Nestled snugly atop a verdant hill called Karmelkunnu, St. George Orthodox Church, the crowning glory and spiritual mountain spring of North Mulakulam, was founded on June 13, 1903. Until then, the Orthodox faithful in this area depended on Mar Yuhanon Ehidoyo Orthodox Church, Mulakulam (Valiyapally) for worship and other spiritual needs. The parishioners of Mulakulam Valiyapally had earlier parted ways in the wake of Coonan Cross Pledge of 1653. Those who opted for the Roman Catholic Faith renounced their title to the church in exchange for money with which they founded a new Catholic parish church at Karmelkunnu, a few meters to the west of the old church. The rest of the parishioners, in defiance of foreign hegemony, stayed on in the Valiyapally under the leadership of the priests from the Muranthookkil family. But then again, due to some bickering among the parishioners, and also for the sake of convenience, the locals of South Mulakulam founded the Mannukkunnu St. Mary's Orthodox Church (Now St. Mary's Orthodox Cathedral) on 28 Januarys in 1885 (1060 Makaram 15) and became another parish.
A decade later, those who belonged to the east neighborhood founded the Parel pally (St. Peter's & St. Paul's Orthodox Church, Mulakulam North) at Namakuzhy (deemed a chapel, actually) in 1895 with the consent of Malankara Metropolitan Joseph Mar Dionysius V. But because of the unavailability of priests from Valiyapally on a regular basis to perform church services, discontent brewed among those who attended the Parel church, and it reached hostiles extremes prompting Rev. Fr. Mathew Muranthookkil, the vicar of Valiyapally to close down the Parel church. Aggrieved at this sad turn of events, those who attended the Parel church resolved to found another parish church at Namakuzhy. However, a few among them, unwilling to change allegiance to the old church, continued in the Valiyapally.
Founding of the Karmelkunnu church
Those who wanted to have a new parish church at Namakuzhy decided to found the new church under the leadership of Deacon Yohannan Kocheril and Deacon Kuruvila Thomas Poovathumkal on a plot of land called Karmelkunnu offered up by Ms. Elisha Valiyakattayil (maternal grandmother of Metropolitan Joseph Mar Pachomios). With the assent of Metropolitan Paulose Mar Ivanios of Kandanad Diocese (later H.H. Catholicos Baselius Paulos I aka Murimattathil Bava), the Holy Eucharist was first celebrated on a wooden table inside a temporary shed built of bamboo stems and palm leaves. That sapling of a simple church burgeoned in profusion and eventually became a great spiritual centre. But for the immense hardships, hard work, sweat and tears's of our fore-fathers, that temporary shed would never have grown into the majestically imposing edifice of the present day. We, their progeny, prayerfully remember them and gratefully take a bow to their selfless services and invaluable contributions to the parish and the society at large.
It was an onerous task to build a permanent building for the church under the priestly leadership of two young deacons, provoking the ire of the priests of Valiyapally who gave the cold shoulder to the new venture. But their indomitable resolve and dogged determination stood them in good stead and they did not back out, disheartened. Unfazed by the adversities, by dint of steadfast perseverance and persistence, they slowly but surely, surged forward banking solely on Almighty Trinity. Against all odds, they raised enough resources, made sure of public support and participation, and built a magnificent church with three altars in a row, dedicated to St. George, St. Stephen and St. Kuriakose. All told, it was Deacon Yohannan Kocheril and Poovathumkal Kuru Vaidyan (Father of Deacon Kuruvila Thomas),who stood in the forefront to make this happen. That is why Kuru Vaidyan, upon his death, was buried at the north end of the cemetery in the row of the tombs of the departed priests.
Until Deacon Yohannan Kocheril was ordained priest, priests from the families of Vattakattil, Elambasseril, Nareppattu and Edamanachira performed the spiritual duties in the church. Once Deacon Yohannan Kocheril was ordained priest, he solely took care of the church until 1912. Shortly after, Dn. Kuruvila Thomas Poovathumkal also got ordained priest. They both gelled together seamlessly and worked in tandem meeting the spiritual needs of the flock. Sadly, Fr. Yohannan Kocheril passed away in August 19, 1917 from gastro-intestinal complaints, on a vacation trip and was laid to rest in this church. From then on, Fr. Kuruvila Thomas Poovathumkal became the sole vicar of the Church. Later, Iype Thomas Poovathumkal, his paternal nephew, was ordained priest to assist the vicar as per the decision of the Parish General Meeting. Not long after, Kuriakose Uthup Kocheril also found his calling to priesthood and was ordained a deacon by general consent.
