St. Peter’s and St Paul’s Orthodox Church, Kolenchery

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Kolenchery St Peter’s and St Paul’s Orthodox Church was built in 7th century A.D. the place got its name from a family called ‘Kolenchery’. The place is originally called elamkulam. It was a village filled with paddy fields, hills, forests and wild animals. The villagers were mostly nazarani farmers who toiled in the soil from morning till evening. At that time there was no Church at Kolenchery. The villagers attended the holy mass at Kadamattom Church. There is a legend behind the establishment of Kolenchery Church.

In those days Kolenchery family was one of the leading families of Elamkulam village. Once the wife of Thankam Mapillai of kolenchery family went to kadamattom Church to attend the Mass. Then one of the elders of the kadamattom church insulted her by blocking her way to entrance. She was very much anguished. She came back and told her family about this. Hearing this Thankam Mapillai , his friends and relatives decided to a build a church for themselves. The Kolenchery family donated the land for building the church and thus it became kolenchery church. The land was almost impregnable with thorny bushes, shrubs and wild creepers. It is said gold coins (ponnpanam) were thrown amount the bushes to hire people to clear the land. The villagers assembled everyday at the spot, worked till dusk ans dispersed after evening prayers. Soon the church was built. The name kolenchery was evolved from the house name of Thankam Mappilai.

When the church building was more or less complete they thought about appointing a priest, as there was no one from Kolenchery. Thankam Mapilla’s wife belonged to pallikkara, which helped them to bring a priest from Pallikara, and he became the first vicar he consecrated the church on “Mithunam” 29th (July 12), the day on which the feast of St peter and St Paul is celebrated and later it became the day of the main festival of the Church every year. Even the acolyte (kappiar) was also brought from pallikkara who settled near the church and whose descendants served the church till recently.

The kottor Chapel existed even before the construction of Kolenchery Church. It is presumed that this Chapel was established in the first century itself. It was at first the Shrine of Pallippuram Church near Cherthala. Later it came under Piravom Church afterwards under Kadamattom Church and now it is under Kolenchery Church. At some point in the history, the Shrine was developed into a Chapel.

THE TOMB OF MAR THOMA VII


Kolenchery church is situated in the elamkulam village. At several periods this church was the head quarters of different metropolitans of malankara church after the ‘Koonankurish Oath’. When Mar Thoma metropolitans ruled the Malankara Church some of them made Kolenchery church and Kadamattom Church as their residence. It is recorded that the seventh Mar Thoma is buried in kolenchery church on 22nd Mithunam (July 5th), 1809. While visiting the parishes, seventh Mar Thoma passed away at Kandanad Church, the dead body was taken to kadamattom church and on the way they entered to kolenchery Church to pay homages. As Kolenchery was also his quarters for sometime the parihionersstrongly demanded that the body to be buried here. Atlast it was agreed to and he was buried here. At the time the whole malankara church was ruled by this single Metropolitan.

YUYAKKIM MAR KOORILOS METROPOLITAN

In 1842 Palakunnath Mathews Mar Athanasius, went to Antioch without the prior permission and knowledge of malankara church got himself ordained as a bishop. He is the first to get ordained at antioch from malankara but it was by deceiving His Holiness of Antioch. When the Pathriach came to know about his treachery, He sent Yuyakkim Mar Koorilos to malankara in the year 1844. When he came to malankara he stayed at Kolenchery Church . The priests and other parishioners loved and respected him. They visited him daily with gifts and eatables.

When Palakkunath Metropolitan visited Kolenchery Mar Koorilos shifed his residence to Kotoor Chapel. During such occasions Rev. Fr Paulose Murimattathil (Later the 1st Catholicos) became the close associate of Mar Koorilos. Fr Paulose visited most of the churches of malankara with Mar Koorilos and translated his speech from Syrian. Yuyakkim Mor Koorilos passed away in 1872 and was buried at mulathuruthy marthomman church. His memory is celebrated along with the festival of first harvest on chingam 20th.

