Remembering Chengannur Athanasius Thirumeni / M. P. Mathai

Like anyone who knew him I too was chilled to the bones when I heard the shocking news of Athanasius Thirumeni’s tragic end. I don’t know whether it is a sign or not; nor do I know how to read it if it is one.

I had the privilege of knowing Thirumeni for a long time and we had opportunities to work together in different committees and fora. The relationship naturally matured and became personal and intimate.

In 2010 when I moved to Ahmedabad accepting UGC professorship in Gujarat Vidyapith Thirumeni took it upon himself to talk to people like Adv.Mampilly about my posting and directed them to meet me and introduce me to our church community there. Whenever Thirumeni visited Baroda which was his second home, so to speak, he used to contact me and we had occasions to travel together in his return trips. It was a pleasure to travel with him.

Athanasius Thirumeni was methodical and very systematic in almost everything he did. He knew how to say what he wanted to say. His words were clear and forceful. He also knew how to drop hints if occasions demanded and he did that artlessly.
Thirumeni established a relationship with Shri. Narendra Modi and maintained it. One may say, sometimes he committed the minor error of advertising it. But I can vouch that he made use of this relationship only for two things: (1) to conscientise Modi on the hoary tradition of the Malankara Orthodox Church and (2) for the development of the schools he built up in different parts of Gujarat but never for any personal benefit or advantage. I know for sure that Thirumeni has been respected in Gujarat for his contribution to pre-university level education by establishing and propagating English medium schools. He has been looked upon as a torchbearer in this, though not the pioneer.

His ‘last wish’ was to establish peace in our church on the basis of the Supreme Court judgement of July 3rd, 2018. We know that he became one of the chief spokespersons of reconciliation during the last days of his life though he could not push the attempt with the required passion and elan to any logical extent. We also know that the enemies of peace even threatened Thirumeni for his advocacy.

I have suffered a personal loss in the passing away of Athanasius Thirumeni.
I offer my humble tribute to his memory and offer my prayers for him.