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Mor Clemis Abraham (1918 - 2002)
(Late Great Metropolitan of the East, Knanaya Diocese)

Source: Mangalam Daily, 30 Sep 2002

Mor Clemis Abraham was born in the Vayala family at Vaikom, a suburb of Ranni, on April 22, 1918 to Idiculla Kochidiculla of Vayala family and Pennamma of Aythala Kalarickal family as the fifth of their nine children. He was affectionately called Unnikunju by his parents. He had his primary education at the Govt. Lower primary School at Vaikom and secondary education in M.S. Middle School. In 1934, he joined the St. Mary's English high school in Alwaye and graduated from there in 1936. While studying at the High School he stayed at the Thrikkunnathu Seminary in Alwaye under the guardianship of the late Malankara Metropolitan Mor Athanasios Paulose. In 1937, he joined CMS College Kottayam where he passed his Intermediate. Then he joined St. Xavier's College in Palayamkode and passed the B. A. Exam in 1941. He pursued his Master's degree in Political Science at Annamalai University and graduated from there with honors.

In 1931, he was ordained mzamrono by H.G. Dioscoros Thomas of the Knanaya diocese. In 1932 (1107 Vrischikam 6), he was ordained a korooyo at Ranni Valyapally by HH Patriarch Ignatius Elias III along with Dn. P.J. Thomas Purackal who was ordained a priest. He learned basics of Syriac from Thazhathu Valyachen and then at Thrikunnathu Seminary and Manjanikkara. He had the good fortune of being taught by the late Patriarchal Delegate Mor Yulius Elias Qoro and Rabban Abdul Ahad (who later became the Patriarch Ya`qub III). On January 15, 1947, he was ordained a priest at Ranni Valiyapally by Mor Yulius Elias and was known as Fr. V.I. Abraham. He offered the first Qurbono on July 28th, 1947 at Ranni Valyapally and served as the Associate Vicar there for two years. He taught at the M.S. High School for a brief period.

On May 1, 1949 he left Bombay by ship to Iraq to join the Theological Seminary in Mosul. It took him thirteen days to reach Iraq. At the Mosul Theological College, he studied Syriac and Theology for two years while preparing to be a priest. During his time there he visited different places such as Basra, Nineveh, the Church of Mort Shmooni, the village of Bartalli (the birthplace of Mor Ignatius Elias III) among other places.

In 1951, he was elected as the Metropolitan of the Knanaya Diocese. HH Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem I ordained him a monk on April 8, 1951 and as the third Metropolitan of the Knanaya Diocese on April 15, 1951 at the Patriarchal Cathedral in Homs in Syria with the name Mor Clemis Abraham.

In the fifties, the Knanaya diocese was administratively in a disarray, having had no bishop for a few years. Mor Clemis Abraham lead the Knanaya diocese and his community ably from his bishopric at St. John's Dayro, Chingavanam. In 1952, he revised the constitution for the church. On July 11, 1957, Mor Clemis was elected Malankara Metropolitan at the Malankara Association held at St. Mary's Church, Manarcaud. He held this position until December 16, 1958 when, in the interest of unity between the two factions in the church, he resigned from the position. After the departure of HH Patriarch Mor Aphrem I, Mor Clemis represented the Malankara Church in the Holy Synod held at Homs on October 3, 1957 to elect a new Patriarch. In 1960, he studied at the Union Theological Seminary in the US. Enroute he had an audience with the Pope of Rome at Vatican on July 29, 1960. On July 31, 1960, Mor Clemis offered Holy Qurbono at the Syriac Orthodox altar in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. On May 23, 1964, Mor Clemis hosted Patriarch Ya`qub III at the Mor Aphrem Seminary in Chingavanam. On May 2, 1976, Mor Clemis celebrated the golden jubilee of his consecration at Chingavanam.

Mor Clemis was unswerving in his loyalty to the Holy See of Antioch. During the seventies when schism reared its ugly head in the Malankara Church, Mor Clemis provided leadership not only for the Knanaya Church but for all faithful who wished to remain in obedience to the Holy See. On January 12, 1978, he was arrested during the Alwaye Great March.

On May 14, 1980, Mor Clemis visited the Pope again at Vatican with Patriarch Mor Ya`qub III. In June 1980, Mor Clemis represented the Malankara Church at the funeral services of Patriarch Mor Ya`qub III in Damascus and participated in the Holy Synod to elect a new Patriarch on July 11. He participated in the consecration of HH Patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka I on September 14, 1980.

Mor Clemis was a stalwart of the ecumenical movement in Kerala and was widely respected by all Christian denominations. In 1983 when communal harmony in Kerala was vitiated by the Nilackal episode, Mor Clemis along with Benedict Mar Gregorius of the Malankara Catholic Church worked out a compromise among the different communities which restored amity amongst them.

In 1982, HH Patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka I conferred the title Qooberneeyto Hakeemo (wise captain) on Mor Clemis in recognition of his staunch leadership of the Knanaya diocese and in 1989 the title Great Metropolitan of the East. In 1997, Mor Clemis celebrated the golden jubilee of his ordination in a gathering presided by then Vice President of India K.R. Narayanan. The golden jubilee of his consecration was celebrated on April 9, 2002 in the presence of HH Patriarch Zakka I.

Mor Clemis passed away at the Lissie Hospital in Ernakulam on September 29, 2002 at 11:30 pm. At the time of his departure, Mor Clemis was the senior most Metropolitan of the Syriac Orthodox Church all over the world and the longest serving bishop in the history of the Malankara Church. His mortal remains were interred in the Mor Aphrem church at the St. John's Dayro, Chingavanam on October 1, 2002 after funeral rites officiated by HB Catholicos Mor Baselius Thomas I, Mor Yulius Yeshu` Çiçek of Europe, and other Metropolitans of Malankara.

From the funeral rites at Chingavanam, October 1, 2002.

Source: Malankara Voice, Mangalam October 1, 2002

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Last Update: October 6, 2002