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Geevarghese Ivanios

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Ivanios Geevarghese Panikkervettil

First Metropolitan Archbishop of Trivandrum, Founder and First head of the Syro Malankara Catholic Church.
ChurchSyro-Malankara Catholic Church
SeeSyro-Malankara Catholic Major Archeparchy of Trivandrum
Installed11 June 1932
Term ended15 July 1953
PredecessorNone (seat created)
SuccessorAboun Mor Benedict Gregorios Thangalathil OIC
Ordination15 September 1908
by Vattasseril Dionysius
Consecration1 May 1925
by Baselios Geevarghese I
Personal details
P. T Geevarghese

(1882-09-21)21 September 1882
Mavelikkara, Kerala
Died15 July 1953(1953-07-15) (aged 70)
Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
BuriedSaint Mary's Malankara Syrian Catholic Cathedral Church, Pattom, Trivandrum
Nationality India
Previous post(s)Metropolitan Archbishop of Bethany Ashram of Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church

Aboun Mor Ivanios "P. T." Geevarghese Panikkervettil, OIC (born 21 September 1882 as Panikkervettil Thomas Panicker Geevarghese - died 15 July 1953) was the first metropolitan archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church and Major Archdiocese of Trivandrum.[1] He was the founder of Bethany Ashram for monks in Order of Imitation Christ (OIC) and Bethany Madam order of nuns. He was the first M.A. degree holder in the Kerala or Malankara Church. He also served as the principal of the Kottayam M.D Seminary High School and as a professor at Serampore College. He is a candidate for sainthood in the Catholic Church, having been declared a Servant of God by Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Thottungal in 2007 and Venerable by Pope Francis in 2024.

Family history, childhood and education[edit]

P. T Geevarghese was born in Mavelikkara, Kerala, India, on 21 September 1882 to Thomas Panicker and Annamma Panicker.

He was a descendant of the aristocratic tharavad of Panickervettil in Mavelikkara within the erstwhile Indian princely state of Travancore, currently in the Alappuzha district of Kerala. The Panickervettil family was honored with the title of 'Mylitta Panicker' bestowed upon by the Travancore rulers.

P. T Geevarghese had his early education in Protestant and government schools. From 1897 he attended M. D. Seminary High School, Kottayam and pursued his higher studies at Serampore College and Madras Christian College (M.C.C.). He completed his matriculation education in 1899: before which he received minor orders (of clerical life) on 20 September 1898. [2]


He was ordained a deacon by Pulikkottil Dionysius then the Malankara Metropolitan of Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church on 9 January 1900, he then continued his studies at CMS College, Kottayam and obtained a bachelor's degree in economics and Indian History from Madras Christian College. In 1907 he took a Master's Degree (MA) with distinction from the same college. On his return from Madras he was appointed principal of his alma mater, M.D. Seminary High School. During this time he led various schemes for the renewal of the Malankara Church. He organized basic church communities, commenced Bible conventions, because of this he was popularly entitled "Koodasa Semmasan" (Deacon of Sacraments).[3]

Priestly life[edit]

He was ordained to the priesthood as P.T. Geevarghese on 15 September 1908 by Vattasseril Dionysius then the Malankara Metropolitan of Malankara Orthodox Church. Geevarghese was popularly known as M A Achan, as he was the first priest with an MA degree in Malankara.[4] At the same time, he took the initiative to empower the Malankara Church with hierarchical autonomy. He became instrumental to erect Catholicate for the Malankara Church on 5 September 1912. After the establishment of Catholicate in 1912 Malankara Church divided into two, one under the leadership of Malankara Metropolitan Vatteseril Dionysius (bishop's party) and one under Anthiochan Jacobite Patriarch (Bava Party). Geevarghese was belonging to Bishop's party.

