St. Koorilos Yuyakkim was born in the year AD. 1818 as the son of 'Malkibar Israel' who belonged to the 'Amir-d-gadhani' family, in the village of Hbab in Tur Abdin, S.E. Turkey. Yuyakkim (Joachim), as he was called in childhood, had 5 brothers named Elia, Israel, Mordechai, Zkariah, and Gabriel and two sisters named Satta and Hedna. At the age of 21, on August 6, 1839, Yuyakkim was ordained a Deacon and soon after tonsured a monk. The then Patriarch of the Apostolic See of Antioch, Moran Mor Ignatius Elias II, appointed him secretary, a position in which he continued till his ordination as Metropolitan by name 'KOORILOS' on 18 February 1845. The metropolitan consecration ceremony was held at the patriarchal Cathedral in Deyrul-Saffron Monastery (Kurkumo dayro), Turkey.
Malankara Church (the church in Malabar) in the mid-19th century
Those were the days when the church in Malabar was in deep trouble due to the continued proselytism attempts of the Anglican missionaries. As the crisis deepened the Malankara church pleaded to the See of Antioch for a delegate to lead the church here. However the Patriarch preferred to ordain a native as the bishop for Malabar rather than sending another prelate from Far- East considering the difficulties faced by earlier missions and he conveyed this to the Malankara church. At a time when the Patriarch was waiting for a reply from Malankara, one Syrian Orthodox deacon from Malabar, reached the Patriarchate in Mardin in the pretext of being officially elected by the Malankara Church for the episcopate. Consequently the Patriarch elevated him a bishop by name Athanasius and was later send to Malabar. Back in Malabar, despite accusations of protestant inclinations from certain quarters, the new bishop strictly observed the age-old traditions and practices of the Syrian Church and also advised the Malankara Syriacs to follow orthodoxy as before; the declaration of faith adopted at the Association meeting of the Malankara church held at Kallumkathra in 1843 under the leadership of the bishop points to this fact (Ref: Kallumakathra Padiyola). However with the passage of time the missionaries tactfully brought him to their side and started to use him as a tool to achieve their goals. Meanwhile the Anglican missionaries, with the backing of British Resident who had wide powers over the States of Travancore and Cochin, continued to implement their agenda more vigorously and effectively. The situation reached such a stage that the very existence of Orthodox faith in Malabar was under threat which prompted the Malankara church headed by Mor Dionysius IV (Mor Dionysius Philipose of Cheppaud) to seek the immediate intervention of the supreme pontiff. On receiving the message the worried Patriarch deputed his former secretary, Metropolitan Mor Koorilos Yuyakkim, to take care of the church in Malabar in its struggle against the protestant missionaries and also to investigate the alleged reformist inclination of the bishop Mor Athanasius.
Mor Koorilos Yuyakkim reaching Malabar
Mor Koorilos Yuyakkim, who was delegated to Malankara, left Mardin by sea route on June 23, 1846, together with his brother and reached the Malabar coast two months later in August. Mor Koorilos had with him necessary authorization from the Patriarch to be produced before the concerned governmental authorities in Malabar.
At the time of his arrival the Syrian church here was in total disarray; a sizeable section of Syriacs in South Travancore were badly influenced by the Anglicans. They created all type of hardships for Mor Dionysius IV, the then lone legitimate Syrian prelate of Malabar. In addition to this was the headache created by the rebel Syrian bishop who was acting at the behest of European missionaries. The unholy alliance between all these forces, supported by the British authorities, was a big challenge for the continuance of the Syrian Orthodox faith in Malabar. It was in this peculiar situation that Mor Koorilos Yuyakkim reached Malabar. Soon after, Mor Dionysius IV expressing his helplessness in leading the struggle against the powerful European missionaries, requested Mor Koorilos who was comparatively younger to took all the responsibilities in leading the Malankara Syrian church. Thus the task to upkeep the Orthodoxy fell on Mor Koorilos Yuyakkim and he became the ‘Reesh-Episcopa of Malankara’.
The mission of Mor Koorilos in Malankara was to protect the Apostolic faith of the Syrian Church from the encircling dangers of its powerful enemies. However the influential protestant missionaries who were trying to enforce their practices, created continued hardships for the delegate with the support of the British and the local rulers. Inspite of all these difficulties Mor Koorilos tried his maximum to convince the local administrators by presenting the facts and by producing supporting letters from the patriarch, but sadly all were rejected by them unmercifully and instead they issued repeated rulings against Mor Koorilos and Mor Dionysius IV.
At the height of all these troubles, in 1852, Mor Koorilos was deported from the states of Travancore & Cochin by the British resident under the influence of these European missionaries who feared that even the presence of the Metropolitan would be an obstacle in attaining their goals. So for the next few years he had to live in Mattancherry which was at that time outside the preview of the Raja of Travancore and Cochin states. It was during his stay there that Mor Koorilos Yuyakkim built the St. George Syrian Church at Mattancherry by his own "to be used by the Delegates from the Holy See". During his exile period, the Europeans tried their most to establish their supremacy over the Syrians. Since the entire government machinery was under their control, it was somewhat an easier task for Europeans. In 1855, Mor Dionysius IV passed away leaving an orphaned church here. The situation had reached such a stage that the Syriacs were forced to surrender each and every church to the missionaries and their supporters. Around that time another metropolitan send by the Patriarch, Mor Athanasius Sthephanos, was also send back by the British. The Church historians term it as the most difficult period the church has passed through after the Portuguese era.
