Joseph Mar Thoma, head of Mar Thoma Syrian Church, passes away
Joseph Mar ThomaFile photo

Joseph Mar Thoma, head of Mar Thoma Syrian Church, passes away

Thiruvananthapuram, October 18, 2020

Joseph Mar Thoma, the Metropolitan of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church, passed away at a hospital in Thiruvalla, in the early hours of today after a brief illness.

He was 89.

The bishop, who was active until a few weeks ago and was leading the church's online services during the COVID-19 pandemic from its headquarters in Thiruvalla every Sunday, was admitted to the Believers Church Medical College Hospital there some days ago and breathed his last there around 0238 hours today, sources said.

"H.G. Dr. Joseph MarThoma Metropolitan is called to eternal rest @2.38 AM today @Believers Hosptal," a brief announcement on Facebook by Rev K G Joseph, the Secretary of the Mar Thoma Church, which has its headquarters in Thiruvalla, said.

In one of his last major decisions, Joseph Mar Thoma had installed Bishop Geevarghese Mar Theodosius as the Suffragan Metropolitan of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church on July 12, 2020.

Joseph Mar Thoma was born as P T Joseph on June 27, 1931 to Lukochen and Mariamma of the Maramon Palakunnath family, which was the ancestral home of Abraham Malpan, the father of the reformation of the Malankara Church, and gave the first four Metropolitans of the Mar Thoma Church.

Joseph had his schooling in Kozhencherry and graduated from the Union Christian College, Alwaye. He took his Bachelor of Divinity degree from the United Theological College, Bangalore.

He was ordained Deacon on June 29, 1957 and a priest on October 18 that year. Incidentally, his death has come 63 years to the date after his ordainment as a priest.

He served as Vicar of Ranni, Kozhikode, Kundara, Madras and Thiruvananthapuram parishes of the church.

Later, he served as the travelling secretary of the Mar Thoma Evangelistic Association for a few years.

He got the Master of Divinity and Master of Sacred Theology degrees after higher education in Virginia Seminary, Oxford and Canterbury St. Augustin Colleges.

He was ordained as a bishop, Joseph Mar Iraneus, on February 8, 1975.

Bishop Iraneus headed the Kollam-Kottarakara Diocese and later the Bombay-Delhi diocese of the church.

During this period, he also served as head of the Sunday School Samajam and the Yuvajana Sakhyam of the church and also as President of the Kerala Christian Council. He was also instrumental in setting up the Mar Thoma Centres in Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai.

Later, Iraneus headed the Thiruvananthapuram – Kollam Diocese of the Mar Thoma Church.

He had played a key role in the building and nurturing of the many of the church's institutions, including schools, colleges and hospitals, and had played a pivotal role in the development activities of the well-known St Thomas Residential School in Thiruvananthapuram.

Joseph Mar Iraneus had also served as the Vice-President and later the President of the National Council of Churches. He also served as Vice-President and later the President of Christian Auxiliary for Social Action. He took up a lot of causes and led relief efforts for earthquake and flood victims in different parts of the country, including Latur in Maharashtra and in Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal, and in many parts of south India which were hit by the tsunami in December 2004.

The bishop was also associated with the Asian Bishops Conference and the World Council of Churches.

He was also closely associated with the organising of the famous Maramon Convention, the annual flagship event of the Mar Thoma Church.

On March 15, 1999, he was designated as Suffragan Metropolitan, when Philipose Mar Chrysostom, the Suffragan Metropolitan, was designated as the officiating Metropolitan.

Joseph was consecrated as the 21st Metropolitan or Supreme Head of the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church on October 2, 2007, succeeding Philipose Mar Chrysostom Mar Thoma, who had, in a rare move, stepped down from the position because of poor health.

Philipose Mar Chrysostom, 103, was honoured by the Union Government with the Padma Bhushan in 2018 and has been the longest-serving bishop in Christendom. Chrysostom continues as Valiya Metropolitan (Metropolitan Emeritus) of the church.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had addressed an event to mark the beginning of Joseph Mar Thoma's "navathy" (90th year) celebrations on June 27 this year.

Speaking on that occasion, the Prime Minister had said that Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma had devoted his life for the betterment of society and the nation.

“Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma has been particularly passionate about women empowerment and removal of poverty. The Mar Thoma Church is closely linked with the noble ideals of Saint Thomas, the Apostle of Lord Christ," Modi had said.

The Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church is one of the ancient, indigenous churches in Kerala. It is traditionally believed that Saint Thomas, a disciple of Jesus Christ came to India in AD 52 and established the Church.


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