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Faith of the Church

Malankara's Mythical Minefields

Myth 10: Ougen Bava conducted himself in utter disregard to the pledges given by him at the time of consecration.

Today we take up a myth that tops the popularity charts of our Jacobite brothers. It concerns the salmoosa of Catholicos HH Ougen I, which he submitted to HH Yakub III, Syriac patriarch of Antioch, who consecrated him. Many internet forums here and abroad as well as web pages are plastered with the words from the salmoosa in a non-stop campaign against the Indian Orthodox Church. For our Jacobite brothers, nothing can match the pleasure they derive from ad nauseam repeating the words from the salmoosa. Everyday, more and more Jacobite members wake up to smell the salmoosa and discover new meanings. It's time to offer an alternate perspective.

Fact: by Georgy S. Thomas, Bangalore:

Let's first take a look at the oft-quoted words from the salmoosa. I don't know about the accuracy of the same, but let's take our Jacobite brothers at their word and believe it's accurate:

"I the feeble and meek Augen Mar Themotios chosen for ecclesiastical office of the Catholicos confess my belief before the Synod, and before the head of the Synod His Holiness Moran Mar Ignatius Yacoub III Patriarch of Antioch and all the East that, the Patriarch is my head, that I accept from St. Peter the head of Holy Apostles upto your Holiness all the canonical Patriarchs who reigned on your Throne and all those who come after your Holiness. Once again I repeat my canonical connections with the Holy Throne of Antioch. I swear that I shall not depart from this solemn oath."

Since our church constitution still holds that "(T)he Malankara Church is a division of the Orthodox Syrian Church" and that the "the Primate of the Orthodox Syrian Church is the Patriarch of Antioch", and Ougen Bava did not have it amended, it can be argued that he did not break any vow. However, this will not satisfy our Jacobite brothers who hold that through his conduct he broke the vows given in the salmoosa. For argument's sake, let's have it their way. But we will then have to understand what's a vow. In my view, pledges or vows are given in good faith in the understanding that so long as the person making it keeps her/his part of the bargain, the receiver of the vow will keep her/his/their part, even if it is unstated. In other words, reciprocity is expected.

For instance, let's now look at another vow. The Supreme Court in its majority judgement states that after Malankara Sabha was reunited in 1958, the three Metropolitans from the then patriarchal faction sent "submission deeds to the Catholicos" (Geevarghese Bava). In these submissions, the Metropolitans expressed their joy at the restoration of peace and unity in the Malankara Church "and promised to perform their functions under the Catholicos and to follow the canons, the constitution in force and the orders to be issued by the Catholicos". Justice Jeevan Reddy's judgement even gives a direct quote from the submission deed of Paulose Mar Philexinos (later Maphriyan Baselios Paulose II) of the Jacobite church. It goes like this: "I hereby inform that I shall act always in accordance with the directions issued by you from time to time and also in accordance with the canons of the Church and the constitution now in force." Of course, he didn't keep any of those promises, and was the driving force behind the Antiochian movement in open defiance of the directions issued by the Catholicos. Now what to make of this, did he or did he not break his promise?

Well, this is my considered view of the same. HB Paulose II Bava gave his submission deed in good faith. When he gave the deed, implicit in it was his expectation that the united church would not act against what he considered were the traditions dear to the Jacobite faithful. When he found the united church acting against those expectations (the implicit promise), he in good faith believed that he was no longer bound by the submission he made, and decided to act according to his conscience.

Our Jacobite brothers should extend the same kindness to Ougen Bava over his salmoosa.

Response by Very Rev. Kuriakose Moolayil, CorEpiscopa:

Salmoosa of Augen Bava

I am responding to the discussion on the Salmoosa of Augen Bava prior to the last segment of this series. I will respond to Georgy's defense on the validity of the excommunication of Patriarch Abdul Messiah as my last response in this series.

I have quoted the Salmoosa of Augen Bava in my last posting and for the sake of continuity I consider its response here. I hope my readers will bring to their mind the exact wordings of Augen Bava's oath at this very solemn and auspicious occasion. No one can deny that Augen Bava was a great and unique scholar who was a direct witness to all the developments in the Malankara issues here as well as in the Middle East. When he makes a pledge in consultation with the united synod here before the Patriarch it is not to be compared to any unprepared, extempore, crowd-pulling speeches delivered before a mammoth gathering. I think Georgy has taken this very solemn pledge of Augen Bava lightly.

Please read again his introduction to this chapter. "Today we take up a myth that tops the popularity charts of our Jacobite brothers. It concerns the salmoosa of Catholicos HH Ougen I, which he submitted to HH Yakub III, Syriac patriarch of Antioch, who consecrated him. Many internet forums here and abroad as well as web pages are plastered with the words from the salmoosa in a non-stop campaign against the Indian Orthodox Church. For our Jacobite brothers, nothing can match the pleasure they derive from ad nauseam repeating the words from the salmoosa. Everyday, more and more Jacobite members wake up to smell the salmoosa and discover new meanings. It's time to offer an alternate perspective."

