First American Archbishop - Mar Timotheos I
Independent Catholic Church of Ceylon, Goa, and India
was formed in 1888 under Mar Julius I, who was consecrated
in 1889 by St. Gregorios of Parumala, Metropolitan Athanasius
Paulos of Aluva, and Malankara Metropolitan Dionysius
Joseph II. This church maintained relations with the Syrian
Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch (Mar Ignatius Peter III),
and was permitted to continue its Latin or Western rite
Support for Vilatte's consecration came from this church,
through Father Bernard Harding, a priest in Roman orders
who had been a missionary there. Fr. Harding petitioned
the Synod who in turn recommended the consecration of
Fr. Vilatte. Mar Julius gave a positive answer to their
request and stated that he had to consult with the Syrian
Orthodox Patriarch, Ignatius Peter III, to whom he owed
his obedience, and with his colleagues, the Syrian Malabar
bishops of India.
patriarch gave his permission for Vilatte's consecration
in a bull that was issued in Mardine, on December 29,
1891. The consecration took place in the Cathedral of
Our of Good Death, in Colombo, on May 29, 1892. Indian
Malabar bishops Mar Paul Athanasius (Kottayam) and Mar
Gregorius (Niranam) acted as co-consecrators. U.S. Council,
William Morey acted as official witness. The new Archbishop
was given the name "Mar Timotheos I, Archbishop of
photo taken in 1892 - Bishops of Malankara
Sitting from Left: Mar Timotheos I (Rene
Vilatte), Mar Ivanious (Catholicose Basalios Paulose I),
Malankara Metropolitan Mar Dionysius Joseph II, Mar Athanasious
Paulose of Aluva, Mar Gregorios Geevargheese of Parumala,
Mar Julios Alvaris of Goa (Picture from the archives of
the Malankara Orthodox Seminary in Kottayam).
Patriarchal Bull (1891) Commissioning
the consecration of Mar Timotheos I
Returning to Wisconsin, Mar Timotheos I established his
see at Duvall at the pro-cathedral of St. Mary's.
VI. The Thomasine "American Catholic Church"
Mar Timotheos founded many churches during his 23 years
of ministry in America. However, his work continued to
be met with heavy suspicion and persecution by the Roman
Catholic and Anglican Churches. This persecution in some
ways resembled the situation in India. There is no doubt
that the troubles the church faced during this period
continued to affect the growth, security, and unity of
the faithful for many years to come.
church established by Mar Timotheos I became known as
the "American Catholic Church." However, the
Archbishop's efforts also produced other continuing jurisdictions
such as the Polish National Catholic Church, The African
Orthodox Church, The Christian Catholic Church of Canada,
and the American Church of the East. Mar Timotheos was
also instrumental in founding St. Norbert College in De
The American Catholic Church (Mar Timotheos I) did not
maintain ties to the Independent Catholic Church of Goa
or the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch. One reason
for this separation had to do with political and religious
turmoil in both the east and the west.
The Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Mar Ignatious
Peter III, died in 1894, just two years after his historic
mandate to consecrate Mar Timotheos I for the American
Archdiocese. Mar Ignatious Peter IV was succeeded by Mar
Ignatius Abdul Masih II in 1895. During this time, the
Syrian Orthodox Church was going through some very turbulent
political times, and the Patriarch was deposed in 1905.
This caused a split in the Syrian Orthodox Church of India,
which continues to this day.
World War I was approaching, and with it a plethora of
dangers, which greatly affected the Syrian Orthodox Churches.
The eastern church continued to struggle with internal
conflict and colonial pressures, while the American church,
realizing its need for inculturation, continued its distinct
mission in the west. Although they shared a common apostolic
lineage, communication between the American Church and
the Syrian-Indian Church ceased. The St. Thomas Christians
of America continued to develop its own identity and had
to deal with its own internal challenges.
In 1915, Mar Timotheos I organized "The American
Catholic Community Church Council". He wrote the
"Faith and Order Declaration and the Episcopal Succession
of the Christian Catholic Church Rite". Mar Timotheos
I also wrote the Episcopal oath that was to be adhered
to by succeeding bishops. It later became part of the
By this time, it was clear that the American church was
independent. Accordingly, Mar Timotheos I took measures
to ensure the continuation of the episcopacy, and to expand
the missions of the American Catholic Church.