Thomas Mar Athanasius Metropolitan
|Thomas Mar Athanasius
Bishop of Reformist Faction
|Installed||July 16, 1877|
|Term ended||August 10, 1893|
|Predecessor||Mathews Mar Athanasius Metropolitan|
|Successor||Successors: Titus I Mar Thoma - (Marthoma Syrian Church)|
|Ordination||June 1, 1868|
Palakkunathu Thomas Mar Athanasius, Metropolitan (7 October 1836 – 10 August 1893) the first son of Abraham Malpan was born into the Palakunnathu family of Maramon. He was the Malankara Metropolitan from 1877–93. The rift in Malankara church was strong during his time , the majority (official) Orthodox faction got the control of Malankara church following the Royal court verdict in 1889.He was evicted from the Pazhaya seminary (the seat of Malankara Metropolitan). The protestant faction stood faithful with him later organised into a Independent Marthoma church and governed by their own bishop.
Thomas Mar Athanasius, the first son of Abraham Malpan and Aleyamma was born into the Palakunnathu family of Maramon and was the brother of Titus I Mar Thoma Metropolitan . Mathews Mar Athanasius consecrated Thomas Mar Athanasius of Palakkunnathu Family, as his successor in 1869 in presence of Joseph Mar Koorilose (Alathoorey), Malabar Independent Syrian Church.
Reformation in the Malankara Syrian Church
During the time of Mathews Mar Athanasius, there was a strong uprising in the church for renaissance and reformation inspired by Anglican missionaries and scriptural education; and a strong opposition against it led by Mar Dionysius V . Thomas Mar Athanasius, continued the footsteps of his predecessor's reformation policy. There were no proper Theological education for Clergy, Holy communion was conducted for money, the church buildings belonged to one or two respected families of the parish and they managed the affairs of church on behalf of others. There was no proper accounting or Auditing of church income or records.Church service was conducted in Syriac and majority of the parishioners could not understand any word of it. Palakkunathu Thomas Mar Athanasious initiated a large number of reforms at Church administration and at parish level like his predecessor. Malankara Church was never under any church. however the opposition party Pulikkottil Joseph Mar Divaniyos II in 1876,Brought Patriarch of Antioch to preside over the Synod held at Mulanthuruthi . For the First time a group of Malankara Church came under the direct control of Church of Antioch. The Patriarch Divided Malankara Church into seven dioceses and consecrated bishops for each dioceses.Mar Dionysious V was given charge of Quilon dioceses. This helped Mar Dionysius to tighten his hold over the traditional Syrian Church in temporal as well as in spiritual affairs. Palakkunnathu Mathews Mar Athanasious Malankara Metropolitan , his Suffragan Thomas Mar Athanasius metropolitan and the churches sided with Malankara Metropolitan did not attend the Synod neither agreed to their deliberations. Following death of Palakkunathu Mathews Mar Athanasious , Palakkunathu Thomas Mar Athanasious became the leader of the reformist faction of the church continued with reformation activities in midst of hostility and eventually it led him into litigation.
The Litigation "Seminary Suit"
The majority Orthodox Jacobite Church represented by Mar Dionysius accused that the consecration of Thomas Mar Athanasius was invalid as it had been done without the permission of the Jacobite patriarch, held to be the supreme head of the Syrian Church in Malabar. To establish the foothold by the two factions a litigation, that lasted for 10 years took place, regarding the title to the possession of the ‘Syrian Seminary’ and allied properties of the Church.
The plea of Thomas Mar Athanasius was that the Syrian Church in Malabar was an independent Church though having friendly relations with the Jacobite Patriarch and that therefore, there was nothing wrong in his having been consecrated by his predecessor without any reference to the Patriarch. In 1889 Royal appeal court,Travancore the final judgement of two native judges decided, the findings in favour of Joseph Mar Dionyasius as representing the Patriarch and the English judge, Mr Justice Ormsby noted his dissent regarding the judgement. This led to the formation of a independent Malankara church. The reformist party in the Syrian church took the name Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church in 1893, and consecrated their primates to Apostolic throne of St Thomas In Malankara.
Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church
The schism and birth of Mar Thoma Syrian Church, made earnestness and spiritual fervor in the leaders, lay and clerical alike. The Mar Thoma syrians lost their temporal claim to properties and had to start from scratch;Building churches and organizing themselves as an independent church body. The evangelistic zeal found expression at this time in the formation of the Mar Thoma Evangelistic Association in 1888 and the beginning of the Mar Thoma Church magazine Malankara Sabha Tharaka in 1893.
Though, the litigation and division sustained a blow for the Syrian Church at the moment. It led to much spiritual attuning in both churches, from bottom to up this age was an enlightenment era, which led the ecclesiastics, to be in prayer, lead a humble life and study of bible in depth. Even though the event was a temporal setback, history shows it stood them in good stead.Both the factions Reformist faction as a Independent Reformed syrian church and Traditionalist faction as a part of Syrian Orthodox church flourished.
Eviction from Malankara Syrian Church
After the litigation,the majority verdict of Royal Court was against him in 1889. Thomas Mar Athanasius was legally evicted from Kottayam Seminary. This was an eviction from the seat of Malankara Metropolitan as he was not consecrated with the consent of Patriarch of Antioch done legally. During the process his Mitre, Cope and Crozier went missing. He led a more prayerful life on then in midst of struggles and was taken to heavenly abode soon after the case.
Though the episcopate of Thomas Mar Athanasius was a period of trial and suffering for the Church, it was also one of great spiritual promise for the future. The Mar Thoma Syrian Church considers itself as one carrying on the original traditions of the Malabar Church, reformed in accordance with the teaching of the Scripture.
Mathews Mar Athanasius
|Malankara Metropolitan & later the first canonical bishop Mar Thoma Syrian Church||Succeeded by
Titus I Mar Thoma
- Marthoma, Alexander (1985). The MarThoma Church:Heritage and mission,Thiruvalla. pp. 14–22.