03/14/2024, 18.48
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Venerable Mar Ivanios, the archbishop who brought the Syro-Malankara back with Rome

by Nirmala Carvalho

Pope Francis has authorised the promulgation of the heroic virtues of the prelate who died in 1953, considered "the Newman of the East” in his native India. ““Our Church has been praying fervently for many years” for this day, Card Baselios Cleemis told AsiaNews. Thus, “his unconditional commitment to Providence” has been recognised. The latest papal decrees also recognise the miracle that will lead to the beatification of Istifan al-Duwayhi, the great Maronite patriarch of the 17th century.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis has authorised the promulgation of the decree recognising the heroic virtues of Indian Archbishop Geevaghese Mar Ivanios, who led the Syro-Malankara Church into communion with Rome in 1930, making it one of the 23 Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite.

The Vatican made the announcement today, along with 12 other decrees of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Archbishop Ivanios is also known as the “Newman of the East” because, like John Henry Newman (a 19th-century English theologian who was first drawn to the high church tradition of Anglicanism), he walked the path from his spiritual tradition towards his newfound unity with the Catholic Church.

With the recognition of his heroic virtues, he receives the title of venerable, the first step towards beatification.

The news was greeted with great joy by Card Baselios Cleemis, the incumbent major archbishop of the Syro-Malankaras.

“The whole Syro-Malankara Catholic Church is very much excited in hearing the news, the good news, that Archbishop Mar Ivanios, the Servant of God, is being elevated to the status of venerable,” the cardinal said speaking to AsiaNews.

“His heroic virtues were his unconditional commitment to Providence and a deep communion with the Holy See and the Catholic Church, and his personal, heroic and pious life,” he added.

“Our Church has been praying fervently for many years and now the time has come to call him, to call our father in faith, as Venerable Father.

“It is a great recognition for the Malankara Church and for the holy life of Mar Ivanios. We are grateful to the Holy See and the Holy Father for this great gesture of deep appreciation.”

Archbishop Ivanios was born on 21 September 1882 into a Malankara Syriac Orthodox family.

Baptised with the name of Geevarghese, he entered the minor seminary before going to Madras (now Chennai) for higher studies.

Ordained a priest in 1908, he was first principal of the minor seminary of Kottayam and then a lecturer in Kolkata (then Calcutta), where he founded a monastic community following the Orthodox tradition.

In the 1920s, a "reunion movement" developed in the Malankara Orthodox Church, in many ways similar to the one that developed among Anglicans in Oxford in the 1830s around Newman.

It was led by Mar Ivanios, who took his name after being consecrated bishop. But the movement soon went into crisis and he found himself alone. In 1930 only four people entered in communion with Rome with him: a bishop, a priest, a deacon, and a layman.

That difficult beginning, however, was the seed of a story that in less than a century saw major growth; until his death in 1953, Archbishop Ivanios dedicated himself to the education of young people, founding a college in Thiruvananthapuram.

Today the Syro-Malankara Church has about half a million members, mostly in Kerala, but also in some diaspora communities in Europe and North America.

Among the decrees whose promulgation Pope Francis authorised today one is very important for the Churches of the Eastern rite; the recognition of the miracle that paves the way for the beatification of Istifan al-Duwayhi (1630-1704), patriarch of the Maronites whom Lebanese Catholics consider one of the central figures in their history.

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See also
Indian Orthodox Baselios Mathews III in audience with Pope Francis
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Card Dolan is guest of honour at event celebrating the founder of the Syro-Malankara Church
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