Geevarghese Mar Ivanios
Denomination Syro-Malankara Catholic Church
Senior posting
See Trivandrum, India
Title 1st Metropolitan Archbishop of Syro-Malankara Catholic Church
Period in office 1930 – 1953
Predecessor None (seat created)
Successor Benedict Mar Gregorios
Religious career
Priestly ordination September 15, 1908
Previous post Metropolitan Archbishop of Malankara Orthodox Church
Date of birth September 21, 1882(1882-09-21)
Place of birth Mavelikkara, Kerala
Date of death July 15, 1953 (aged 70)
Place of death Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), Kerala

Geevarghese Mar Ivanios, Servant of God, OIC (September 21, 1882 – July 15, 1953), born Geevarghese Panickeruveetil, was a Christian bishop and the founder of the Bethany Ashram order of monks.


Geevarghese Panicker was born in Mavelikkara, India, on September 21, 1882 to Thomas Panicker and Annamma Panicker. He had his early education in Protestant and government schools. From 1897 he attended M. D. Seminary High School, Kottayam. In 1899 he completed his matriculation education before which he received minor orders (of clerical life) on September 20, 1898.


He was ordained deacon by Pulikkottil Mar Dionysius on January 9, 1900, he then continued his studies at CMS College, Kottayam and obtained a bachelor's degree in Economics and Indian History from Madras Christian College. In 1907 he took a Master's Degree (MA) with distinction from the same college. On his return from Madras he was appointed principal of his Alma Mater, M.D.Seminary High School. During this time he lead various schemes for the renewal of the Malankara Church. He organized basic church communities, commenced Bible conventions, because of this he was popularly entitled "Koodasa Semmasan" (Deacon of Sacraments).[1]

Priestly Life

He was ordained to the priesthood as P.T. Geevarghese on September 15 1908 by Vattasseril Mar Dionysius. Geevarghese was popularly known as M A Achan, as he was the first priest with a MA degree in Malankara..[2] At the same time he took the initiative to empower the Malankara Church with hierarchical autonomy. He became instrumental to erect catholicate for the Malankara Church on September 5, 1912

Professorship in Serampore

In 1912 Vattasseril Mar Dionysius received an invitation to attend a conference at Calcutta. Mar Dionysius selected Fr. Geevarghese to accompany him to Calcutta to attend the conference. At the conference they met Dr. Howels the principal of Serampore College who requested the Metropolitan to avail the service of Geevarghese as the professor of the College. The Metropolitan permitted Geevarghese to take up the task. He made use of this opportunity to educate the Malankara Youth. About 20 young people from Kerala reached Calcutta for higher education.[3]

At Serampore Geevarghese got more time for prayer and contemplation. He came across the writings of St. Basil on Manasticism. Basilian monastic vision had a great influence on him. Besides the visits to the Sabarmati Ashram of Gandhiji and Santiniketan of Rabindranath Tagore gave him a new vision of Indian Sanyasa (Manasticism). These experiences made him to reflect upon starting an order of missionaries to carry out the task of evangelization in India. [4] Slowly the residence of Geevarghese and his followers at Serampore became an Ashram (Monastery), and they began to live a sort of religious life according to the monastic rules of St. Basil, adapting them to Indian culture.[5] As he accepted this as his way of life, he resigned from the Serampore College.

Foundation of the Bethany Ashram

On his return from Calcutta, Geevarghese looked for a location to establish an ashram. One of his friends E. John Vakeel donated 100 acres (400,000 m2) of land at Mundanmala, Ranni-Perunadu, Kerala at the meeting place of the rivers Pampa and Kakkatt. The place was thickly filled with thorny bushes and herbs. Geevarghese and his followers built a small thatched hut made out of the branches of trees and bamboo. This turned to be the first Ashram in Malankara on August 15, 1919. He prayerfully searched for a name for the Ashram and opened the Bible and he got the word "Bethany". He meditated upon it and came to the conclusion that it is an apt name for a religious order which upholds both contemplation and action.[6] Eventually the Bethany Ashram became a place of pilgrimage and spiritual experience. Spiritual retreats and discourses were given by Geevarghese especially in the Passion Week. Geevarghese envisioned the Ashram also being a shelter for the poor and the marginalised. Along with the Ashram he started a house for the orphans.

While at Serampore Geevarghese was thinking of the empowerment of the Syrian Christian women through education. To realize this ideal he took initiative to give education and training to the selected group of young girls with the help of the Epiphany Sisters of England working at Serampore. He founded the Bethany Madhom (convent) for the women religious in 1925.

