Moran Mor Ignatuis Aphrem II, the 122nd successor to St. Peter in the Apostolic See of Antioch, Born in Kamishly, Syria on May 3, 1965, the youngest son of Mr. & Mrs. Issa Karim, His Holiness lost his father at an early age and was raised ,with the rest of his family, by his late and loving mother Khanema. He entered St. Ephrem’s Theological Seminary in Atchaneh, Lebanon in 1977, following his primary schooling in Kamishly. In 1982, His Holiness served the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo, Syria, for the next two years. From 1984 to 1988, as Archbishop Karim he pursued higher studies at the Coptic Theological Seminary in Cairo, Egypt, graduating with a Bachelor Degree of Divinity.
In 1985, His Holiness took the vows of a monk, and put himself in the service of the Church. He was ordained to the diaconate in Egypt, and later the same year, to the sacred priesthood in Kamishly. From 1988 to 1989, His Holiness served as both, the secretary of the late His Holiness, Moran Mor Zakka I Iwas, Syrian Orhtodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, and as a teacher at St. Ephrem’s Theological Seminary in Damascus, Syria. In 1991, He entered St. Patrick’s College in Maynooth, Ireland, where he received a License of Sacred Theology Degree, in 1992, and his Doctor of Divinity Degree in 1994, following a defense of his doctoral thesis on The Symbolism of the cross in early Syriac Christianity.
On Sunday, January 28, 1996, Hewas consecrated as Metropolitan and Patriarchal Vicar to the Archdiocese of the Syriac Orthodox Church for the Eastern United States, by His Holiness Patriarch Zakka I Iwas, at St. Mary ‘s Syriac Orthodox Church in Kamishly. Archbishop Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim arrived in The United States on March 2, 1996, and was officially installed to his position at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Teaneck, New Jersey.
In addition to his many talents, Archbishop Karim is fluent in both Classical and Vernacular (Touroyo) as well as in Arabic, French, and English. During his years as hierarch of the Archdiocese of the Syriac Orthodox Church for the Eastern United States, His Eminence, Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim has overseen the establishment of several new parishes:
- St, Aphraim’s Church (Washington D.C.)
- The Mother of God of the Zunoro Church (Jacksonville, Florida)
- St. Jacob of Urhoy’s Church (Orlando, Florida)
- St. Stephen’s Church (Miami, Florida)
- St. John’s Church (Atlanta, Georgia)
- St. Helen’s Church (Indianapolis, Indiana)
- St. Barsawmo’s Church (Wyckoff, New Jersey)
- St. John Bar Aphtonia’s Church (Cranbury, New Jersey)
- St. George’s Church (Brooklyn, New York )
- St. James of Nisibin’s Church (Corpus Christi, Texas)
- St. Philoxenus of Mabug’s Church (Roanoke, Virginia)
Throughout the years, he has visited, on a regular basis, all the parishes, and formed a new Archdiocese Advisory Council to assist with the administration of the Archdiocese and its various programs; working closely with the parish boards and clergy to see that the spiritual and church needs of the faithful are fulfilled.
He had a special concern for the youth of the Archdiocese; in his first year as an Archbishop, he established the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocesan Youth Organization (SOAYO), which coordinates the ministry of all youth organizations of the parishes of the Archdiocese. His commitment to them was shown right from the start, when he immediately held a number of youth gatherings and conferences, as well as being instrumental in establishing an Archdiocesan Scholarship Program to benefit the students. He shared the youth with the Church’s deep concern for them, and fielded many questions related to faith and other specific concerns they had. He encouraged them to do their best to work together as one family for the growth and advancement of the Holy Church. He, likewise, helped organize Annual Youth Retreats throughout the Archdiocese, for both younger and older youth. He was also responsible for the creation of a special Monthly Youth Liturgy, to bring the young people of the various parishes in the New Jersey/New York area, to give them a chance to participate fully in the Eucharistic Celebration. Consequently, He called for the establishment of the Archdiocesan Choral Society, comprised of musically talented children from different parishes of the Archdiocese.This group performed in several concerts and produced two Hymnal recordings; one for Christmas and the other for Maundy Thursday Service.
The Syriac Orthodox Scouts of America is another organization of the youth that is dear to His Holiness’s heart, and he does his best to attend to encourage them.
Likewise, He showed his great concern to the adult members in our community. Under his guidance and leadership, a Pre-marital Counseling Program has been created in the parishes of the Archdiocese, to help young people prepare for their Christian married life. This includes an opportunity for them to meet with His Eminence and local clergy, to discuss matters of common concerns, that help assure lasting and successful marriages.
