tenure was a period of turmoil in the Malankara Syrian Church. When the Anglican Missionaries of Low Church tried to interfere in the faith and administration of the Malankara church, the Church severed its relations with the Anglican missionaries through the historic Mavelikkara Synod of 1936. A negligible number of the members of the Church joined the C.M.S. Church. Remaining members were divided into two factions, one upholding the conservative attitude of the Church, and the other in support of the reformation and cleansing of church from superstitions and unbiblical practices.
Philipose Mar Dionysius was born in 1781 at the Aanjilimootil family in Pallippad, a place near Cheppad. Cheppad is a scenic village located at Karthikapally Taluk of Alapuzha district in Kerala State, India. It is halfway between Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram on the National Highway 47.
Punnathara Mar Dionysius Metropolitan (Mar Dionysius III) died 17 May 1825. To select a successor representatives of the parishes met together at Pallikara palli under the leadership of Mar Philixinos II of Thozhyoor Church who was the Acting Malankara metropolitan at that time when the throne was vacant. The names of Cheppad Anjilimootil Philipose Malpan, Kalloopara Adangapurathu Joseph Malpan and Kottayam Eruthickal Markose Kathanar were proposed. Eruthickal Markose Kathanar withdrew his candidacy during the process and that left 2 strong contestors. After prayer they cast lots (cleromancy), and the lot fell to Philipose Malpan. The title Malpan represents for those who teach in the Theological Seminary. Adangapurathu Joseph Malpan later became the Vicar General of 72 Parishes at Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. Ittup Rampan Malpan (the Senior person among the 3 teachers of the Seminary "Ittup Rampan- who became Malankara Metropolitan as Dionysius II", "Adangapurathu Joseph Malpan", "Punnathra Kurien Malplan") was the source for the Orthodox Seminary "Old Seminary", as he took the initiative to submit application to the proper authority in AD 1813, and the construction was completed in AD 1815. Palakkunnathu Abraham Malpan joined the Seminary at a later stage to teach Syriac language there. At first there were only 5 students, and in following years the number of students grew significantly. Back then the Angamali Seminary was also available for Syrian Orthodox Church to educate students from northern part of Malankara.
Philipose Ramban was consecrated by Geevarghese Mar Philexenos (Kidangan) of the Malabar Independent Syrian Church on 27 August 1825 at Kottayam Cheria palli. Philipose Ramban was given the episcopal title Cheppad Philipose Mar Dionysious. He was the fourth bishop in the Malankara Church to get this title Dionysius
Obstacles During His Reign
Problems with C.M.S. Missionaries
The relation between the missionaries who came from England was cordial during the first few years. But soon they began to interfere in the internal affairs of the church. They tried to change the liturgy and practices of the Malankara church to their system. Without permission they began worshiping using Anglican liturgy in Old Seminary chapel. A letter from the bishop of Calcutta in 1835 suggested
- to ordain only those who completed their studies from the Seminary and received the certificate from the Principal,
- to raise a fund to increase the salary of the priests,
- to submit the accounts of the Church every year to the British Resident for annual auditing and
- to conduct the church services in vernacular, Malayalam.
The Metropolitan rejected all these suggestions outright. Soon Mar Dionysius convened a meeting of the representatives of the parishes at Mavelikara (16 January 1836) and officially rejected the suggestions of the Anglican Bishop, stating that decisions on such a matter pertaining to faith was within the ambit of the Patriarch of Antioch. It has to be noted that even though the Association rejected those suggestions then, each of them were implemented in the Malankara Orthodox Church in time. It can be concluded that the reason behind the rejection of the suggestions of the Anglican Bishop was that the Church was ready to accept timely changes only with the consent of an established authority & within a disciplined structure, and not simply based on a demanding letter from a Bishop of a foreign Church.
Soon the C.M.S. missionaries formed the C.M.S. Church. By a government award known as Cochin Award, they were given a few properties of the Malankara Church. The Association at Mavelikara gave official recognition to the Patriarch of Antioch as the spiritual head of the Malankara Church. Hence, it was at this time Malankara Church came to be referred to as Jacobite Church.
Problems with Abraham Malpan
Abraham Malpan, Mamalaserry Konattu Malpan and Idavazhikkal Philipose Kathanar were fined by the government for receiving ordination a second time from Mar Athanasius. Mar Athanasius had travelled to Turkey without the permission of the general assembly of the Church to get ordination as a bishop.
Mar Dionysius IV did not support reformation movement initiated by Abraham Malpan and his supporters. Abraham Malpan did not attend the Mavelikara meeting. When Abraham Malpan used the revised liturgy and brought about changes in practices, that offended and disappointed Mar Dionysius IV, and suspended malpan from religious duties & refused priesthood to the deacons trained under him. Mar Dionysius remained staunch in his stand of upholding the traditional faith and liturgy of the Church.
In 1829, Mar Dionysius IV consecrated Geevarghese Mar Koorilose (Kuthoorey) (1829–56), as the Metropolitan of Thozhyoor church.
Palakunnathu Deacon Mathews, a deacon trained under Abraham Malpan and was his nephew; through malpan's canniness and spiritual nurturing and without the permission of the Bishop, he went to Anitoch. He was consecrated with the episcopal title Mathews Mar Athanasius by Patriarch of Antioch, Ignatius Elias II (1838–47), in 1843.
In 1846, the Patriarch sent a Metropolitan Euyakim Mar Kurilos to Malankara. In 1852 Mar Dionysius IV abdicated due to poor health. At this time it was necessary for the government to find the successor of Mar Donysius for the purpose of paying the interest to a fixed deposit (Vattipanam) with the government. Mathews Mar Athanasius and Mar Kurilos made claims. The Maharajah of Travancore appointed a committee of four senior government officers (known as Kollam Panchayat), They decided that a foreign bishop could not be regarded as the Malankara Metropolitan. So the Maharajah issued a proclamation in favour of Mathews Mar Athanasius on 30 August 1852. Even though Mar Athanasius lacked the support of the general assembly of the Church (Malankara Palli-Yogam), the fact that he was a native favoured him. Had Mar Dionysius not abdicated or groomed a successor this scenario could have been avoided.
After abdicating, Valia Methrachen (Mar Dionysius IV) was bedridden due to ill health. The people who were with him all these years left him for the changes that've happened. When Mathews Mar Athanasious become aware of this he immediately came to cheppadu and had done all things necessary for Cheppadu thirumeni. He stayed with him for more than two months and he arranged aide and medical help from Thiruvalla. On 9 October 1855, Cheppad Philipose Mar Dionysius died and was laid to rest at Cheppad Valiya palli (St. George Orthodox Church). The last ceremonies was done by Mathews Mar Athanasious.
The Church remembers Mar Dionysius on 12 October.
Mar Dionysious III of Punnathara
|Metropolitan of the Malankara Church
Mathews Mar Athanasius Metropolitan
- Indian Orthodox Church
- List of Catholicoi of the East and Malankara Metropolitans
- List of Syrian Malabar Nasranis
- Alex Mathew. Kalloopara parish history. Page 112.
- Ittoop writer. (1869) History of Syrian Christians of Malabar. Page 228.
- Mavelikara Padiola (Decisions of Mavelikara meeting) First sentence of the original Malayalam version.
- George Kassessa, Rev.M.C. (1919). Palakunnathu Abraham Malpan. (Biography in Malaylam) Page 42.
- Royal proclamation of 30 August 1852, in favour of Mathews Mar Athanasius.
- Rev. Dr. Joseph Cheeran, Adv. P. C. Mathew Pulikottil, K. V. Mammen Kottackal. (2002). Orthodox Sabha Charitravum samskaravum (History and Culture of the Orthodox Church).
- Ittoop Writer (1869). Malayalathulla Suryani Chistianikauleday Charitram (History of Syrain Christians in the land of Malayalam).