Holiness was born on March 27, 1907. His parents were Fr.
Cherian Kurian Vattakunnel, Kottayam and Mariam Pulikaparampil,
Olesa, Kottayam. Fr. Kurian was the Vicar of St. Mary’s
Syrian Church Manarcadu, Kottayam; St. Thomas Church, Vadakenmanoor,
Kottayam and Nilakal Church Puthupally, Kotttayam. He was
named V. K. Mathew and had his education at M.D. Seminary
High School, Kottayam, C.M.S. College, Kottayam and graduated
from University College (erstwhile Maharaja’s College)
Thiruvananthapuram. Dn. K.T. Verghese (Gevergese Mar Phelaxinose
of Puthenkavil) and Vattaseril Geverghese Mar Dionysius (St.
Dionysius) persuaded him to go for Theological studies at
Calcutta. He then joined the Bishop’s College, Calcutta
and obtained B.D. degree in 1936. After return he studied
Syriac under Cheriamadathyl Malpan. He started teaching at
the Orthodox Theological Seminary, Kottayam from 1942. He
was appointed Principal in 1951 and retained the position
He was ordained Sub Deacon on August 18, 1945 at Old seminary
Chapel and the next day i.e., on 19th August 1945 he was ordained
as Deacon by Geverghese II Catholiocose of the East . He was
ordained as Kashiso (Priest) on October 27, 1946 at Mar Elia
Chapel Kottayam by H.H. the Catholicose Geverghese II.
The Malankara Syrian Christian Association, that held
its meeting in 1951, elected Fr. V. K. Mathews as Metropolitan
and H.H. Geverghese II Catholicose consecrated Fr. Mathews along
with five others as Episcopa Mar Athanasious at Mar Elia Chapel
Kottayam on May 15, 1953. In 1960, he was entrusted the charge
of Diocese outside Kerala which he shepherded till 1976. On
December 31, 1970 Mar Athanasious was elected as Malankara Metropolitan
and Catholicose by the Malankara Syrian Christian Association.
On October 27, 1975 he was consecrated as Catholicose of The
East by the Malakara Orthodox Church Synod.
Man of Vision
His Holiness had a vision for the Malankara Orthodox
Church. He wished the Malankara Church to be Known as Indian
Orthodox Church and he spent all his energy to preserve the
Independence of the Malankara Church. . During his time the
Orthodox Theological Seminary at Kottayam was affiliated to
The Serampur University, Calcutta and the Seminary was upgraded
as a degree college. He wanted the Theological College to be
made an Independent University for Theology.
many-sided personality, his sensitive understanding, his gaiety,
his human affection, his communication skills, commitment and
vision for the Malankara Orthodox Church, above all his deep
rooted faith in God and ability to provide leadership even at
the point of crisis were remarkable. It is a heartening sign
of the time that there was a heightened interest in the able
leadership of His Holiness.His Holiness led an illustrious life.
His prodigious scholarship, intellectual acumen, moral courage
and honesty were well known. His concern for others, especially,
those who worked with him was well known. His Holiness was an
authority on Church Constitution and history. He was closely
associated with the Church cases when he was a laymen and he
used to seek advises in such matters from experts in the field
during the time, especially, his elder brother Advocate K. Cherian
His contribution to the congregation through translation
of the Order of Holy Qurbana - Sunday service and the text of
Good Friday Service
He translated and published the texts of Sunday service and
Good Friday service to Malayam with the help of Mr. C.P. Chandy
the famous Church Poet. He then published the ‘Holy Qurbana
Kramam’ (Order of Holy Qurbana) with relevant songs for
each Sunday. These Prayer books are so popular that these are
used by each member of the church now. He also translated H.
Qurbana Kramam to English and also celebrated the Qurbana in
English so that those who did not know Malayalam could participate
in the H. Qurbana actively. He then made arrangements to translate
the H. Qurbana Kramam to Hindi and Tamil which is now used.
His other contributions to the liturgy of the Orthodox
For the conservation of rare books and records he started the
Malankara Orthodox Archives. School of Liturgical Music was
also started at the Seminary by his deep initiative to preserve
the same. He was a good exponent in “Eccara” the
canonical songs. He was very concerned to preserve the order
(‘Niram’) of the songs.
For the Theological education of the Elderly he started a
course by the name “Divya Bodhanam” which has
become very popular now.
Sensitivity and Sympathy
His Holiness Baselios Marthoma Mathews I Catholicose’s
quality of sensitivity to his flock’s feelings enabled
him to display empathy. Another way which demonstrates love
and concern was in his availability. Bava Thirumeni as a God
given transformed leader recognized the aspirations of his people,
with a long term perspective, doing the right thing at the proper
time with divine courage, appreciating our strengths and weaknesses,
facing the threats and utilizing the divine plan for our Malankara
Orthodox Church. With the full understanding that expectations
and reality were far apart, he set his heart to transform expectations
into the reality.
The present system of holding the Holy Episcopal Synod, the
supreme decision making body in matters of faith, discipline,
order, policy making and planning at least twice in a year
at fixed periods and with proper agendas became effective
and exercise of authority.
He had consecrated “Mooron” twice, very rare
function, on April 1,1977 at Old seminary Chappel, Kottayam
and in March 25, 1988 at Devalokam Catholicate Chappel.
He had consecrated 10 Bishops (Metropolitians), five at Pazhanji
Church on May 15, 1978 and at Puthiacav St Mary’s Church,
Mavelikara on May 15, 1985. His Holiness was awarded The Title
“The Order of St. Valdimer” by the Patriarch of
Russia and as Fellow by the Leningrad Theological Seminary.
The Order of St. George was awarded to him by the Georgian
Catholicose. Serampur University conferred on his Doctorate
Degree (Honoris Cosa)
On April 27,1991 he relinquished the Titles of The Catholicose
and Malankara Metropolitan since he was not well. He expired
on November 8, 1996 at 7.40 A.M. and was entered into the
Tomb at Devalokam Chappel the next day. His top concern was
the church and he used his talents, energy and time for the
good of the church. His Holiness while taking charge as Catholicose
declared that he will preserve the Independence of the Malankara
Orthodox Church as the iris of his eyes which he did till