He also realized how important is to respect and honor the elderly. In this regard, he established an Annual Elderly Liturgy Service, that brings together the elderly members of local parishes to share in the Celebration of the Lord’s Supper, and to spend a special time of recognition and appreciation.
In the field of education, He blessed and encouraged the establishment of the Archdiocesan Sunday School Committee; a body of Sunday School principals and teachers, who had been working together with His Eminence and local clergy, in the creation of a Unified Sunday School Program for the parishes. As a result of the Committee’s outstanding efforts, a series of unified lesson plans and materials have been prepared, and have proven invaluable in helping to introduce students to the Orthodox faith and traditions of the Holy Church.
Moreover, His Holiness, has been responsible for the publication of a series of books and articles related to the Church:
- Essays on Syriac Theology and Spirituality. This series included English translations of various articles written by His Holiness, the Patriarch, as well as articles contributed by local clergy.
- New Liturgical Books, to help the people follow and more actively participate in the Holy Liturgy.
- The Church’s Morning and Evening Prayers for the use and convenience of the faithful.
- The Book of the Order for the Burial of the Clergy, the last of the series of liturgical texts produced under the editorship of the late Mor Athanasius Yeshue Samuel of blessed memory. The volume was published as a special memorial to the remembrance of the late beloved Archbishop.
- The Shorter Catechism of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch (1999) by the late Patriarch Ephrem I Barsom.
- The Book of Scripture Readings for Sundays and Feasts Day (2000), originally published by the late Mor Philoxenus Yuhanon Dolabani of Mardin.
- The Symbols of the Cross in the Writings of the Early Syriac Fathers, authored by His Eminence and published by Gorgias Press in (2004).
His Holiness has also established himself as an ecumenist, very much concerned about Christian Unity. He has served on both, the Executive and Central Committees of the World Council of Churches, attending the 1991 Canberra, Australia WCC General Assembly, the 1998 WCC General Assembly in Harare, Zimbabwe and the 2006 Assembly of Porto Alegre, Brazil, as a member of the Syriac Orthodox delegation. Moreover, he has been an active member of the Executive and Governing Boards of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, and he also serves as a Vice- Chairman of the Standing Conference of the Oriental Orthodox Churches in America. In recent years, His Holiness has been instrumental in the establishment of a new and promising ecumenical body, Christian Churches Together in the USA, of which the Syriac Orthodox Church is a founding member. In all his ecumenical activities, His Holiness has most capably represented the Holy Church and has won the admiration and respect of his colleagues and confreres.
Catholicos Aboon Mor Baselios Thomas-I, the spiritual head of the Syrian Christians of India, was born in the Cheruvillil family of Vadayambadi, Puthenkuriz to Mathai and Kunjamma on 22nd July 1929. Early part of his life was full of sufferings. Though he belonged to an aristocratic family, by the time he was born the family had seen bad days. As a child he had frequent bouts of illness which affected his education. His mother used to take the young boy frequently to the nearby Malecuriz Dayro where the relics of late Patriarch St. Ignatius Elias-III and Saint Gregorios Geevarghese (Parumala Thirumeni) had been interred. One night, as his mother prayed with the young boy on her lap, she had a vision which prompted her to dedicate the boy to the service of the church. Within days, the boy’s illness was entirely cured. God was with him, guiding him and shaping him.
His priestly formation was under the guidance of Mor Philoxenos Paulose (late Catholicos Mor Baselios Paulose-II) who ordained him ‘Korooyo’ in 1952 and ‘Shamshono’ at Kadamattom Church in 1957. In August 1958, C M Thomas was ordained ‘Kassisso’ (full priest) by Mor Yulius Elias at the Majanikkara Dayro. In 1959 he was appointed as the vicar of St.Peter’s church, Puthencuriz. Later he served the churches at Vellathooval, Keezhumuri, Fort Cochin, Valamboor, Calcutta and Thrissur. For a period of seven years from 1967, he was the organizing secretary of Kolenchery Medical Mission Hospital. He also served as the Chief organizer of the North Indian mission at Bhilai in 1970’s and as the secretary of the Pourasthaya Suvishesha Samajam in 1974. He was well known as a great revivalist preacher and was also recognized as an excellent organizer.
