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The incredible story of Alvarez Mar Julius of India


Dear Friends (Mor Ephrem in particular).

Can you please tell me about Mar Julius Alvarez, he was a Portuguese Latin Rite priest who became Metropolitan of the Syriac Orthodox Church.

Apparently, his group who were Portuguesed Christians left the Roman Church when the Pope expelled the Portuguese Bishops and replaced them with French ones. They petitioned Portuguese Bishops without success, and at the end, Alvarez Mar Julius a Portuguese priest, converted to the Malankara Syriac Rite Church and was ordained by a Patriarcch in Antioch.

The story seems very confusing to me, it would be understandable if it was an Eastern group separating because of Latinization but it seems they did so for loyalty to Portugal.

Can you tell me more about him please??

Thomas Daniel (Reji):
Fr.Alwarez was born in a Roman Catholic family at Goa.  After completing his studies from the 'Real Seminary' of Rakkol, at the age of 30 in 1860, he joined the Jesuits Missionary at Bombay.   Though he remained with them for many years, he was  disillusioned  with their activities and  so he returned to his native place.  After reaching Goa, he started an orphanage and later a college.  He was a known social worker.  During his stay there, he published some periodicals and through this he criticized the misgivings of the Jesuit Missionaries which was a known fact at that time.  On seeing these articles, Archbishop of Goa excommunicated him from the Roman Catholic Church and he was forced to leave the place due to the continuous persecution against him risen out of the vengeance.   He later escaped to Travancore.

During his stay at Travancore he came to know more about the Apostolic Suryani Church of Antioch.  He was attracted towards it.  Meanwhile he started a movement namely "Swathantra Catholic Mission" and through this, opposed the atrocities of the Roman Catholic Church.   Later Dr.Lisbowa Pinto, a member of this movement with other like minded people of the Catholic Church started a periodical, "Independent Catholic" published from Colombo.  Many others were also convinced in the Apostolic Episcopacy of the Syrian Orthodox Church.  Around the time, Fr.Alwarez who was in regular contact with the Patriarch of Antioch, met Malankara Metropolitan Mor Dionysius V (Pulikottil Thirumeni) on His Holiness request.  With the permission of the Patriarch, Mor Gregorios Geevarghese (Parumala Kochu Thirumeni) consecrated Fr.Alwarez as a Ramban of the Syrian Orthodox Church.   On Monday the 29th July 1889, the Ramban was consecrated as 'Metropolitan' at the Kottayam old Seminary chapel by Malankara Metropolitan Mor Dionysius V and assisted by other Metropolitans including our Kochu Thirumeni.  The new Metropolitan Alwarez Mor Julius was given the charge of the new Mangalore and Bombay dioceses.  Later many people, particularly the disillusioned Roman Catholics from other parts of India and Ceylon joined the Syrian Church.  Under the influence of the new Metropolitan, many  from the old Catholic Church of America including one Rev.J Rene Vilatte, a French Priest,  joined the Church.

Later on the advice of Metropolitan Alwarez Mor Julius, the Patriarch of Antioch gave permission for the consecration of Rev.Rene Vilatte as a Metropolitan.  The ceremony was planned at the St.Mary's Church, Colombo.  On the Ascension day (26th May) in 1892, Rev.J Rene Vilatte was elevated as a Ramban and three days later, he was consecrated as  Metropolitan 'Mor Thimotheos',  by  Kadavil Paulose Mor Athanasius of Kottayam diocese,  Our Kochu Thirumeni of Niranam diocese and Alwarez Mor Julius.  The new Metropolitan, Mor Thimotheos was appointed as the Archbishop of American diocese under the Holy See of Antioch.  This was an eventful day for the Universal Syrian Church. The expense of the ceremony was shared by the representative of the American government in Colombo.   In a special function that followed, the governmental authorities  awarded a rare title of "Commander of the Crown of Thorns" to the three Metropolitans including our Kochu Thirumeni.

In all the discussions with the newly converted Metropolitans, Parumala Mor Gregorious Bawa (together with Pulikottil Thirumeni and Kadavil Thirumeni) participated as an intermediary.  It was he who contacted and informed about the latest developments to the Patriarch.  Many such decisions regarding Malankara Church were taken by the Patriarch Ignatius Peter III, mainly on the advice our Kochu Thirumeni.  Both were in constant contact, until the last days of the Patriarch

(Later the diocese found by Alwarez Mor Julius & Mor Thimotheos weakened after their deaths.  The religious persecutions of the Goan rulers in their strongholds forced many of the converted Catholics to return.   Because of the internal troubles, the Malankara Church too was not in a position to help them.

The American diocese formed under Mor Thimotheos (1854-1929), though few in numbers, is still administered by his successors.  Now this group is not in commune with the mother Church.  

After the death of Alwarez Mor Julius, the dioceses found by him too declined in numbers, but still continues in the faith of Syriac Orthodox Church.   The St.Antony's Congregation founded by Mor Julius Alwarez is now administered by a Metropolitan appointed by the Patriarch of Antioch.  Mor Polycarpus Geevarghese is the present Metropolitan of the diocese.   The Honawar mission and its centres in Mangalore under the Evangelic Association of the East (E.A.E) are the remnants of this group.)

Thanks for this interesting text Tom.

It indeed shows the apostolicity of the Oriental Orthodox Church and how it accepted people from different traditions. I was told that Mar Julius even followed the Latin Rite and Roman Pontificial for Villate's consacration and that his Church was Latin Rite.

Jean Villate story is also amazing. Mgr. Jean Villate was first a Catholic priest then got in contact with the Old Catholic sect.
From what I know he never felt himself as Syriac Orthodox or did anything beneficial for that Church after he was consacrated.

After several incidents and consacrations frequent among the episcopi vagantes he returned to the Roman Catholic Church and spent the end of his life in a monastery, writing about how necessary was the figure of the Bishop of Rome to avoid the jurisdictional disaster that prevails in Churches outside of his communion. It is said that Pope Saint Pius X estimated him so much that he even asked him to be a Bishop in the Roman Church, which he refused as a sign of his sincere repentance.


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