Dr. Kyriakos Thottupuram: A few words on a unique Chor-Episcopos of the church (Dr. Paul Manalil)

Published on 18 December, 2022
Dr. Kyriakos Thottupuram: A few words on a unique Chor-Episcopos of the church (Dr. Paul Manalil)

The life and vision of Dr. Kyriakos Thottupuram portrayed in the book, Beginnings of the Orthodox Syrian Church of Malankara in Mid-West America and the First Orthodox Syrian Missionary to Mid-West America: Chorbishop Dr. Kyriakos of Chicago, A Churchman and A Theologian, is inspiring and impressive. 

The author, George Joseph Enchakkattil, has elucidated how Dr. Kyriakos of Chicago thought against the obstacles and impediments in life. The author brings into light the vigor and valor of Dr. Kyriakos during his ‘tryst with faith’ and ‘tryst with destiny’. 

I remember Dr. Kyriakos of Chicago in his early twenties accompanying Metropolitan Mar Thoma Dionysius in Pathanapuram.   I met him first in 1967, when I was 12years of age.  He always conversed in English and wanted me to reply in English. My spiritual Guru Mar Thoma Dionysius, the then Metropolitan of Niranam, was staying at his informal Aramana at Pathanapuram.  Deacon Kyriakos Thottupuram, Secretary to the Metropolitan used to sit in a small side-room of this humble Aramana.   Those days, I remember the Metropolitan was very much impressed by his secretary’s command over English and Malayalam languages.   

After completing his undergraduate degree program at St. Joseph Pontifical College and after studying professional theology at the Pontifical Seminary, both under the Lateran University, Thottupuram came to Pathanapuram without receiving any first minor orders.   He was determined to receive his minor orders from his own Church, rather than what his college or seminary had desired of him.   He had already distinguished the dogmatic issues that separate the Western Church and the Orthodox Church.  Thottupuram, although a voracious reader of Church History and Christian Spirituality, was still left with a chaotic, but zealous mind, and was jumbled up with questions and queries regarding his vocational destiny.  And then his countenance was lit up by a Guru and sage whom he found in Mar Thoma Dionysius. After a period of “Dionysian experience and exposure”, in 1970 he began pursuing his higher studies in Chicago. 

Though I haven’t met him for the past 52 years, I am acquainted and updated with all his achievements and accomplishments.   

The book dealing with the missionary and scholarly activities of Dr.  Kyriakos illumines his personality.  This priest holds to his credit being the founder of the first Orthodox Church in Chicago, St. Thomas Orthodox Syrian Church of India, in 1971, which eventually was accredited by the Catholicate in the year 1973 as the first canonical parish in America; another congregation might have been started earlier elsewhere, but without canonical status.   

The book reveals his arduous efforts to acquire the land for his second church, mortgaging his own house for the purpose which even stunned the bank manager, who responded,” You make me speechless!!”; there are very many similar instances where we are left “speechless” by this unique priest who was willing to mortgage his very own house for the “House of God”.   Dr. Kyriakos Thottupuram’s life in fact was a journey to build the House of God.  

Long back when I met this protagonist at Pathanapuram, this ‘morally angry young man’ was proficient in authoring Malayalam; he penned novels as Thottupurath. He had a passion for English and Malayalam since school times.  However, Thottupuram as a pre -university student had an affinity towards Latin, Greek and Syriac due to which he later pivoted to philosophical and theological studies even though he had had a strong aptitude for science and medicine.  

He pursued his undergraduate studies with a major in philosophy and classical studies.  When he was doing his studies in metaphysics, which is a major branch of philosophy, he did publish a research paper on the theories and historical perspectives of Aesthetics, a sub-branch of metaphysics.   In the words of his Professor Dr. Sebastian Monkuzhikary, who reviewed his published research, “he is an intellectual volcano who can erupt with a much higher force in future…”   

True to these words, time saw Dr. Kyriakos and his expertise in many realms of knowledge.   His spirit for enquiry and drive for wisdom is elucidated in this book.   For him wisdom is a virtue to differentiate goodness from wickedness.  I see Dr. Kyriakos, as an epitome of wisdom. 

Dr. Kyriakos of Chicago is a strong defender of Orthodoxy and his thoughts and deeds reflect the same. The author of the book largely discusses his contributions in theology, which is the major theme of the book in addition to the missionary activities he was engaged in. 
An ecumenist, Dr. Kyriakos involved himself in ecumenical movement with a sense to promote an understanding between denominational groups of different doctrines of faith.   According to him ecumenism is sharing a common faith between denominations of different doctrines and promoting mutual love and respect. 

The life and times of Dr. Kyriakos reveal his commitment towards his church and the society he lives in.   I see God’s plans in his life.  During his tenure at Pathanapuram, young Kurian was struck down physically with a sudden paralysis, not being able to talk, walk or get up from his bed. He was bewildered to find his body stiff; he was unable to move to any direction. Young Kurian started praying silently and cried for hours in prayer. At the end he was taken through an experience of tranquility and an inexplicable peace from within as narrated in this book.   And with this experience Dr. Kyriakos of Chicago embarked on a spiritual journey…; and the journey continues…!

The life of Dr. Kyriakos seems to be an enigmatic mystery for me.  I must say, the author of  this book has been successful in unveiling his life and the story has been beautifully and lucidly penned in.   

To quote Andre Maurois, “It is more difficult to write a biography than to live a good life”. I wish to restate like this: ”It is difficult to write a good biography without a good life to write about…” A big salute to Dr. Kyriakos of Chicago for leaving a good life, giving a chance for a good biography to learn from.

•    Dr. Paul Manalil, currently a faculty member in the Department Journalism at Speechly College, Kottayam, and a Doctoral Guide at Lincoln University (Malaysia) was the Director of Kerala State Institute of Children’s Literature and a veteran journalist as an Assistant Editor at Malayala Manorama, the leading Media establishment in India.  He holds master’s degrees in English Literature and Journalism, and has received his Ph.D. degree in Journalism from Calicut University. The author of 25 books, he has also edited around 100 books.  Dr. Manalil is a faithful and loyal son the Holy Orthodox Church Malankara, whose presence and leadership are dearly demanded or requested at most of the major events of the Church.

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