H.H PATHROSE PATRIARCH III

In 1875 Pathrose Patriarch III came to Malankara. This was the first visit of a Pathriach of Antioch to Malankara .His Holiness came to Malankara to expose Palakkunath Mathews Mar Atanasius who got ordained at homes by treachery. On 15th Mithunam of 1876 His Holiness convened the Mulanthuruthy Synod, Which was a turning point in the history of Malankara Church. This was important for the parish of Kolenchery. The following members participated in the synod from Kolenchery and Kottor Church:

Participants from Kolenchery Church:

  • Rev. Fr. Joseph Thennumkal
  • Rev. Fr .Paulose kallanickal
  • Rev .Fr. Pathrose Kunnath
  • Ittoop Mathew Valayil
  • Kurian Thomman Kallumkal
  • Varkey Mathulla Eloor
Participants from Kottor Church:

  • Rev. Fr. Paulose Muriamattathil
  • Rev. Fr. Paulose Chennakkattu
  • Rev. Fr. Yohannan Chennakattu
  • Kurian Iype Murimattathil Kochupurackal
  • Varkey Chacko Njattuthottiyil

Mulathuruthy synod elected the first Managing Committee for malankara church and Fr Paulose Murimattathil (later catholicos I) and Fr Paulose Kallanickal from kolenchery were members of this committee. It was decided in the synod to divide malankara church into seven dioceses and to ordain six more metrapolitans along with Pullikkottil Joseph Mar Dionysius metropolitan, who already was in Malankara. Among the six new metrapolitans one was Paulose Mar Ivanios of Murimattathil who became the first metropolitan of the newly established Kandanad Diocese and the head quarters was Kolenchery Church. Murimattathil thirumeni was a versatile genius and occupied an important position among the new metropolitans and even palakkunnath metrapolitan was afraid of him. Many decons were trained in Kolenchery under His Grace.

It was in 1909, when Abdulla pahriach came to malankara. Then the factional rift started here. At that time the Malankara Church was again unified since the Marthoma Church had get Separated itself . Abdulla patriach demanded that all the Church of Malankara and their assets should be brought under him by a registerded deed. Mar Dionysius Metropolithan of Mallapillil opposed this move and the Patriach ex-communicated him. Those supporting the Pathriach came to be known as ‘bava kakshi (Pathriach Faction)’ and those who supported the Malankara Metropolian came be to known as ‘methran kakshi(Catholicate Faction)’. At this junctre Murimattathil Thirumeni took a very firm stand aganist the Pathriac and proclaimed his solidarity and oneness with the malankara metropolitan.This made the Pathriach more angry and removed Murimattathil Mar Ivanios from the charge of Kandanad Diocese. This created factional dispute in Kolenchery also.

Later Abdul Messiah camein the year 1912 to Malankara and he transferred the throne of the Catholicos of East from Salukiya to Malankara and enthroned Murimattathil Paulose Mar Ivanios as HH Baselios Paulose Mar Paulose I , the first Catholicos of Malankara on September 15th ,1912 at Niranam Church. This was a turning point and a milestone in the history of Malankara Church. The people of Kolenchery who hated foreign dominations on the parish affairs, whole heartedly welcomed Murimattathil Bava.

After becoming the Catholicos His Holiness stayed at Kottayam and Parumala. In the malayalam era of 1913 makaram , H.H came to Kolenchery and was accorded a warm welcome by the priests and parishioners. But a minority among them under the leadership of Fr. Paulose kunnath objected to this and filed a suit against this. But HH stayed in the church and when the police came he said to them that ‘this is his Headquarters and residence and he will not leave the place”. A large number of people under the leadership of Thenungal Gheevarghese Malpan were there to support H.H.Bava’s only weakness was his brothers son who was his right hand in everything , knowing this the opposition group influenced the police , got Murimattathil Kurian got arrested . Hearing this Bava was shaken to the bottom. Then HH came out of his room and prayed in front of the church. Tears ran down from his cheeks. At last he came out of the Church compound. A large number of people watched him in tears. He left kolenchery and went to Kottayam and stayed at old Seminary.

Old age and sickness made him weak and then the Malankara trusty Rev. Fr Paulose Palapillil of Pampakuda Cheria Pally took him to his own Church. On May 2nd of 1913 and his mortal body was laid to rest at Pampakuda Cheria Pally. The memorial feast is conducted on May 2nd and a foot pilgrimage is conducted from Kolenchery to Pamapkuda on that day every year.

On Oct 9th, 1942 HH Gheevarghese II Catholicos was received at Muvattupuzha Church as per decision of the Diocesean council of Kandanad diocese and its bishop Augen Mar Thimotheos . HH and Augen Metropolitan visited the various Churches in Kandanad Diocese. During that time, they also visited Kolenchery Church. After their visit, again factional disputes started in Kolenchery parish. As a result the church remained closed for 89 days in May, June and July of 1943. The laity and priests offered prayers in front of the church but there was no holy mass. Even the main festival of July 11-12 was cancelled that year. Thenunkal malpanachan and Rev Fr. Gheevarghese Murimattathil went to Trivandrum, with much effort obtained the order for re-opening the Church.

On 12th september 1958 the final verdict of the Supreme Court came in favor of the orthodox faction, and so the Partriachal faction showed willingness for a peaceful settlement. The orthodox faction and the Catholicos agreed to it. Thus keeping the Supreme Court verdict in force, His Holiness Gheevarghese II Catholicos of the East enthroned on the Apostholic throne of Mar Thoma and HH Yacob III patriarch of Anthioch exchanged a peace treaty at Old Seminary . The Metrapolitans of both the factions were present during the occasion. Thus there came to an end for the schism which existed in the church for about half a century.

The parishioners of kolenchery gladly accepted the peace treaty and deceided to remove the receiver. A combined general body of the church was convened on Sunday, march 8th, 1959. The meeting and was presided over by the Diocesian metropolitan His Grace Augen Mar Themotheos . The metrapolitan of other faction HG Paulose Mar Philexinos, who was subsequently appointed as Asst. Bishop of Kandanad and was also presented in the general body meeting. It unanimously was decided in the meeting that the church was to be administered as per the 1934 constitution of the malankara sabha which was accepted by the Supreme Court. Sri. K V Thomas nechuppadam was elected as the trustee. Secretary and committe members were also elected and the administration was taken over by the newly elected committee from the receiver. Much development and progress took place during the subsequent years which is recorded in golden letters in the history of the church.

The parish general body met on 24th May 1959 decide to celebrate the memory of the first Catholicos (Murimattathil Bava) on may 2nd. His portrait was placed in the church by HG Augen Mar Themotheos. The irony was that the same people who presented and chased Bava from Kolenchery, Decided to honour his memory.

CHURCH REBUILT


On January 28th of 1960 the foundation stone for the new Church was laid by HG Augen Mar Themotheos of Kandanad Diosece. The general body met on January 10th, 1960 had already elected a committee consisting Rev. Fr Alias Valayil, Sri. K V Thomas and Sri. M Chackopilla for reconstruction of new church. The architect and consulting engineer of the new church was Sri K.C Chacko of Kodiyamparayil family. The construction was completed in two years. H.H Baselios gheevarghese II, along with nine other Metropolitans conducted the consecration ceremony of the church on Jan 28th 1963. It was a grand festival day for kolenchery.

 

 

ORDINATION OF THREE BISHOPS.

After H.H Baselios Gheevarghese II , H.H Baselios Augen I became the Catholicos and he conducted the ordination of three bishops on may 15th ,1966 at Kolenchery Church which was also celebrated as a grand festival by the parishioners. The newly ordained bishops were H.G Philipose Mor Theophilos, H.G Yuhanon Mar Severios and H.G Thomas Mar Themotheos (Now Valiya Bava Thirumeny).

The peace that was restored in 1959 following the Supreme Court verdict lasted till 1975. The factional feud began again, and the church was closed and opened intermittently. The struggle between the factions continued till recently, when the District Court declared that the church and its assets are to be governed by the 1934 constitution and the present committee is legally eligible to carry out the administration of the church. The court handed over the key of the church to Rev. Fr. Jacob Kurian the vicar on Dec 2nd 2010. The Church was opened and it was functioning normally. The rival faction started agitation against court verdict, the Government and its mechanism did not act properly as a result the church had to be closed again.

KOTTOR CHURCH

The kottor Chapel existed even before the construction of Kolenchery Church. It is presumed that this Chapel was established in the first century itself. It was at first the Shrine of Pallippuram Church near Cherthala. Later it came under Piravom Church afterwards under Kadamattom Church and now it is under Kolenchery Church. At some point in the history, the Shrine was developed into a Chapel.

 

CONCLUSION:

Kolenchery St Peter’s and St Paul’s Orthodox Church, even though it remained closed continually it remains as a source and fountain of strength for the people of Kolenchery irrespective of cast and creeds. May we hope and pray that it be opened soon.

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