The centenarian saint



September 2017

By Pradeep Krishnan

Dr Philipose Mar Chrysostom Mar Thoma Valiya Metropolitan, the world’s first centenarian bishop, talks to Pradeep Krishnan about his views on God, spirituality and the true essence of human life

On April 27 this year, Dr Philipose Mar Chrysostom Mar Thoma Valiya Metropolitan (rank given to the senior most bishop), the senior most bishop of the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian church, celebrated his 100th birthday. Serving for over 63 years, he is the longest-serving bishop in India and the first bishop worldwide to reach the age of 100.

Born as Philip Oommen to K E Oommen and Sosamma in 1917, Mar Chrysostom became a priest in 1944 after his graduation, and a bishop on May 23, 1953. On October 23, 1999, Mar Chrysostom was appointed as supreme head of the Mar Thoma Church but in 2007, he relinquished his post. Today, he is ‘Mar Thoma Valiya Metropolitan’ and continues to travel extensively and share his wisdom as part of his calling. An outstanding personality, he is known for his brilliant ideas and sense of humour. A strong refuge for those in distress, Thirumeni's (a title of respect given to Mar Chrysostom) deep concern for the socially and economically backward is noteworthy. Well-known for his modern views, Mar Chrysostom has a warm personality and his presence is sought not only at church gatherings but also various other religious and cultural events. He is particularly famous among Keralites for his witty sermons and has a specific reason for opting to use humour. “There is no need to be more serious than necessary,” he says. “I realised that when I used humour, people regarded me as a friend and felt free to come and talk to me.”

I reached the Bishop’s residence, Jubilee Home in Maramon in Kerala situated on the banks of the quietly flowing river, Pamba. As I waited in his spacious drawing room, I noticed different pictures of Jesus Christ adorning the room. I was amazed to see an idol of Sri Krishna playing flute in an adjacent room. After about an hour, a smiling Valiya Metropolitan walked in with his usual calmness and charm. I rushed to touch his feet in reverence and he immediately hugged me. He kindly asked me if I had had my lunch and enquired how my journey from Trivandrum had been. Even after I told him I had had my lunch, he instructed his attendant to serve me coffee and snacks.

The excerpts from the exclusive interview.

Tell us about your spiritual journey. How did you choose this path?
Ours was a priestly family; my father and his
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