In January 1974, Fr. C M Thomas was elected to the episcopate by the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Christian Association convened at the Karingachira St. George Church and was consecrated Metropolitan with the title ‘Mor Dionysius’ by H.H. Mor Ignatius Ya`qub-III on 24th February 1974 at Damascus, Syria. He was entrusted with the charge of Angamali diocese, the largest of all the Syrian Orthodox dioceses which has a membership of more than half a million. (Click here for a newspaper report dt. 26th February 1974 on the Metropolitan ordination of Mor Dionysius & Mor Gregorios)
The untiring efforts of Mor Dionysius in those days had helped a lot to revive the confidence of not merely the faithful of the diocese, but the entire Malankara Church. Metropolitans Mor Dionysius, Mor Gregorios Geevarghese (late) and Mor Koorilos Kuriakose (late) together were a great support to the (late) Catholicos Aboon Mor Baselios Paulose-II, the then Chief of the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church. As the Metropolitan of Angamali Mor Dionysius had successfully initiated many welfare programs and also reorganized the diocesan administration. In 1978 Mor Baselios Medical Mission Hospital at Kothamangalam was started under his patron-ship.
His Holiness the Patriarch of Antioch and All The East, Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas consecrated Very Rev. Ramban Yeldho Pathickal as the Archbishop and Patriarchal Vicar of the Malankara Archdiocese of the Syrian Orthodox Church in North America on January 4, 2004 at the solemn function held at the Monastery of St. Aphrem the Syrian, at Ma'arrat Seydnaya, Damascus, Syria. The new Metropolitan was given the Episcopal name 'TITUS' during the consecration ceremony. Archbishops from different countries were present to grace the occasion: H. G. Mor Gregorios Joseph (secretary of the Regional Synod in India), H. G. Mor Julius Kuriakose (First Secretary to His Holiness the Patriarch), H. G. Mor Osthatheos Matta Roham (Jazira & Euphrates, Syria), H. G Mor Severius Isak Saka (Mosul, Iraq), H. G. Mor Silvanos Pathros (Homs, Syria), H. G. Mor Athanasius Elia Bahi (Patriarchal Assistant, Damascus), H. E. Mor Cyril Aprem Karim (Eastern U.S.A). Also were present the 1st secretary of the Indian Embassy in Damascus Mr. R. C. Manchanda, Monks, Nuns, friends and family members. At the end of the Holy ceremony, the newly consecrated Archbishop thanked His Holiness the Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas and all those who were present. He pledged his allegiance to the Holy Syriac Orthodox Church and promised to be faithful in imparting the teachings of the Church to the faithful.
Born in 1970 to Pathickal P. M. Kuriakose and Sosamma, His Eminence belongs to the Perumbavoor Bethel Suloko Cathedral of the Ankamaly Diocese in India. His primary education was at the Asram High School, Perumbavoor. He studied at the Union Christian College in Alwaye, Kerala for B. Sc and M. Sc in Mathematics. Later he acquired his B. Ed degree from the Mahatma Gandhi University, Kerala, India.
His Eminence Mor Titus Yeldho was ordained Deacon (Qoruyo) at the age of 12, on October 28, 1982 by Mor Athanasius Paulose (Kadavil), the late Metropolitan for the Evangelical Association of the East. In 1997 he was invited to the St. Ephrem Patriarchal Seminary in Damascus, Syria. On September 26, 1998 he was ordained Ramban by His Holiness the Patriarch and on September 5, 1999 ordained as Priest. His Eminence had his theological education from the Patriarchal Seminary at Damascus and the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Theological Seminary at Udayagiri, India. During this period he had the opportunity to stay in the Syrian Orthodox Monasteries of Jerusalem, Turkey, Holland, Germany and Switzerland. After the demise of Mor Gregorios Geevarghese (Perumpally) in 1999, he was appointed as the Administrator of the Perumpally St. George Simhasana Church and its institutions. From 1995 to 2001, he was actively involved in YMCA organization as its State Vice- Chairman and also as its National Executive Board Member.
His Eminence was later deputed to New York and was serving different churches of the Malankara Archdiocese of North America till the end of 2003. He also completed his Master of Divinity degree in 2003 from the St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, New York. On January 4, 2004 His Eminence was consecrated as the Archbishop and Patriarchal Vicar of the Malankara Archdiocese in North America. His Eminence is currently pursuing his Doctoral program in US.
His Eminence is the only prelate from Malankara to receive five ordinations (Sub-deacon, Full Deacon, Ramban, Priest & Metropolitan) from the Supreme Head of our Church, the Patriarch His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas.