On 07th June 1934, His Holiness Baselios Geevarghese II Bava Thirumeni alongwith CM Thomas Rambachan (later Thoma Mar Dionysius Metropolitan) and Fr CJ Skaria Malpan (Cheriyamadom) made a stopover in Bombay while on their way to Holmes, Syria. During their stay in Bombay, Geevarghese II Bava Thirumeni celebrated Holy Qurbana at St Peter’s Armenian church, Colaba and ordained two monks from the Roman church who accepted the Orthodox faith as a result of the mission outreach of Alvares Thirumeni, to the order of sub-diaconate at this very church.
Geevarghese II Bava Thirumeni and his entourage took the Bombay Express train from Kerala and were welcomed at Bombay station by an Armenian priest, Brother George and Brother Pinto (the subdiaconate candidates), Mr George Jacob (Asst Customes Collector) and Mr MC Mathew (an official of the national Bank- Bombay branch and cousin of Fr Alexios OIC (later his Grace Alexios Mar Theodosius Metropolitan). At Fr Williams’ behest, (Fr Williams headed the Anglican religious order of Society of St John the Evangelist known colloquially as the Cowley Fathers in Bombay at that time), Bava Thirumeni visited monastery of Cowley Fathers in Mazegaon and stayed there for a while.
At around 3:30 PM, Bava Thirumeni visited St Peter’s Armenian church wherein the vicar, Fr. Koren Kirikosian dressed in priestly vestments, and the congregation sang an Armenian liturgical hymn (used to welcome the Bishops). Fr Kirikosian took Bava Thirumeni to the Madbaha/Holy Altar. After the Litany, Bava Thirumeni gave blessings to the faithful of the church.
Thirumeni was then taken to another floor (on the top) of the church building. The Armenian priest and Bava Thirumeni conversed with help of a translator. Fr. Kirikosian told Bava Thirumeni that they love and respect him as their own Armenian Catholicose. He requested Thirumeni to stay with them during their stay in Bombay and said it would be honor and a matter joy for the Armenian faithful if the Catholicose so decides.
Bava Thirumeni and the clergy visited the Gateway of India, the iconic Taj Mahal Hotel and other important nearby tourist places. It was a unique experience for them to visit Malabar Hill from where one could see the entire city.
The next day-08th June- was spent in getting things required for further journey. Thirumeni, Rambachan and Malpanachen then visited the Armenian church and requested the Vicar regarding celebration of the Holy Qurbana at the Armenian church the coming Sunday. On their way back they also visited the home of Br George who was going to be ordained.
Bava Thirumeni was invited by Mr P C Chacko (hailing from Kottayam) residing at Santa Cruz for the evening prayer and dinner at their home which Thirumeni accepted. Mr. Chacko’s wife was a relative of the Catholicose.
On Saturday (09th June), the dignitaries were taken to the hall of Robert Money School (Grant Road) wherein a meeting of Malabar Association was held to felicitate Bava Thirumeni. The meeting included noted officials, businessmen and students. Fr PG Koshy was also present. Bava Thirumeni gave a speech and expressed his joy on the warm relationship that the Malankara Orthodox Church enjoyed with its sister church- the Armenian Orthodox Church and with the community of Cowley fathers. A thanksgiving speech in English was given by CM Thomas Rambachan.
On Sunday (10th June), Geevarghese II Bava Thirumeni celebrated the Holy Qurbana at St Peter’s Armenian Church, Colaba and also ordained the Br George and Br John from Honavar to the order of ‘Aupadkyono’/
Early morning in monday (11th June), Holy Qurbana was celebrated at the monastery of Cowley fathers and the saintly fathers prayed for Lord’s mercy for their onward journey. Fr Williams then drove Bava Thirumeni in his car to the port. Few journalists from The Times of India and other news outlets took the photographs of Bava Thirumeni before the saintly fathers embarked the ship for their voyage ahead.
May the prayers of the holy fathers be our refuge always.
Yerusalem Yaathra- CJ Skaria Kasheesha (Cheriyamadom),Kurichy Bavayude moonu paradesha yathrakal (The three foreign travels of Catholicose Baselius Geevarghese II), Editor- Dr M Kurian Thomas, MOC Publications, Kottayam, 2015, Pages-143-148.Image reference- pg-130.
Image- the travel to Holmes, Syria in 1934. From L to R- CM Thomas Rambachan (later His Grace Thoma Mar Dionysius Metropolitan), His Holiness Baselios Marthoma Geevarghese II Catholicose, Fr CJ Skaria Malpan (Cheriyamadom).