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 2 November 1947 (Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church)
20 December 1987 (Syrian Orthodox church) by H.H Baselios Geevarghese II and H.H. Ignatius Zakka I Iwas
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) (15 June 1848 – 2 November 1902) was a bishop of the Malankara Syrian Church. He is also known as Chathuruthil Kochu Thirumeni. He became a deacon at the age of 10, a priest at the age of 18, a bishop at the young age of 28. He died at the age of 54 and was buried at St.Peters and St.Pauls Orthodox Church, Parumala. In 1947, Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church declared Mar Gregorios as a saint. He is the first canonized Christian saint from India.

A brief life history[edit]

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

He was ordained as a reader-deacon called Koroyo on 14th Sept, 1858 at the age of ten by Palakkunnath Mathews Mar Athanasius at Karingachira St. George Jacobite Syrian Cathedral. Koroyo Geevarghese continued his training under Geevarghese Malpan until Geevarghese died due to smallpox. Although Deacon Geevarghese was also infected with smallpox, he miraculously survived it. Afterwards Deacon Geevarghese moved to Pampakuda to continue his studies under Konat Geevarghese Malpan. In the meantime, Deacon became associated with the visiting Syrian Bishop Yuyakim Mar Coorilos. Mar Coorilos had great admiration for the deacon and was pleased to ordain him as 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 learned from his teachers, Chaturuthil Fr. Geevarghese Malpan (uncle), Konatt Malpan of Pambakkuda and Yuyakim Mar Koorilos. In 1872 he was ordained Ramban (Monk-Priest) by H G Pulikottil Mar Dionysius, the Malankara Metropolitan.

In 1875, the Antioch Patriarch His Holiness Ignatius Peter IV visited Malankara. The Patriarch chose Ramban Geevarghese as his Secretary and translator during the entire visit. Along with the Patriarch, the Ramban visited many churches. He also assisted the Patriarch in the consecration of the Holy Mooron and in the historic synod of Mulanthuruthy in 1876.

On 10 December 1876 the Patriarch ordained Ramban Geevarghese as Metropolitan Gregorios at the St.Thomas Jacobite Syrian Church in North Paravur. When in Malankara, the Patriarch had consecrated six metropolitans of whom Mar Gregorios was the youngest, at 28, and hence came to be known as Kochu Thirumeni or Young Bishop.

At the behest of our Kochu Thirumeni, 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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