Bishop Philipose Mar Chrysostom was dedicated to serving the poor. (Photo: YouTube)
India’s political leaders have joined Christians to express condolences over the death of the popular former head of the Kerala-based Mar Thoma Church.
Bishop Philipose Mar Chrysostom was buried in compliance with Covid-19 protocols at his church’s headquarters in Thiruvalla on May 6, a day after his death at the age of 104.
President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed condolences, recalling the bishop’s service to the community and his deep theological knowledge.
“One of the longest-serving bishops in India had touched millions with his religiosity, compassion and service, especially the needy and downtrodden,” Kovind said in his message.
Born on April 27, 1917, he was ordained a priest in 1944 at the age of 27. In 1953, he was consecrated a bishop and led the Mar Thoma Church for 54 years, until 2007 when he resigned as its supreme head.
Bishop Chrysostom was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India’s third-highest civilian award, in recognition for his outstanding service, especially for the uplift of the poor, in 2018.
He will be fondly remembered for his kindness and warmth that touched one and all
Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu said the late bishop “touched people with his kindness, religiosity, compassion and service.”
“He will be fondly remembered for his kindness and warmth that touched one and all," Naidu said in a tweet.
Prime Minister Modi said the late prelate’s “rich theological knowledge and many efforts to remove human suffering” would be remembered.
Kerala governor Arif Mohammed Khan and chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan visited the church's headquarters, where the bishop’s body was kept, to pay homage to him.
“We have lost a great human soul. In him we have lost a great man of humor and wisdom,” Khan said.
Bishop Chrysostom was “respected by all denominations,” said Khan, adding that the bishop’s “humanitarian works brought smiles to the faces of many unfortunate people.”
The bishop was known for his humorous talks, friendship with Hindus and Muslims and leaders of various political parties.
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the bishop was the “embodiment of goodness” and “tried to help the needy in all possible ways as he had a special love for the poor, weak and helpless.”
“Whenever our government came out with any program for the welfare of the poor, he always supported the government,” the communist leader said.
Father Babu Joseph, the former spokesperson of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, said the late prelate had “a unique sense of humor.”
“The prelate also had a friendship with people of all walks of lives such as politicians and bureaucrats among others,” the Divine Word priest told UCA News on May 6.
The bishop’s body was interned in a specially built tomb in an area earmarked for the burial of bishops
The church conducted different sets of prayer services for the departed soul because despite Covid-19 restrictions “people kept pouring in,” said Father A. Abraham, a priest of the Mar Thoma Church.
The bishop’s body was interned in a specially built tomb in an area earmarked for the burial of bishops, he told UCA News on May 6.
The Mar Thoma Church, officially called the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church, is one of several churches that traces their faith to St. Thomas the Apostle, who according to a tradition visited southwest India in 52 AD.
It is an autonomous church claiming some 1.1 million followers, half of them in Kerala. Their members also live in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.