St. Gregorios

St. Gregorios Geevarghese, popularly known as “PARUMALA THIRUMENI” was born in the distinguished priestly family of ‘Pallithatta Thanagattu’ in the village of Mulunthuruthy near Cochin on 15th June 1848. He was baptized by name Geevarghese at the Mulanthuruthy MarThoman Church. From childhood days he followed a very disciplined life which was enriched by prayer and fasting. Mor Gregorios had a thorough knowledge in Theology and Syriac, which he learned from his teachers, Pallithatta Fr. Geevarghese Malpan (uncle), Konatt Malpan of Pambakkuda and Yuyakim Mor Kurillos Bava the Patriarchal delegate. His Grace was a man of prayer and made it clear to the world that Prayer and devotion is mightier than any worldly possession. The Holy Father’s short life was remarkable in many respects. A deacon at the age of 10, a priest at the age of 18, a bishop at the young age of 28 (the reason for calling him ‘Kochu Thirumeni’); he passed away on November 2nd 1902, after a saintly life of prayer to become the brightes jewel in the Jacobite Syrian Church.

A brief life history

St. Gregorios was blessed with the order of Korooyo at the tender age of ten by Palakunnath Mathews Mor Athanasius at the Karingachira St.George Jacobite Syrian Church. At the age of 18, he was ordained Shamshono by Yuyakim Mor Kurillos, the then Patriarchal delegate of the Holy See of Antioch. Soon after Geevarghese was ordained Kassisso and later as Corepiscopa, again at the blessed hands of Yuyakim Mor Kurillos Bava. Later he settled at the Vettikkal Dayro near Mulunthuruthy where he led a strict monastic life. In 1872 he was ordained Ramban (Monk-Priest) by Pulikottil Mor Dionysius.

The protestant missionary activities, aided by the British Government, was at its heights in those days. The liberal stand taken by the protestants in matters of faith led to the crossing over of many of the Syrian Orthodox faithful to the new found churches. To bring an end to this extraordinary situation the faithful in Malankara came together under the chairmanship of Ramban Geevarghese in September 1872. But finding it difficult, they prayed for the help of the supreme head of the Church, the Patriarch of Antioch who was then residing in the monastery of Deir ez-Za`faran (Kurkumo Dayro) in Turkey.

Accordingly, His Holiness Mor Ignatius Peter III, the Patriarch of Antioch & all the East, arrived in Malankara in 1875. Ramban Geevarghese who was well versed in Syriac was appointed as the interpreter to the Patriarch. The Patriarch, impressed with the young Ramban, chosen him also as H.H’s private secretary. When the historic Mulunthuruthy Synod was convened in the month of June/July 1876, the assistance of Ramban Geevarghese was of much help to His Holiness. The Patriarch’s esteem of the Ramban grew so high that His Holiness decided to elevate him to the order of Metropolitan.

On 10th December 1876, H.H. the Patriarch ordained Ramban Geevarghese as Metropolitan by name ‘GREGORIOS’ at the St.Thomas church in North Paravur. When in Malankara, H.H. the Patriarch had consecrated six Metropolitans of which Mor Gregorios was the youngest and was only 28 and hence he came to be known by the endearing name Kochu Thirumeni. The ancestral house where Mor Gregorios was born and brought up was known by name ‘CHATHURUTHY’ and for that reason he is also often referred to as Chathuruthy Thirumeni.

After the departure of the Patriarch in 1877, at the behest of our Kochu Thirumeni, all the newly ordained Metropolitans observed a 40 day lent at the ‘Vettikkal Dayro’ 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. Mor Gregorios was a man who grasped the value of Education for the upliftment of the society. In late 1890′s, many educational institutions were started by the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Church under the initiative and guidance of Parumala Kochu Thirumeni and Pulikottil Joseph Mor Dionysius (Malankara Metropolitan). St.Thomas School at Mulanthuruthy, St. Ignatius School at Kunnamkulam (named after his mentor the Patriarch of Antioch Mor 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.

The saintly father was closely and intimately associated with varied activities and development of the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Church. He was very much admired for his organizing ability and was very popular with the masses. 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.

Mor Gregorios was keen in maintaining relationship with all section of people, irrespective of caste or community. He always showed love and cared for the poor and suffering. He was very particular for the truthfulness and helping the poor. His Grace took special interest in preaching the Holy Gospel of Our Lord among the backward communities and many were accepted into our fold. He also worked hard to uplift this marginalized people.

While staying at Parumala Seminary, Mor Gregorios taught Syriac to deacons. His ability to tack Syriac hymns was extraordinary. Even in the midst of the busy schedule, he gave maximum importance to prayers and lent. He used to get up at 4 am for prayer. His Grace observed prayers seven times a day as taught by the Holy Fathers of the Church. He was very particular about observation of lent with fasting, particularly on Fridays and Wednesdays.

His Grace’s long standing desire to visit the Holy Land was fulfilled in 1895, nineteen years after his ordination as Metropolitan. During his Pilgrimage to Jerusalem, he stayed at the “Sehion Malika” (Monastery of St.Mark) which was the diocesan headquarters of the Syrian Orthodox Metropolitan. During his stay there, H.G. visited almost all the important places of Christendom and led the Passion Week services at the altars of our Syrian church in the Holy City. On his return, His Grace collected a certain amount from all the Parishes in Malankara and sent a Silver Cross as offering to the Jerusalem Church.

At the age of 54 Thirumeni became seriously sick. He knew that his end was near. While the Metropolitans and priests and others were praying, Kochu Thirumeni uttered, “MY LORD” and closed his eyes. Kochu Thirumeni passed away on 2nd November 1902 and his mortal remains were entombed at the St.Peter’s Church, Parumala.