Bishop of Bethany

It was decided by the Malankara Synod to ordain Geevarghese as the bishop of Bethany. He was ordained a bishop of the Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church by Catholicos Beselios Geevarghese I on May 1, 1925. He received the name Geevarghese Mar Ivanios. After the consecration there was a meeting to felicitate Mar Ivanios. In this meeting Mar Ivanios expressed his desire that the church might become one flock under one shepherd.

In 1926 a synod of Bishops was held at Parumala. The synod authorized Mar Ivanios to open negotiations with Rome for communion with the Catholic Church inorder to establish peace in the Malankara. In the mean time, the civil court's decision on the litigation for a large sum of money (Vattippanam) was declared in favour of the Malankara Orthodox Church. This event led the Malankara Orthodox Church to step out from the endeavour of communion with Rome.[7]

Ecclesial Communion

Mar Ivanios continued the efforts of communion. Finally the dream of communion with the Catholic Church came true. On September 20, 1930 Mar Ivanios made the catholic profession before Bishop Aloysius Maria Benziger OCD, the Bishop of Kollam along with Mar Theophilos, the Sufragan Bishop of Bethany, Fr. John Kuzhinapurath OIC, Deacon Alexander Attupurath OIC and Mr. Chacko Kiliyileth. Thus a miniature of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church was formed. Most of the members of both the Bethany orders united with the Roman Catholic Church establishing the Eastern Catholic sui iuris Syro-Malankara Catholic Church in India.[8]

Establishment of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Hierarchy

In 1932 Mar Ivanios made a historic pilgrimage to Rome and he met Pope Pius XI. Mar Ivanios received the pallium. He also participated in the thirty second Eucharistic Congress held at Dublin, Ireland. There he met Mr. G.K. Chesterton, who addressed him 'The Newman of India'. Chesterton describes Mar Ivanios as follows, "The dignified Indian gentleman, who represented this faroff triumph in the Orient, had changed his neighbours by bringing them back in to the Roman Communion."[9]

On his return from Rome, Mar Ivanios made strenuous efforts towards the building up of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. He guided the church in its commitment of evangelization. Pope Pius XI established the Syro-Malankara Catholic Hierarchy on June 11, 1932 through the apostolic contstitution Cristo pastorum principi.[10]

Ecumenical Endeavours and Cultural Development of the Society

The chief motive of Mar Ivanios in his efforts of communion with the Catholic Church was to form a single fold of Christ, the Good Shepherd. His motto was "that all may be one" (Jn. 17, 21). He took great efforts to establish Christian unity in the Malankara community. He sent missionaries to different parts of the land to preach the good news of Catholic Communion. Besides the reunited Bishops and Priests from different Malankara denominations, he welcomed missionaries from the Syro Malabar Church. Fr. Joseph Kuzhinjalil the founder of the congregation of the Daughters of Mary was a prominent missionary, appointed by Mar Ivanios to work in the southern parts of the land. Thus Mar Ivanios co-ordinated the apostolate of ecclesial communion and that of evangelization at the same time. He was very and considerate to enquire about the missionary needs in various parts of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. He used to pray in the late hours of the night striking on his chest, for the different pastoral needs of parishes and mission stations.[11] Under his leadership about 75 priests were reunited from different denominations of Malankara Church. About 150 parishes including mission stations were established.[12]

Mar Ivanios aimed at the all-round upliftment of the soceity through education. In view of this he established about 50 schools and one 'A' grade college named after him, Mar Ivanios College.[13]

Mar Ivanios was known as ‘Newman of India’. His historical visits with President Truman, G.K Chesterton, King George V, King of Belgium and Bernard Shaw among many others are noteworthy. He was ‘Sacerdos Magnus’, ‘Great High Priest’ ‘The Pillar of the Church in India’. University of San Francisco honored him with the Doctorate Degree in Law.

The educationalist and former principal of Mar Ivanios College Rev. Dr. Geevarghese Panicker was his grand nephew[1].

Silver Jubilee of Episcopal Ordination

The Silver Jubilee of the Episcopal Ordination of Mar Ivanios was celebrated in 1951. On this occasion Pope Pius XI wrote to His Grace, "Venerable brother, health and Apostolic Benediction.... We always cherished the memory of that event when you, Mar Ivanios and Mar Theophilos, Syro-Malankara Bishops of the Antiochene Rite, together with many priests and faithful ... by divine grace happily entered into the bosom of the Holy Mother, the Catholic Church. We do know what great difficulties you had to pass through, what hardships you had to put up with, before and after the reconciliation..."[14] Eugène-Gabriel-Gervais-Laurent Tisserant, Cardinal Secretary of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches wrote, "Your fidelity to the Holy Father, your zeal, your spirit of sacrifice, your fortitude in defficulties and your apostolic activities nourished by intense faith and piety have enabled solid organization of Malankara Church which by its catholic activities has become a beacon light of attraction and has added further lusture to the church." [15] Mar George Theckedath, the Nazraani Orthodox Missionary Bishop, living now in Ottawa,Canada,and born as a member of the Theckedath family of Kottarakara, for which as mentioned on page 673 of the Quilon District Gazetteer,the anicent church (Valiyapalli)in Kottarakara was built some seven hundred years back by a former Raja of Kottarakara, was ordained priest by Archbishop Mar Ivanios at the Holy Eucharist held on 18th April,1951 on the grounds of the Sacred Heart church,Adoor,Kollam district,Kerala,to celebrate the silver jubilee of his epscopal consecration.Bishop Mathew Kavukatt of Changanacherry and bishop Mar Sebastian Vayalil of Palai also were present at this eucharistic celebration.