I am sure Georgy has to take such a stand because of the stance taken by the founding fathers of IOC from the beginning to that of the defected bishops of today. They are all very infamous for their gulp of pledges, oaths, affirmations, speeches, declarations and even dissertations. I have edited a booklet with examples of their about-faces under the title 'Ivar Paranjirunnathingane Ennal Ippol...?".

Now let us see the justifications by Georgy. "Let's first take a look at the oft-quoted words from the salmoosa. I don't know about the accuracy of the same, but let's take our Jacobite brothers at their word and believe it's accurate: "I the feeble and meek Augen Mar Themothios chosen for ecclesiastical office of the Catholicos confess my belief before the Synod, and before the head of the Synod His Holiness Moran Mar Ignatius Yacoub III Patriarch of Antioch and all the East that, the Patriarch is my head, that I accept from St. Peter the head of Holy Apostles upto your Holiness all the canonical Patriarchs who reigned on your Throne and all those who come after your Holiness. Once again I repeat my canonical connections with the Holy Throne of Antioch. I swear that I shall not depart from this solemn oath."


Since our church constitution still holds that "(T)he Malankara Church is a division of the Orthodox Syrian Church" and that the "the Primate of the Orthodox Syrian Church is the Patriarch of Antioch", and Ougen Bava did not have it amended, it can be argued that he did not break any vow."

See here the manipulative and routine spin of the IO scholars. To justify the breach of the oath in the Salmoosa, even Georgy argues that they have a Patriarch and an Orthodox Syrian Church at large with Patriarch of Antioch as its Primate, contrary to all disclaimers about the universality of the Syrian Church and the Patriarch as its head.

When it comes to anything specific about this Patriarch they will say that the present Patriarch is unacceptable. If asked anything about the Church of this so called 'division' in Malankara they will grope in blindness like those blind men who elaborated their experience about the elephant. They pray for the present ruling Patriarch of Antioch but paradoxically at the same time say that they cannot accept him as Patriarch. What a pity!

Their reason for not accepting the Patriarch is that he was not installed with their co-operation. They will never explain who among the Patriarchs were installed in co-operation with the Malankara Metropolitan. All the previous Patriarchs from the consecrator of Mor Dionysius Joseph Pulikkottil, Patriarch Peter who consecrated bishops including Mor Gregorios Geevarghese Chathuruthil (Parumala Thirumeni), etc. were not installed in cooperation of the Malankarese but were warmly accepted by our forefathers. The Patriarch Mor Abdulla who consecrated Vattaseril Thirumeni was elevated to the Patriarchate by the Suryoye alone. Mor Elias III was also installed in the same way followed by Moran Aprem 1 and Moran Yacoub III. We have to note here as well that Patriarch Abdul Messiah was also consecrated in the same manner. The Patriarchs from Mor Abdullah onwards were approached by the IOC leaders for varying reasons accepting them as canonical Patriarchs. The deposition of Abdul Messiah and installation of Mor Abdulla II was informed here and was duly accepted by the church here without any protest on 'lack of co operation' in the installation. The plight of the IOC is that they tend to accept only the 'duly deposed Patriarch' in the line of 'befriending enemies enemy'. They try to reject all other canonical Patriarchs, even though they claim that they 'pray' for them. To make it very clear it is only the present Patriarch Mor Zakka Iwas who was installed in a consecration ceremony presided by the Catholicose of the East.

The other side of the argument is that IOC accepts anyone 'brought up and consecrated' by His Holiness Zakka I, but they will not accept him as Patriarch. If they accept the recently defected bishops as bishops one has to conclude that they accept the Patriarch as the spiritual head of this church. If they do not accept him as the spiritual head these defected could not have been accepted as bishops. Their present stand cannot be seen anything other than an oxymoron. Let us call a spade a spade!

Then, let us take up his next argument. "However, this will not satisfy our Jacobite brothers who hold that through his conduct he broke the vows given in the salmoosa. For argument's sake, let's have it their way. But we will then have to understand what's a vow. In my view, pledges or vows are given in good faith in the understanding that so long as the person making it keeps her/his part of the bargain, the receiver of the vow will keep her/his/their part, even if it is unstated. In other words, reciprocity is expected."

This is a very strange argument. I don't know why Georgy dilutes even the act of taking a pledge in the enthusiasm to defend the defection of Augen Bava from his pledge/s. Any student of history knows him for his violations of pledges and salmoosas at different stages of his life. What reciprocity of breaches can be levelled in all his actions? What reciprocity can be argued for many of the defectors from the Patriarch side? I have heard many among the scholars of the IO faction making claims about the four bishops who defected that they 'corrected themselves of their faults and joined the IOC'. (One example is the article by my friend Rev. Fr. G. Pulikkottil in Malayalam Herald). But they claim that they joined for peace initiation! We all know that there is no peace in their dioceses as a result of their defection. The litigations and the struggles tripled after they deserted their flock. There is no peace with them in the IOC if I can believe the statements in IOC media. I believe that the breach of oaths and pledges by the defectors are nothing more than their eagerness to satiate their pride, greed, self esteem, selfishness to lead but not to follow and inconsiderate attitude to the poor flock who elected, selected and supported them in the mission to which they were appointed. Dilution of principles, pledges and oaths are nothing more than contempt of basic human qualities. If any religious hierarch violates his vows he dilutes basic spiritual principles and creates stigma among the public. Church politics and legal advisors might have instigated Augen Bava or Murimattom Bava in their old age to violate their former pledges. God may forgive them on account of their frailty of old age. But diluting even the principles of oaths and giving justifications of reciprocity are more serious. Let us not promote these violations in the future by these defenses.