At this juncture, the blazing factional feuds started to take a heavy toll on the prospects of the Malankara Church. The Church was torn asunder and the believers were forced to take sides. The Karmelkunnu church sided with the Patriachal faction. In 1943, His Grace Augen Mar Themotheos (Catholicos Baselios Augen I aka Augen Bava) convened a representative meeting of the parishes in the Kandanadu Diocese at Muvattupuzha, and our parish was represented by the Vicar, Fr. Kuruvila Thomas and two members of the laity, viz: Kocheril Kochuthup (Thondanodiyi) and Onan Kaduvakkuzhiyil. The Metropolitan who had spent several years in Syria, expatiated on the sorry state of affairs in the Antiochean Church and posited that matters there were not as promising as perceived here in Malankara. That meeting unanimously resolved on accepting the Catholicos as their spiritual as well as temporal head. Karmelkunnu church also followed suit. H.H. Catholicos Baselios Geeevarghese II was accorded a ceremonial welcome in our church. And thus, Karmelkunnu parish, en masse, became a part of the Catholicose faction. At this point, Fr. Iype Thomas Poovathumkal abruptly passed away on May 13, 1944 and was laid to rest in this church. Subsequently, Poovathumkal Varkey Joseph (Metropolitan Joseph Mar Pachomios of blessed memory) was ordained a deacon by Catholicos Baselios Geevarghese II.Malankara Church feud and Karmelkunnu Parish
For a while, it was plain sailing for our parish. But the period of blessed calm did not last long. A court verdict, like a bolt from the blue, turned everything upside down plunging the church into a perilously parlous predicament. The High Court of Kerala repealed the District Court verdict that favoured the Catholicos faction in the Samudaya Case and pronounced in favour of the Patriarchal faction. Following this, a section of parishioners including those who were diehard supporters of the Catholicos all along even before 1943, clamoured for switching over to the Patriarchal faction again. But the Vicar, Fr. Kuruvila Thomas Poovathumkal, a man of settled convictions and high moral scruples did not connive in their nefarious designs and turned his back on their opportunistic demands. And this engendered the birth of two warring factions in the Parish. The cantankerous dissidents brought civil and criminal law suits against the vicar to make him toe their line and settle the scores. Defying the vicious vituperation and malicious vilification by the rival faction, Fr. Kuruvila Thomas stood his ground and did not budge to their wanton whims, virtually risking his life: Vexed at the nonchalance of the vicar, they embarked on violently disrupting the church services and other public functions in the parish. The bitter rivalry assumed implacably belligerent dimensions so that the church had to be closed down for one month from the beginning of Great Lent (Valiya nombu) in 1953. At last, the Supreme Court of India ultimately ruled in favour of the Catholicos faction in 1958 putting an end to the age-old disputes and litigations in the Malankara Church. But unfortunately, before this verdict came out, Fr. Kuruvila Thomas passed away and was laid to rest in our church. Though peace and reconciliation was accomplished, a disgruntled section of the Patriarchal faction in the parish, including Deacon Kuriakose Kocheril, unable to come to terms with the changed scenario, broke away and founded the Kottarakkunnu church.
Fr. Kuruvila Thomas Poovathumkal, a member of the Managing Committee of the Malankara Orthodox Church, was a profound scholar in the Syriac language and theology: A Saintly soul, he was a man of unblemished credentials and spiritual purity â€“ a true labourer in the vineyard of the Lord. His single minded devotion and meticulous attention to the subtle nuances of the sacraments, rites and rituals evoked awe, admiration and fulfillment. He served the parish and the Malankara Church with unflinching loyalty and unwavering dedication: A Malpan (Guru), he imparted priestly training to many aspiring priests who stayed with him in the church. It was during his tenure that the office-cum-parsonage in the south yard was built and the dilapidated compound wall of the cemetery renovated. Besides, two chapels were also fouded by him “ the first one at Anthyal Junction, dedicated to St. Mary, on the lot offered by Anthyalunkal Iype and brothers, and the other one at Ennakkappilly in the Periyappuram area, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, on a plot of land presented by brothers Ouseph and Paily Pandyamkattayil.
Sometime later, Fr. Poovathumkal Varkey Joseph (Metropolitan Joseph Mar Pachomios) bought a plot at Namakuzhy and donated it to the Parish: A chapel, dedicated to St. Gregorios of Parumala was later founded there. The fourth chapel under the Parish, dedicated to St. George, at Perumpadavom Sehionkunnu, was founded on a piece of land endowed by Skaria Parakkadavu Kunnel. All these places of worship are now showering divine grace and favours to the believers in the respectable neighbourhoods. The late Philipose Mangalasseril who had long served as vicar in the Parish was also entombed in this church.
Karmelkunnu church, now blessed with peace and plenty, has become one of the prominent spiritual entities in the northern provinces of the Orthodox Church. All the spiritual movements - Sunday School, MarthaMariam Samajam, Youth Movement, Family Prayer meetings, Nava Jyothi MOMS - are all ardently functioning in the parish with missionary zeal and commitment. This parish currently has 374 families on its roll. Our church was rebuilt in 1995 during the tenure of the Vicar, Rev. Fr. V. M. Paulose Veluthedathuparampil with the co-operation and support of all the Parishioners. Metropolitan Joseph Mar Pachomios of blessed memory is entombed here and his tomb, over the years, has become a source of solace and succor to the devotees. Karmelkunnu church has immensely flourished and is now a spiritual beacon of hope and enlightenment under the pastoral care of H.G.Dr. Mathews Mar Severios, Metropolitan of Kandanadu West, benevolently presided over by H.H.Baselios Paulose II, the Catholicose of the East and the Malankara Metropolitan.