Patriarch Saint Mor Ignatius Elias III Shakir
Mor Ignatios Elias III the second son of Chorepiscopus Abraham and Maryam, was born in Mardin, Turkey. He was called Nasri. He had 4 brothers and 3 sisters. After the death of his mother, Nasri was raised in the care of his elder sister Helena. He worked as a shoemaker in his teens and served in the government service for about three months. At the direction of Patriarch Peter IV, Nasri joined the theological school of the forty martyrs. In 1887, he joined Deir al-Za`faran and was ordained deacon by Patriarch Peter IV in 1887. He became a sharwoyo (novitiate) in 1888 and a monk in 1889 upon which he came to be known as Elias. Elias was ordained qashisho (priest; lit. presbyter) in 1892 by Patriarch Peter IV.
In the waning years of the 19th century, numerous Armenian and Syriac Christians were massacred in Turkey. Qashisho Elias endeared himself to the Armenian Christians providing refuge for about 7000 in the monastery of Mor Quryaqos. He was later appointed the reesh dayroyo (Cheif of the Monastry) of the Mor Quryaqos as well as Deir al-Za`faran. In 1908 Qashisho Elias was consecrated bishop of Amid (Diyarbakr) by Patriarch `Abded Aloho II and was named Mor Iwanius. Mor Osthasios Sleeba, the delegate of the Holy See of Antioch to India, was also ordained along with Mor Iwanius. In 1912, he was transferred to Mosul where he served until his elevation to the patriarchate in 1917. After Patriarch `Abded Aloho passed away on Nov 26, 1915, Mor Iwanius was elected Patriarch and assumed the throne in 1917. The firman (decree) was issued to Patriarch Elias III by the Ottoman sultan Muhammad Rashid. The sultan conferred the Ismania medal to the Patriarch. In 1922, when civil war broke out in Turkey and Gazi Mustafa Kemal Pasha assumed leadership of the newly formed democracy, Moran Mor Elias III spent a few months in Jerusalem. Moran laid the foundation stone of the church our lady atJerusalem on 22 March 1926. He established a printing press there and began publication of journals in Syriac and Arabic.
Mor Elias III was the last Patriarch to reign at the Kurkmo Dayro (Deir Za`faran) in Mardin, Turkey the seat of the Patriarchate for most of the second millenium. Following the massacre of the Syriac Christians in South East Turkey in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire and during World War I, the Patriarch was forced to leave Mardin. In the aftermath of the saypho massacres, Mor Elias III undertook pastoral tours to the Middle East, the first in 1919 and the second in 1925 to Aleppo and Jerusalem. Mor Elias III held a synod Dayro d-Mor Matay, Mosul, Iraq in 1930.
Lord Irwin, then British Viceroy to India, wrote to the Patriarch on December 1, 1930 requesting his intervention in person or through a delegate in resolving the schism that had erupted in the Malankara Church. His Holiness responded to the Viceroy's letter, on December 15, 1930 accepting his invitation with certain conditions. Given his cardiac problems, his doctors attempted to dissuade him from the trip. His 75 year old sister also discouraged him from the trip. His Holiness said to her, "Death is inevitable whether here or in India; I would rather sacrifice my life for the sake of our children in Malankara."
Mor Elias III left Mosul on February 6, 1931 accompanied by Mor Clemis Yuhanon Abbachi, Rabban Quryaqos (later Mor Ostathios Quryaqos), and Rabban Yeshu` Samuel (later Mor Athanasius Samuel of North America), his secretary Zkaryo Shakir (his brother Joseph's son) and translator Adv.Elias Ghaduri. They set sail to India on February 28, 1931 from Basra on the ship "Warsova" and disembarked at the Karachi port on March 5, 1931. They were received at Karachi by the Patriarchal Delegate Mor Yulius Elias Qoro, Mor Athanasius Paulos of Alwaye and several clergymen and faithful. On March 6, 1931, the Patriarch and his entourage proceeded to Delhi by train reaching there on the 8th and visited Lord Irwin. On March 14th, the Patriarch arrived at Madras and stayed as a guest of the British Governor Sir George Staly. From there, he arrived at the Thrikkunathu Seminary in Alwaye on March 21st, and offered the divine liturgy there on March 22nd.
Patriarch Mor Elias III in Malankara. Mor Clemis Yuhanon Abbachi is seated to the left of the Patriarch. Seated at the extreme right is Dayroyo Yeshu`, later Archbishop Mor Athanasius Y. Samuel.
Source: Anton Kiraz's Archives
H.H. Mor Elias III convened conciliatory meetings at Alwaye, Karingachira, Panampady and Kuruppumpady. The Patriarch lead the passion week services at St.George Church, Karingachira. A church delegates meeting was held at Kuruppumpady on July 5, 1931. The denho (Epiphany) services in January 1932 were at the St.Thomas church, Pakkil, Kottayam.
On February 11, 1932, at the invitation of Qashisho Kuriakos Elavinamannil, the Patriarch arrived at the Manjinikkara Mor Stephanos church from Kallissery. The inability to bring about reconciliation in the church had weighed down heavily on the Patriarch; moreover, the hardships of the long travel had taken its toll on His Holiness. On arriving at Manjinikkara, the Patriarch said, "This place offers us much comfort; we desire to remain here permanently." On February 12th, His Holiness requested the priests who came to visit him not to leave for a couple of days. In the evening, the Patriarch recited many prayers of the qandilo (unction) and contemplated on the departed. On February 13th, Mor Clemis Yuhanon Abbachi offered the Holy Qurbono; His Holiness gave the sermon during the liturgy.
After the noon prayers and lunch, as was his routine, the Patriarch spent time recording events in his journal; he asked for a dictionary to get clarification for the meaning of a word. Following that, he complained of pain in his head. Soon he fainted and was placed on a cot by the monks where he slipped into eternal rest at 2:30 pm. Many eye witnesses recount the deep gloom that cast its spell in the area that evening and the wails of the monks who accompanied the Patriarch.
Different opinions arose regarding the final resting place for the Patriarch—a situation that the church in Malankara never had to confront before. The decision was in favor of interring the mortal remains in a plot of land to the north of the Mor Stephanos church, the title deed of which was transferred to the Patriarchate. On February 14th, the funeral services for His Holiness were held there. Mor Dionysius Michael consoled the gathering.
Mor Ignatios Dayro church attached to the tomb of late Patriarch was built by the Patriarchal delegate Mor Yulius Elias Qoro. The memory of the holy Patriarch is revered throughout the Syriac Orthodox Church and especially in Malankara where thousands of pilgrims reach the tomb by foot on the annual feast day, February 13, from various parts of the Kerala state.
Mor Elias III is the only Patriarch of Antioch whose remains are interred in Malankara and his tomb stands as a towering symbol of the sacrifices made by the Syriac fathers to nurture the church in Malankara. On October 20, 1987, Patriarch Mor Zakka I through encyclical E265/87 permitted the Church in Malankara to remember his name in the fifth diptych.
Source: Syriac Orthodox Resource, maintained by Dr. Thomas Joseph, Thattunkal & Dr. George Anton Kiraz