However this situation did not last for ever; the tearful prayers of Mor Koorilos was answered finally. After five years of exile, Mor Koorilos was able to return to lead the Malankara Syrians in 1857. The efforts of Mor Athanasius Sthephanos (the other delegate who was send back by the British resident) in convincing the higher government authorities in Britain was the key factor in revoking the illegitimate decision of the local authorities.
This was the first turning point in the fortunes of the Syriacs under British. Though the later years of Mor Koorilos was also as tough as the earlier ones, the positive part was the physical leadership that he could provide to the Syriacs in those difficult times. Another setback for the Syrian Church occurred in 1863 when the Travancore durbar ordered the Syrians to leave behind all their churches in favour of the reformist Syrian bishop. Against this, several representations were made by Mor Koorilos, but nothing fruitful happened. But none of these hindrances dither our father from continuing the mission he was entrusted to. His efforts to free the Syriacs of Malabar from the influential British missionaries continued more vigorously. In 1865 Mor Koorilos got a sincere companion in Mor Dionysius Joseph Pulikkottil (Mor Dionysius V), in his struggle against the Europeans. Earlier it was Mor Koorilos who ordained Mor Dionysius a Kassisso in 1863.
The life of Mor Koorilos Yuyakkim in India was always of tension and struggles. During his deportation he could have returned to his homeland and made excuses to send someone else. But instead he preferred to stay back in this country with bare minimum facilities, wandering from one place to another after he was denied entry into any Syrian churches by the British and waited patiently for the Godly intervention. Though faced with lot of hardship and humiliation, towards the end of his long and strenuous mission of 28 years in Malankara, the blessed Protector of faith could strengthen the Orthodox faith in Malankara. In a period when the church was badly in need of proper guidance it was the spiritual leadership of Mor Koorilos which helped to carry the beacon of true faith.
After hard struggles and sincere services for our Syrian Orthodox Church in India, in different ways, spiritual and cultural, the saintly Koorilos Yuyakkim, at the age of 56, departed from this world on Tuesday 20th of Chingam (September 1), 1874. It is said that His Eminence was aware about the actual time of his death. A few hours before the time of his death, he took bath and entered the church wearing all the vestments. It was just before midnight. He then chanted the ‘Viswasapramanam' (Nicene Creed) thrice on his own and later lied down in the church. A few hours later, at 3 in the morning, the Holy Father left his abode. The mortal remains of Mor Koorilos Yuyakkim were later laid to rest at the Mulanthuruthy Mar Thoman Church where he had, by his own choice, spent his last days.
The renowned disciples of Mor Koorilos
Saint Gregorios Geevarghese Chathuruthil, popularly known as Parumala Kochu Thirumeni, was the disciple and a close aide of Yuyakkim Mor Koorilos Bava. The theological and Syriac studies of Mor Gregorios was under Mor Koorilos Yuyakkim. It was Mor Koorilos who ordained St. Gregorios a full deacon, Kassisso (full priest) and Corepiscopa. Mor Gregorios was the secretary of Mor Koorilos Yuyakkim for quite a long time.
Similarly the saintly Malankara Metropolitan Mor Koorilos Paulos Kochuparambil of Panampady, also was chosen and ordained by him. It is to be specially noted here that both Mor Gregorios Geevarghese and Mor Koorilos Paulos later emerged as the ever shining stars of Malankara.
Contributions in the field of liturgy & science
Mor Koorilos Yuyakkim was a highly educated person in Theology and Bible studies, and an excellent speaker as well as a master in Syriac music and calligraphy. He left for us many letters and poems in Syriac. Yuyakkim Bava was well versed in Malayalam too and had translated the liturgy to Malayalam. In fact he was the first to help in publishing some of our church’s prayer books in Malayalam in 1859. 2000 copies of this translation was made in a press in Calicut and sent to all major churches here for usage.
Having good knowledge in traditional medicinal practice, many people used to approach the Metropolitan for treatment and were cured of serious illnesses. But above all it was his prayerful and disciplined life which was his greatest strength and it drew many to him. Mor Koorilos was a holy man showered with abundant Godly gift. As the time passed this belief got strengthened and after his death his tomb became a place of pilgrimage. Many miracles have been reported through the intercessory prayers of Mor Koorilos Yuyakkim. Instances are many where people seeking intercession of Mor Koorilos, been cured from major illnesses. It is this faith that draws many to the sacred tomb of the holy father.
The memorial feast of the Saintly father is a great festival in the Mulanthuruthy Mar Thoman church where his mortal remains are interred. This festival lasts for 6 days starting from August 28 and ends on September 2nd. During these days, lot of people visits the church and offer prayers at his tomb.
Going through the life and works of Mor Koorilos Yuyakkim, and considering the profound faith of thousands of believers who are visiting his tomb beseeching intercession, the Patriarch Ignatius Zakka-I Iwas, in accordance with the Apostolic authority vested in His Holiness, declared Mor Koorilos Yuyakkim of Mulanthuruthy a SAINT, and permitted to recite the 'Kuklyon' for the Saints (Zadeeko) at his tomb and whenever he is remembered and his intercession beseeched. Also, His Holiness permitted to include the name of Mor Koorilos Yuyakkim in the ‘Fifth Thubden’, after the name of Mor Osthatheos Sleeba, in all the Holy Eucharist offered at the Mar Thoman Jacobite Syrian Church, Mulanthuruthy.