Georgy, in the following words, tries to justify Augen Bava by quoting the words and deeds of Poulose II Bava after the 1958 episode. Read his argument directly, "For instance, let's now look at another vow. The Supreme Court in its majority judgement states that after Malankara Sabha was reunited in 1958, the three Metropolitans from the then patriarchal faction sent "submission deeds to the Catholicos" (Geevarghese Bava). In these submissions, the Metropolitans expressed their joy at the restoration of peace and unity in the Malankara Church "and promised to perform their functions under the Catholicos and to follow the canons, the constitution in force and the orders to be issued by the Catholicos". Justice Jeevan Reddy's judgement even gives a direct quote from the submission deed of Paulose Mar Philexinos (later Maphriyan Baselios Paulose II) of the Jacobite church. It goes like this: "I hereby inform that I shall act always in accordance with the directions issued by you from time to time and also in accordance with the canons of the Church and the constitution now in force."

Of course, he didn't keep any of those promises, and was the driving force behind the Antiochian movement in open defiance of the directions issued by the Catholicos. Now what should we make of this? Did he or did he not break his promise?"

Georgy here makes a very attractive argument. But he forgets the 'reciprocity' in his argument. He is trying to say that Augen Bava can do this if Poulose Bava did it. The same can be argumented in another way that Augen Bava violated his oath much before Poulose Bava who did this only after 1958. We can trace this chain of violation upto Vattaseril Thirumeni or Murimattom Bava. But these are only tit for tat arguments. The crux of the matter is far more profound. When a primate deserts his flock and the calling to his nurtured faith he is vandalising his inherent faith and affiliation in relation to the professing the faith of his flock. Poulose Mor Philoxenose Metropolitan held on to the faith and allegiance he confessed to at his consecration to high priesthood when he violated the directions of Geevarghese II Bava. He accepted the Catholicose who was accepted by the Patriarch and the Catholicose in turn was expected to comply with the spirit of the peace that was established. To Poulose Bava the supreme spiritual head of the church was the Patriarch himself (as mentioned in the clause quoted by Georgy earlier from the constitution). He was asked by the Patriarch to continue his responsibilities as was the case before. But the Catholicose side tried to reduce him to an associate bishop and after that tried to confine him to the Piramadom Dayara. Moreover he was challenged between his loyalty to the salmoosa vowed at the time of consecration before the Holy Spirit, Holy Qurbono and the synod and the submission deed given as a part of the unity effort in the church. It is very natural that when he was challenged in between the two he opted for the more spiritually binding. We must also not forget about the greater responsibility of the majority members of the synod and the head of the synod to tenderly respect the emotions of the reluctant multitude of the church in the sudden mending of the decades long rift. We must understand the 'fears and doubts' in the minds of the old Patriarchal faction during the 1958-64 period represented through Mor Philoxenose. I must also say that the non-conciliatory and jubilant attitude of the then IO leadership also motivated such a harsh step. I believe it could have been avoided. I invite serious readers to read the report submitted to the synod by Mor Gregoriose Geevarghese and Mor Clemis Abraham. (Annexure No.4 in my book, 'Perumpilly Thirumeni'.)

The following is a very considerate statement by Georgy. My perspective was explained before. Here I simply quote him, "Well, this is my considered view of the same. HB Paulose II Bava gave his submission deed in good faith. When he gave the deed, implicit in it was his expectation that the united church would not act against what he considered were the traditions dear to the Jacobite faithful. When he found the united church acting against those expectations (the implicit promise), he in good faith believed that he was no longer bound by the submission he made, and decided to act according to his conscience."

Finally Georgy requests the following; "Our Jacobite brothers should extend the same kindness to Ougen Bava over his salmoosa."

Yes. Georgy, we do respect the right of the IOC to exercise their freedom of belief. We only ask the IOC to show the same respect. We are not trying to bring by force any IO bishop or parish to our fold. We are not even trying to initiate litigations against properties that were built with our sweat and toil - Moovattupuzha, Mannuthy, Koratty Aramanas being examples. Our attachment to Aluva Seminary and the Seminary Chapels go much beyond property rights.

Nevertheless I see possibilities of an amicable settlement there too. The SOC has declared its willingness to accept the IOC as a sister church provided IOC is willing to stop litigations and start negotiations.

I request all IOC leaders to come forward to work for it and pray for it.

Previous: Issue 9: HH Patriarch Abdul Masih II didn't have the authority to consecrate a Catholicos for Malankara in 1912.

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