India: Malankara Orthodox Church head Mar Thoma Paulose II dies at 74

Thiruvananthapuram: The supreme head of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, Baselios Marthoma Paulose II, 74, passed away on Monday morning after battling multiple health issues for nearly two years. He was the Catholicos of the East and the Malankara Metropolitan.

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The metropolitan had been under treatment for post-COVID-19 complications at a private hospital owned by the Orthodox Church in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district. He had been under treatment for lung cancer since December 2019, and over the past few days he had been on ventilator support after developing breathing difficulties.

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A decade as head

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The metropolitan was born in 1946 at Mangad near Kunnamkulam in Thrissur district, and studied at local schools before graduating from the St Thomas College, Thrissur. He then joined the Orthodox Theological Seminary in Kottayam and proceeded to do post-graduation in sociology from the CMS College, Kottayam.

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In a rare occurrence in the church’s history, he was elevated as bishop at the young age of 36. He took over as the Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan in November 2010, and headed the church for just over a decade, towards the end of which he developed health issues.

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The church, headquartered in Kottayam, Kerala, has parishes across the world comprising nearly three million members.

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During his visits to the UAE, the metropolitan had met His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and other leaders of the country.

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Funeral at Kottayam

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The metropolitan’s body will be kept at the Parumala Church until Monday evening for the church members and public to pay their last respects, before being moved to Kottayam.

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The funeral is slated for Tuesday afternoon at the Devalokam Catholicate Church at Kottayam.

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Simplicity, discipline

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Those who knew the metropolitan from close quarters vouch for his simplicity, easy accessibility and a disciplined life, with a focus on keeping time on all occasions.

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Practising what he preached, he had no fancy for expensive or luxurious products for personal use, and underlining his concern for the sick he had initiated a medical aid package for treatment of cancer patients long before he himself contracted the disease.

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The metropolitan also donated part of his personal property for a housing project for the homeless and continued to hand over a house or two to the homeless on his birthdays.

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Charmed his mates

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One of the late metropolitan’s classmates, Thrissur-based Francis Pulikoden, remembers him as someone who charmed his friends with his endearing smile. “He was a good student, devoid of pretensions and had no enemies because all elements of enmity would be dissolved by his charming smile”, Pulikoden told Gulf News.

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The metropolitan’s official name in school was K. I. Paul, and Pulikoden who was his classmate at the Government High School Pazhanji and at the St Thomas College, Thrissur, remembers him as humble, down-to-earth and sincere.

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