HIS BEATITUDE MORAN MOR BASELIOS CARDINAL CLEEMIS CATHOLICOS
HIS BEATITUDE BASELIOS CARDINAL CLEEMIS, Major Archbishop-Catholicos of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church and the Major Archbishop of Trivandrum, was born on 15 June 1959 as the son of the Mathew and Annamma Thottunkal at Mukkoor, Mallappally in the civil district of Pathanamthitta, Kerala, India. He was given the name Isaac. He hails from the traditional Pakalomattom-Powathikunnel family. He completed his primary education in St. Mary’s Govt. UP School, Kunnanthanam and secondary education in St. Mary’s High School, Annikad. Responding to the urge of God within him to surrender his life to the service of his Church and of the larger human community, he joined the Infant Jesus Minor Seminary of the Eparchy of Tiruvalla in June, 1976. Bro. Isaac completed his Pre-degree studies in St. Berchman’s College, Changanacherry. Then he was sent to St. Joseph’s Pontifical Seminary, Aluva for the philosophical studies..
In 1978, the Eparchy of Bathery was erected bifurcating the Eparchy of Tiruvalla. Bro. Isaac boldly decided to embrace the challenges of a mission diocese and thus opted for the new Eparchy of Bathery. After completing his philosophical studies and a year of regency, he was sent to the Papal Seminary, Pune for his theological studies. On 22 March 1986, he was ordained a deacon by His Excellency the Most Rev. Valerian D’Souza, the Bishop of Pune. In March 1986 he graduated in theology from the Pontifical Atheneum, Pune. On 11 June 1986, His Excellency the Most Rev. Dr. Cyril Mar Baselios ordained him a priest for the Eparchy of Bathery.
Fr. Isaac Thottunkal was then sent to Dharmaram College, Bangalore to do Masters in Theology. While doing his Masters, he served as the Vicar of the Malankara Catholic faithful in Bangalore and contributed much to the founding of the flourishing Malankara Catholic Missions in Bangalore.
Having successfully completed his Masters in Theology in 1988, Fr. Isaac Thottunkal returned to Sultan Bathery and served as the Rector of the St. Thomas Minor Seminary and the Parish Priest of the St. Thomas Cathedral in Sultan Bathery. Then he was sent to Rome to do Doctorate in Theology. In 1997, he completed his Doctorate in Ecumenical Theology from the University of St. Thomas Aquinas, Rome.
Having returned to his home Diocese after the studies in Rome, he served as the Spiritual Father of the Minor Seminary, the Chancellor of the Eparchy and as the Proto-Syncellus of the Eparchy. He is the author of three books, namely, Emerging Trends in Malankara Catholic Theology: Vision and Contributions of Cyril Mar Baselios, Sabhayckum Samoohathinumayi (Malayalam) and Suviseshadeepthi (Malayalam).Msgr. Isaac Thottunkal was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Trivandrum and Apostolic Visitator to North America and Europe on 18 June 2001 by Pope John Paul II. He was ordained a Remban on 2 August 2001 at St. Thomas Cathedral, Sultan Bathery by Most Rev. Dr. Cyril Mar Baselios, Metropolitan Archbishop of Trivandrum. He was ordained a Bishop on 15 August 2001 at Thirumoolapuram, Tiruvalla by His Grace the Most Rev. Dr. Cyril Mar Baselios. He assumed the name Isaac Mar Cleemis (St. Clement of Alexandria). He served as the Apostolic Visitator to the Malankara Catholic faithful in North America and Europe for two years and during this tenure, he took the initative to strengthen the existing Malankara Catholic Missions in North America and started a new Mission at Rockland County, New York. The Mar Ivanios Malankara Catholic Centre at New Hyde Park, New York is the visible fruit of the vision and the toil of Mar Cleemis who could win the wholehearted cooperation of all the Malankara Catholics in North America in realizing this project. In America, he served as the Patron of the Indian Christian Forum of North America and of the St. Thomas Ecumenical Federation of India in North America.
On 11 September 2003 His Excellency Isaac Mar Cleemis was appointed Bishop of the Eparchy of Tiruvalla and he was installed in office on 2 October 2003 at St. Johns’ Cathedral, Tiruvalla. In February 2006, he was elected the Vice President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.