Mar Ivanios died on July 15, 1953, he was buried at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Pattom, Trivandrum. He used to visit the place where his tomb was to be erected and he uttered "This is my last earthly abode."[16]


Girideepam - Mountain Lamp, Trans. Sr. Rehmas SIC, Cause of Canonization of Mar Ivanios, Trivandrum, 2006.

The Sacrament of Confession: A Meditative Study, Trans. Fr. Samuel Thaikkoottathil, Cause of Canonization of Mar Ivanios, Trivandrum, 2006.

The Holy Qurbono: An Appraisal and Meditation, Trans. Dr. Antony Valiyavilayil, Cause of Canonization of Mar Ivanios, Trivandrum, 2006.

The Liturgical Year: A Theological Reflection, Trans. Fr. Samuel Thaikkoottathil, Cause of Canonization of Mar Ivanios, Trivandrum, 2006.

A Guide to Malankara Religious Life, Trans. Fr. Samuel Thaikkoottathil, Cause of Canonization of Mar Ivanios, Trivandrum, 2006.

Servant of God

Mar Ivanios was declared Servant of God (Daivadasan) on 14 July 2007, the day prior to the 54th anniversary of his death. The proclamation was read by Catholicos and Major Archbishop Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis at St. Mary's Malankara Syrian Catholic Cathedral in Trivandrum, India. He is the first member of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church to be so designated.



  1. Fr. Thomas Inchakkalody, Archbishop Mar Ivanios, Vol. 1, (2006) pp. 72-74.
  2. Malayala Manorama, July 29, 1908 quoted in Fr. Thomas Inchakkalody, Archbishop Mar Ivanios Vol. 1 (2006), p. 89.
  3. Fr. Thomas Inchakkalody, Archbishop Mar Ivanios Vol. 1, (2006), pp. 146-147
  4. L. Moolaveettil, The Spiritual Life of Mar Ivanios, Kottayam, 1977, p.74
  5. Fr. Thomas Kuzhinapurath, "Mar Ivanios: Bharata Christava Sanyasathinte Pravachakan", Deepika, July 15, 1997.
  6. Fr. Thomas Inchakkalody, Archbishop Mar Ivanios (Vol.1), pp. 152-171
  7. Fr. Thomas Inchyakkalody, Archbishop Mar Ivanios, Vol. 1, Kottayam, 2006, pp. 275-374.
  8. Fr. Thomas Inchyakkalody, Archbishop Mar Ivanios, Vol. 1, Kottayam, 2006, pp. 470-480.
  9. G.K. Chesterton, From the Universe, quoted in Fr. Thomas Inchyakkalody, Archbishop Mar Ivanios, Vol. 2, Kottayam, 2006, p. 125.
  10. Pius XI,Cristo pastorum principi in Acta Apostolicae Sedis, XXIV (1932) 289-292.
  11. Fr. Thomas Inchyakkalody, Archbishop Mar Ivanios, Vol. 2, Kottayam, 2006, p. 213.
  12. Syro-Malankara Catholic Directory, 1973
  13. Fr. Thomas Inchyakkalody, Archbishop Mar Ivanios, Vol. 2, Kottayam, 2006, p. 225.
  14. Pius XI, "Letter to Archbishop Mar Ivanios" quoted in M. Gibbons, Mar Ivanios (1882-1953) Archbishop of Trivandrum: The Story of a Great Conversion, Dublin, 1962, p.127.
  15. Eugène-Gabriel-Gervais-Laurent Tisserant, "Letter to Archbishop Mar Ivanios" quoted in M. Gibbons, Mar Ivanios (1882-1953) Archbishop of Trivandrum: The Story of a Great Conversion, Dublin, 1962, p.128
  16. Fr. Thomas Inchyakkalody, Archbishop Mar Ivanios, Vol. 2, Kottayam, 2006, pp. 373.

External links

Preceded by
None (see erected)
Metropolitan Archbishop of Trivandrum
Succeeded by
Benedict Mar Gregorios

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