Professorship in Serampore[edit]

In 1912 Vattasseril Dionysius received an invitation to attend a conference at Calcutta. Dionysius selected Geevarghese to accompany him to Calcutta to attend the conference. At the conference, they met Dr. Howels the principal of Serampore College who requested the Metropolitan to avail the service of Geevarghese as the professor of the College. The metropolitan permitted Geevarghese to take up the task. He made use of this opportunity to educate the Malankara Youth. About 20 young people from Kerala reached Calcutta for higher education.[5]

At Serampore, Geevarghese got more time for prayer and contemplation. He came across the writings of Basil of Caesarea on monasticism. The Basilian monastic vision had a great influence on him. Besides the visits to the Sabarmati Ashram of Mahatma Gandhi and Santiniketan of Rabindranath Tagore gave him a new vision of Indian Sanyasa (monasticism). These experiences made him to reflect upon starting an order of missionaries to carry out the task of evangelization in India.[6] Slowly the residence of Geevarghese and his followers at Serampore became an Ashram (Monastery), and they began to live a sort of religious life according to the monastic rules of St. Basil, adapting them to Indian culture.[7] As he accepted this as his way of life, he resigned from the Serampore College.

Foundation of the Bethany Ashram[edit]

On his return from Calcutta, Geevarghese looked for a location to establish an ashram. One of his friends E. John Vakeel donated 100 acres (400,000 m2) of land at Mundanmala, Ranni-Perunadu, Kerala at the meeting place of the rivers Pampa and Kakkatt. The place was thickly filled with thorny bushes and herbs. Geevarghese and his followers built a small thatched hut made out of the branches of trees and bamboo. This turned to be the first ashram in Malankara on 15 August 1919. He prayerfully searched for a name for the ashram and opened the Bible and he got the word "Bethany". He meditated upon it and came to the conclusion that it was an apt name for a religious order which upholds both contemplation and action.[8] Eventually the Bethany Ashram became a place of pilgrimage and spiritual experience. Spiritual retreats and discourses were given by Geevarghese especially in Passion Week. Geevarghese envisioned the ashram also being a shelter for the poor and the marginalized. Along with the Ashram, he started a house for the orphans.

While at Serampore Geevarghese was thinking of the empowerment of the Syrian Christian women through education. To realize this idea, he took initiative to give education and training to the selected group of young girls with the help of the Epiphany Sisters of England working at Serampore. He founded the Bethany Madom (literally Bethany Great House or convent) for the women religious in 1925.

Bishop of Bethany[edit]

It was decided by the Malankara Synod to ordain Geevarghese as the Bishop of Bethany. He was ordained a bishop of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church by Baselios Geevarghese I on 1 May 1925. He received the name Geevarghese Ivanios.[9]

Ecclesial communion[edit]

Benziger (front left) with other Indian bishops, on the far right Mar Ivanios

On 20 September 1930, Theophilos, John Kuzhinapurath, Alexander Attupurath, and Chacko Kiliyileth made the Catholic profession of faith before Aloysius Maria Benziger, the then Bishop of Kollam. Many of the members of the Bethany orders also came into full communion with the Catholic Church. This spawned the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church.

Establishment of the Syro-Malankara Catholic hierarchy[edit]

In 1932 Geevarghese made a pilgrimage to Rome for the reunion as per the letters from Rome and met Pope Pius XI. Geevarghese received the pallium. He also participated in the thirty-second Eucharistic Congress held at Dublin, Ireland. There he met G.K. Chesterton, who said to Geevarghese "The dignified Indian gentleman, who represented this far off triumph in the Orient, had changed his neighbours by bringing them to the Roman Communion."[10]

On his return from Rome, Geevarghese made efforts to build up the Unite Rite establishment of the Malankara Christian Community. Pope Pius XI established the Malankara Catholic hierarchy, Syro-Malankara Catholic on 11 June 1932 through the apostolic constitution Cristo pastorum principi.[11]

Ecumenical endeavours and cultural development of the society[edit]

Geevarghese sent missionaries to different parts of the land. Besides the newly joined bishops and priests from different Malankara denominations, he received missionaries from the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. Joseph Kuzhinjalil, the founder of the congregation of the Daughters of Mary, was a missionary appointed by Geevarghese to work in the southern parts of the land. Under Geevarghese's leadership about 75 priests were joined from different denominations of the Malankara Church. About 150 parishes including mission stations were established.[12] A lot of hindus (especially from Nadar (caste) community) also joined the Syro Malankara Catholic Church from Kanyakumari of the marthandam diocese in Tamil Nadu.[13]

Geevarghese established about 50 schools, and one 'A' grade college, named Mar Ivanios College.[14] He visited U.S. President Harry S Truman, G.K. Chesterton, King George V of the United Kingdom, and George Bernard Shaw.

