Bishop Philipose Mar Chrysostom, former head of Mar Thoma Church, passes away at 103
Philipose Mar Chrysostom Navaneeth Krishnan S/Wikimedia

Bishop Philipose Mar Chrysostom, former head of Mar Thoma Church, passes away at 103

Thiruvalla (Kerala), May 5, 2021

Philipose Mar Chrysostom Mar Thoma, the Metropolitan Emeritus of the Kerala-headquartered Mar Thoma Syrian Church, the longest serving bishop in Christendom and widely admired for his oratorial skills and sense of humour, passed away in Thiruvalla in the early hours today after a brief illness.

He had turned 103 on April 27.

Ordained as a bishop in 1953, Chrysostom became the head of the Mar Thoma Church in 1999 and stepped down from the position in 2007 because of age-related problems, after which he was designated as Valia Metropolitan (Metropolitan Emeritus).

Despite his advanced age, he used to remain as active as possible and had, in October 2020, attended the funeral of his successor, Joseph Mar Thoma, and later the installation of Theodosius Mar Thoma as the new Metropolitan of the church on November 14, 2020.

In 2018, Chrysostom had travelled to Delhi to receive the Padma Bhushan from President Ram Nath Kovind, the only bishop to receive such an honour.

Chrysostom had been admitted to the Believers Medical College Hospital at Thiruvalla last Friday after complaining of uneasiness. He was discharged yesterday morning and was to have spent some time at the Kumbanad Fellowship Hospital near here. He passed away there around 1.15 am today.

"With profound grief and sorrow, I communicate the passing away of His Grace the Most Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Mar Thoma Valiya Metropolitan Thirumeni at Fellowship Mission Hospital, Kumbanad. His Grace received his home call at 1.15 AM on 05.05.2021," Rev K G Joseph, the Secretary of the Church, said on Facebook.

Chrysostom was born as Philip Oommen on April 27, 1918, as the son of the Very Rev. K. E. Oommen, later the Vicar General of the Church, and Sosamma in the Adangappurath Kalamannil family, which had priestly traditions.

After schooling at Maramon in Kozhencherry and Eraviperoor, he took his BA degree from Union Christian College, Alwaye.

He got involved in missionary work in Ankola, Karnataka before taking up theological studies at the United Theological Church in Bengaluru.

He was ordained as Deacon on 1st January 1944 and as Kasessa on 3rd June that year. Along with theological studies, he fulfilled the duty of leading the Bangalore parish of the Church. Later, he served as the Vicar of Kottarakkara, Mylom, Pattamala, Manganam St. Peters and Thiruvananthapuram parishes.

He was ordained as Episcopa, or bishop, on May 23, 1953 with the name Philipose Mar Chrysostom, taking the name of St Chrysostom of the "golden tongue".

He joined St. Augustine’s College, Canterbury, England to pursue further theological studies. On his return in 1954,he was given responsibility of Kottayam-Kunnamkulam Diocese and the Mar Thoma Vaideeka Seminary. During this period he represented the Mar Thoma Church in the Evanston Conference of the World Council of Churches.

Chrysostom later became the Missionary Bishop of the Mar Thoma Church and travelled widely to visit parishes and other institutions of the church outside Kerala.

On completion of service as the missionary Bishop he served as the Diocesan Bishop of Adoor- Kottarakkara. During this period he was the President of Sevika Sanghom, Sunday School Samajam and Kerala Christian Council also. He was the President of Christian Auxillary for Social Action as well. From 1975 once again he became Missionary Bishop and was head of Thiruvananthapuram – Kollam, Adoor – Mavelikkara, Ranni – Nilackal and Chengannur – Thumpamon Dioceses thereafter.

He became Suffragan Metropolitan in May 1978, Officiating Metropolitan on 15th March, 1999 and Metropolitan on 23rd October 1999.

Over the years, Chrysostom earned a reputation for his ability to put across serious topics in a humorous way that endeared to him to the young and the old alike as well as to people of all faiths and regions. Many books and documentaries have been published on his speeches.

Blessy, the well-known filmmaker, made a 48-hour documentary on the life of Chrysostom, which received the Guinness Award in the category of longest documentary.

Chrysostom attended the 2nd Vatican Council summoned by Pope John 23rd as Official observer of the Mar Thoma Church.

After retiring from administrative responsibilities, Chrysostom spent the last few years at Maramon in Kozhencherry.

On the occasion of his 90th birthday, the Mar Thoma Church decided to build houses for 1,500 homeless people.

On his 100th birthday, the Church took up the construction of 100 homes for the homeless and also implemented a project among transgenders to uphold and respect their identity.


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