Geevarghese Mar Gregorios of Parumala

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Saint Gregorios of Parumala (Geevargese Mar Gregorios)
Raja Ravi Varma, Gheevarghese Mar Gregorios of Parumala (1905).jpg
Geevarghese Mar Gregorios of Parumala (Portrait done by Raja Ravi Varma)
Born 15 June 1848
Mulanthuruthy, Kerala, India
Died 2 November 1902 (Aged 54)
Parumala, Kerala, India
Venerated in Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church; Malankara Jacobite Syrian Christian Church; Syriac Orthodox Church and Coptic Orthodox Church
Canonized on 2 November 1947 by Baselios Geevarghese II of Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church
on 20 December 1987 by Ignatius Zakka I Iwas of Syrian Orthodox Church
Major shrine St.Peter's and St.Paul's Orthodox Syrian Church, Parumala
Feast 2 November

Saint Geevargese Mar Gregorios, popularly known as Parumala Thirumeni (Bishop of Parumala) and also known as Chathuruthil Kochu Thirumeni, (15 June 1848 – 2 November 1902) was a bishop of the Malankara Syrian Church. He became a deacon at the age of 10, a priest at the age of 18, and a bishop when aged 28. He died at the age of 54 and was buried at Parumala Church in Kerala, India. In 1947, he was declared a saint by the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, making him the first canonised Christian saint from India. In 1987, the Syriac Orthodox Church also recognised him as a saint.

Life[edit]

Gregorios was born as Kochu Ipeora[1] in the priestly family of Chaturuthil in the village of Mulanthuruthy, near Cochin, on 15 June 1848. His parents, Kochu Mathai and Maryam, had three sons and two daughters. Soon after the birth of the fifth child, Maryam died. His elder sister, also called Maryam, who was married to Varkey of Palal Kalappurackal Vadakkeveedu (Kurinji) near Puthencruz, brought him up. He was christened as Geevargese at the Mulanthuruthy Marthoman Jacobite Syrian Church and was taught by his father's brother, who was a Malpan (Syriac: Malfono, a Syrian scholar-priest).[citation needed]

Gregorios was ordained as a reader-deacon called Koroyo on 14 September 1858 at the age of ten by Palakkunnath Mathews Mar Athanasius at Karingachira St. George Jacobite Syrian Cathedral. He continued his training with his uncle until the latter died from smallpox. Gregorios was also infected with smallpox but survived and moved to Pampakuda to continue his studies under Konat Geevarghese Malpan. During this time, Gregorios also became associated with the visiting Syrian Bishop, Yuyakim Mar Coorilos, who taught him, had great admiration for him, and ordained him as a full deacon, priest and cor-episcopa within few months in 1865. Later, he settled at the Vettikkal Dayra near Mulunthuruthy where he led a monastic life. He had a thorough knowledge of theology and Syriac, which he had learned from his three teachers. In 1872 he was ordained as a Ramban (monk-priest) by Pulikottil Mar Dionysius, the Malankara Metropolitan.[citation needed]

In 1875, the Antioch Patriarch, Ignatius Peter IV, visited Malankara. He chose Gregorios as his secretary and translator for the visit. Thus, Gregorios accompanied the Patriarch in visits to many churches and assisted him in the consecration of the Holy Mooron and in the historic synod of Mulanthuruthy in 1876.

On 10 December 1876 the Patriarch ordained Gregorios as a Metropolitan at the St.Thomas Jacobite Syrian Church in North Paravur. Aged 28, he was the youngest of six metropolitans consecrated during the visit and as such became known as Kochu Thirumeni (Young Bishop).

At the behest of Gregorios, all the newly-ordained Metropolitans observed a 40-day lent at the 'Vettikkal Dayra' before their assumption as Diocesan Metropolitans. In his bishopric, he established various churches and was the motivator to establish schools in different parts of Malankara. In the late 1890s many educational institutions were started by the Malankara Church under the initiative and guidance of Parumala Kochu Thirumeni and Pulikottil Joseph Mar Dionysius (Malankara Metropolitan). St.Thomas School at Mulanthuruthy, St. Ignatius School at Kunnamkulam (named after his mentor the Patriarch of Antioch Mar Ignatius Peter IV), the Syrian English School (now known as 'MGM High School') at Thiruvalla, etc., were some of the well known schools of the Church at that time.

Gregorios was involved in the activities and development of the Malankara Church. Following the demise of Metropolitans, the administration of Thumpamon and Kollam dioceses also fell under him. In 1887 the first block of the 'Parumala Seminary' was consecrated.

Azhippura - Small building where Mar Gregorios lived at Parumala

While staying at Parumala Seminary, Mar Gregorios taught Syriac to deacons. He used to rise at 4 am for prayer., and prayed seven times a day as taught by the Holy Fathers of the Church. He observed lent by fasting, particularly on Fridays and Wednesdays.

He visited Jerusalem in 1895, staying at the "Sehion Malika" (Monastery of St.Mark), the diocesan headquarters of the Syrian Orthodox Metropolitan. During his stay he visited most of the important places of Christendom, and led the Passion Week services at the altars of the Syrian church in Jerusalem. On his return Mar Geevarghese collected money from all the parishes in Malankara and sent a silver cross as offering to the Jerusalem Church.

Tomb of Mar Gregorios inside Parumala Church

Mar Gregorios already had stomach ulcer and it became chronic in 1902. Treatments proved futile and slowly he became physically weaker and weaker. He died on 2 November 1902. The funeral was conducted at Parumala Church on Tuesday 3 November 1902 in the presence of thousands of people and hundreds of priests. The many testimonies to the saintly intercession of Mar Gregorios made Parumala Church and the tomb a center of pilgrimage. In 1947 Mar Gregorios was declared a saint by the then Catholicos of the church, His Holiness Baselios Geevarghese II and later in 1987 by the Patriarch of Antioch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas.

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