History of OCCA

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Antonio Francisco-Xavier Alvares, Mar Julius I

Mar Julius, who consecrated Vilatte a bishop with the permission of the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, was born Antonio Francisco-Xavier Alvares in Goa on April 29, 1836. His family were Indians who converted to Latin Christianity in the late 1500s. One of the bones of contention in the political conflicts over the Padroado system was the role of indigenous vs. Portuguese leadership and civil rights for non-Portuguese. It is worth noting, therefore, that by the racial standards of the time, Mar Julius would have been considered by many as "black". Nevertheless his family was well-to-do and he received an excellent education through his teens, eventually preparing him for the priesthood.

Sant Julius

The conflicts between Rome and Lisbon over appointments of bishops in the Padroado dioceses (which included several now under British rule, and others that were partly or wholly in the semi-independent "princely states" of the Raj) left Goa without a bishop when it came time to ordain Alvares, so he went to Bombay where in due course he was ordained to the priesthood in 1862 and continued to work there for another five years before returning to Goa in 1867. In addition to pastoral work (including heroic labors among the sick during a cholera epidemic) he was active as a journalist and in political resistance to Portuguese oppression. The Archbishops of Goa were increasingly gathering to themselves secular political authority - especially when liberal democrats were in power back in Portugal so that Goa became the headquarters of absolutist politics - and he found himself repeatedly in difficulties. As a result, he left Goa for Colombo(Ceylon) in 1887.

There he met a Syrian Orthodox bishop, Mar Dionysius, and formed the idea of separating from the Portuguese/Roman Church altogether and creating an indigenous church, retaining the Latin Rite with which he and his followers were at home. This bore fruit in 1889 when, in Kottayam (now in India's Kerala State), authorized by a decree of the Patriarch of Antioch, Ignatius Peter III/IV, Metropolitans Ivanios Paulos, Athanasius Paulos, and Gregorios Gewargis consecrated him Mar Julius I, Archbishop of Ceylon, Goa, and India Excluding Malabar. The latter two were also to assist him in consecrating Vilatte three years later, using the Roman Pontifical. Mar Julius himself apparently wore Roman vestments, at least after his consecration, although his consecrators were of the Syrian rite. Mar Gregorios and Mar Julius have both been declared saints by the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church. So two of Mar Timotheus' consecrators were saints of the Syrian Orthodox Church.

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