The story of how two laymen were elected to become bishops / Thomas Jacob


This is an old story. The Malankara association that met in old seminary with Vattasseril thirumeni as the chairperson chose seven people to become bishops. Among them two were laymen– K.C. Chacko and Pathros Mathai.
Usually only priests are chosen to become bishops, but these two laymen were chosen because of the unusual saintliness in these two men.

Geevarghese mar Philoxenos known as puthenkavil kochuthirumeni, Valakkuzhy Joseph mar Severios, Paret Mathews Mar Ivanios, Alexios Mar Theodosius became bishops. Skaria Malpan of Cheriya matam did not become bishop though he was elected.

Though Kandathil K.C. Chacko and Pathros Mathai were chosen to this high position in the church, they did not become bishops. The reason was simple. They chose not to.

First, we will see K.C. Chacko’s story.
As a student and as a teacher in Madras Christian College K.C. Chacko lived a life witnessing Christ. Smart in studies, he was one of the two first rank holders in M.A. Philosophy. The other one was none other than Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, the former president of India.

They were close friends. K.C. Chacko, one of the founders of the Aluva U.C. College, collected money for the college with a recommendation letter from Dr. Radhakrishnan, which said: K.C.Chacko is a very close friend of mine. Please cooperate with him sincerely in the great task he has undertaken.

U.C.College was a cooperative undertaking by the three episcopal churches in Kerala. K.C. Chacko, with his deep piety, won the trust of even the members of the other churches. Dr. Philipos Mar Chrysostom, the oldest bishop alive now, was his student in U.C. College.

Not only the college, but K.C. Chacko had a share in the founding of several other institutions such as Women’s House, Aluva Settlement, Fellowship House, and Christu Shishya Ashram in Thadagam. He tried his best to end the court cases in the church. He lived his life as a monk dedicating his life to the service of God without marrying.

He was an unusual layman who became well known as a living saint. Vattasseril thirumeni wanted to ordain K. C. Chacko as a priest, and thirumeni expressed this intention to his brother K.C. Mamman Mappillai, who responded favorably if it is the will of God.

Chosen to be a bishop even when he was a layman was a great honor to K.C. Chacko. But he refused. Why? He responded as follows: I don’t want the spirituality of staying away from the people as a bishop; I like to stay with the people among them. The institutions that he tended are among us today bearing witness to him.

Now let us turn to the second hero in our story. Originally belonging to Aymanam Muzhuvancherry Matam Family, Pathros Mathai is a native of Pathanamthitta. With M.B.L. Degree, he was a well-known lawyer. He retired as the principal of the Law College in Trivandrum.

He married at the age of 49 so that he won’t be pushed anymore to become a bishop, for only unmarried people become bishops in the Orthodox church. More interesting are his seven children who have been carrying their father’s name Pathros Mathai. They are Kunjannaamma Pathros Mathai, who is deceased now, Mathai Pathros Mathai, lawyer in Kerala High Court, Alexanthrayos Pathros Mathai,Bank empoyee in North India, Pathrose Pathros Mathai, Director of Physical Education in the Kerala University and Executive director and secretary of the Sports Authority of India, Dr. Pathros Mathai, the well-known nephrologist, Lukose Pathros Mathai, Principal of Pathanapuram College, and Simon Pathros Mathai, engineer in Tata company.

The seven Pathros Mathai’s who became well-known just like their father! It was perhaps the will of God that Pathros Mathai married at the age of 49 without becoming a bishop!

(Malayala Manorama weekly October 29, 2016 page 9. Translated to English by John Kunnathu)