Silver Jubilee of episcopal ordination[edit]

The Silver Jubilee of the episcopal ordination of Geevarghese was celebrated in 1951, and Pope Pius XII wrote to him remembering the reconciliation.[15]


Geevarghese died on 15 July 1953 and was entombed at Saint Mary's Cathedral, Pattom, Trivandrum.


Girideepam - Mountain Lamp, Trans. Sr. Rehmas SIC, Cause of Canonization of Mar Ivanios, Trivandrum, 2006.

The Sacrament of Confession: A Meditative Study, Trans. Fr. Samuel Thaikkoottathil Ramban, Cause of Canonization of Mar Ivanios, Trivandrum, 2006.

The Holy Qurbono: An Appraisal and Meditation, Trans. Dr. Bishop Thomas Mar Anthonios (Antony Valiyavilayil OIC), Cause of Canonization of Mar Ivanios, Trivandrum, 2006.

The Liturgical Year: A Theological Reflection, Trans. Fr. Samuel Thaikkoottathil Ramban, Cause of Canonization of Mar Ivanios, Trivandrum, 2006.

A Guide to Malankara Religious Life, Trans. Fr. Samuel Thaikkoottathil Ramban, Cause of Canonization of Mar Ivanios, Trivandrum, 2006.

Cause of beatification and canonization[edit]

Geevarghese was declared Servant of God (Daivadasan) a first step toward sainthood on 14 July 2007, the day prior to the 54th anniversary of his death. The proclamation was read by his third successor Cardinal Baselios Cleemis at Saint Mary's Malankara Syrian Catholic Cathedral in Trivandrum, India and the cause for his canonization will continue. On 14 March 2024, Pope Francis Approved Archbishop Geevarghese Mar Ivanios's practice of heroic virtues and declared him Venerable.[16]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "The reunion movement among the St Thomas Christians 19th and 20th centuries". Mahatma Gandhi University. 2008.
  2. ^ From a book "Archbishop Mor Ivanios" by Rev Fr Thomas Injakalodi,Vol. 1,(2006) Chapter-2 Page-27
  3. ^ Fr. Thomas Inchakkalody, Archbishop Mar Ivanios, Vol. 1, (2006) pp. 72-74.
  4. ^ Malayala Manorama, 29 July 1908 quoted in Fr. Thomas Inchakkalody, Archbishop Mar Ivanios Vol. 1 (2006), p. 89.
  5. ^ Fr. Thomas Inchakkalody, Archbishop Mar Ivanios Vol. 1, (2006), pp. 146-147
  6. ^ L. Moolaveettil, The Spiritual Life of Mar Ivanios, Kottayam, 1977, p.74
  7. ^ Fr. Thomas Kuzhinapurath, "Mar Ivanios: Bharata Christava Sanyasathinte Pravachakan", Deepika, 15 July 1997.
  8. ^ Fr. Thomas Inchakkalody, Archbishop Mar Ivanios (Vol.1), pp. 152-171
  9. ^ Rajan, Matthew (2004). "Baselios Geevarghese I - Second Catholicose". The Christian Light of Life. 3 (12): 221–225.
  10. ^ G.K. Chesterton, From the Universe, quoted in Fr. Thomas Inchakkalody, Archbishop Mar Ivanios, Vol. 2, Kottayam, 2006, p. 125.
  11. ^ Pius XI,Cristo pastorum principi in Acta Apostolicae Sedis, XXIV (1932) 289-292.
  12. ^ Syro-Malankara Catholic Directory, 1973
  13. ^ "The Nadar Community of Syro-Malankara Catholic Church".
  14. ^ Fr. Thomas Inchyakkalody, Archbishop Mar Ivanios, Vol. 2, Kottayam, 2006, p. 225.
  15. ^ Pius XII, "Letter to Archbishop Mar Ivanios" quoted in M. Gibbons, Mar Ivanios (1882-1953) Archbishop of Trivandrum: The Story of a Great Conversion, Dublin, 1962, p.127.
  16. ^ "Hagiography Circle 2024". Hagiography Circle. An Online Resource on Contemporary Hagiography. Retrieved 13 May 2024.


External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
None (seat created)
Metropolitan Archbishop of Trivandrum
Succeeded by