On 15 May 2006, when the Eparchy of Tiruvalla was raised to the status of Archieparchy and the Metropolitan Province of Tiruvalla was erected, His Excellency Isaac Mar Cleemis was appointed the Metropolitan Archbishop by His Beatitude Moran Mor Cyril Baselios Catholicos. On 10 June 2006 he was installed as the Metropolitan Archbishop of Tiruvalla at St. John’s Cathedral, Tiruvalla.
The Major Archbishop-Catholicos’ See in Trivandrum fell vacant following the demise of His Beatitude Moran Mor Cyril Baselios Catholicos on 18 January 2007. The Holy Episcopal Synod of Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, convoked on 8 February 2007 elected the Most Rev. Isaac Mar Cleemis as the new Major Archbishop-Catholicos. On 10 February 2007 His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI confirmed the election of Mar Cleemis as the Father and Head of the Malankara Catholic Church. As part of the Malankara/Antiochian tradition, Mar Cleemis assumed the name Baselios Cleemis. He was enthroned Major Archbishop-Catholicos of the Malankara Catholic Church and the Major Archbishop of Trivandrum on 5 March 2007 at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Trivandrum. His heavenly Patron’s Day is on 1st January.
The Syro-Malankara Catholic Church was privileged to have the visitation of a few eminent ecclesiastical personalities in recent years. Among them His Eminence Leonardo Cardinal Sandri, the prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, is to be mentioned first. He had visited the Church in November 9-11, 2008 to declare the St. Mary Queen of Peace Cathedral, Palayam as the Basilica, and he had also visited the tomb of Archbishop Mar Ivanios, the Servant of God, in Pattom. The Syro-Malankara Catholic Church was privileged to enjoy his presence and participation on a second time in the month of January, 2012 on the auspicious occasion of the blessing of the Synodal Hall dedicated to the venerable memory of St. John Paul II. He was accorded a grand welcome on these occasions by His Beatitude Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis Catholicos, the Father and Head of the Church. His Eminence Cardinal Sandri participated in the special Episcopal Synod held on the 15th of January which was presided over by His Beatitude.
His Beatitude Gregorio III Laham, the Patriarch of Greek Melkite Catholic Church, had graciously visited Syro-Malankara Catholic Church in March 2010 on the occasion of the consecration of four newly elected Bishops. The congratulatory meeting which followed the consecration was inaugurated by His Beatitude Gregorio III Laham.
His Beatitude Moran Mor Ignace Yousef III Younan, the Patriarch of the Syrian Catholic Church of Antioch, visited the Major Archdiocese of Trivandrum on two occasions, 20-22 September, 2009 and 23-24 January, 2012. On his visit in January, 2012 he was accompanied by a few Archbishops, Bishops and a group of lay faithful. They were all cordially welcomed by His Beatitude Baselios Cleemis Catholicos.
The Syro-Malankara Catholic Church was extremely happy to have His Beatitude Beshara Butrose Al Rai, the 77th Patriarch of the Maronite Syrian Catholic Church on the propitious occasion of its 82nd Re-Union anniversary celebrations and the consecration of the newly constructed Cathedral of the Diocese of Pathanamthitta held from 17-21 September, 2012. The Patriarch is based in Lebenon and is the Father and Head of Maronite Catholics spread all over the world. His Beatitude Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis Catholicos had an occasion to visit Lebanon from 13-17 September, 2012 and to meet the Patriarch and also to meet with His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI there. On his arrival in Trivandrum on the 19th of September, His Beatitude Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis Catholicos received him in the airport along with the state officials. On the 20th of September he participated in the consecration ceremony of the Cathedral and delivered a message of blessing. On the 21st he was the chief gust in the Re-Union Movement celebrations. It is to be noted with joy that His Beatitude Beshara Butros Al Rai was created a Cardinal on November 24, 2012 along with His Beatitude Baselios Cardinal Cleemis.
His Eminence Antonio Louis Cardinal Tagle, the Archbishop of Manila, Philipines, visited the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church from 14 to 16 July, 2013 in connection with the 60th anniversary of Archbishop Mar Ivanios, the Servant of God. On the 15th of July he was the homilist. He was given a cordial, warm reception on the 15th morning. He met all the Bishops of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church and visited St. John’s Malankara Medical Village at Pirappancode and Mar Ivanios Vidya Nagar, Nalanchira. He addressed the members the Jesus Youth of Mar Baselios College of Engineering and Technology, Trivandrum and the Seminarians of St. Mary’s Malankara Major Seminary, Trivandrum. He was created Cardinal along with His Beatitude Baselios Cardinal Cleemis on the 24th of November, 2012.