SOR Logo
  Overview · Patriarchs of Antioch · Saints & Fathers · Fathers of Malankara
Patriarch Mor Ignatios Elias III Shakir (1867-1932)

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

Mor Ignatios Elias III was the 119th legitimate successor to St. Peter on the Holy Patriarchal See of Antioch. The second son of Chorepiscopus Abraham and Maryam, he was born in Mardin and christened 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 briefly for 3 months. At Patriarch Peter IV's direction, Nasri joined the theological school in the name of the forty martyrs. In 1887, he joined Deir al-Za`faran and was ordained deacon in 1887 by Patriarch Peter IV. He became a sharwoyo (novitiate) in 1888 and a monk in 1889 upon which he took the name 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 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 with the name 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 by the Ottoman sultan Muhammad Rashid, who Patriarch Elias III visited in 1919 at Istanbul; the sultan conferred the Ismania medal on the Patriarch during the visit. In 1922, when civil war broke out in Turkey and Gazi Mustafa Keman Pasha assumed leadership of the newly formed democracy, Mor Elias III spent a few months in Jerusalem. He established a printing press there and began publication of journals in Syriac and Arabic.

Patriarch Mor Elias III at Bethlehem in 1924.
Source: Anton Kiraz's Archive.

Mor Elias III was the last Patriarch to reign at the Kurkmo Dayro (Deir Za`faran) in Mardin, 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 in 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 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 accepting his invitation with certain conditions on December 15, 1930. Given his cardiac problems, his doctors attempted to dissuade him from the trip in vain. His 75 year old sister also could not persuade the Patriarch; 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 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.

H.H. Mor Elias III convened conciliatory meetings at Alwaye, Karingachira, Panampady and Kuruppumpady. The Patriarch lead the passion week services at Karingachira. A church delegates meeting was held at Kuruppumpady on July 5, 1931. The denho (Epiphany) services in January 1932 were at the church in Pakkil.

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 paced about complaining of pain in his head. Soon he fainted and was placed on a cot by the monks where he slipped away 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. The Mor Ignatios Dayro church was built by the Patriarchal delegate Mor Yulius Elias Qoro over the tomb of the late Patriarch.

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.

Tomb of Patriarch Elias III at Manjinikkara.
Source: Photos taken in December 2000.


  • Kiraz, G.A. (ed.), The Encyclopedic Dictionary of Syriac Heritage. (Forthcoming).
  • Souvenir of St. George's Church, Karingachira, 1980.
  • Christine Chaillot, The Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch and All the East, (Geneva: Inter-Orthodox Dialogue, 1998), 146-147.
  • Paulos, Rabban Aphrem, The Fathers from al-Sham (trans. to Malayalam by Fr. T.J. Abraham, Sheemakkaraya Pithakkanmar) (Manjinikkara: Mor Ignatios Dayro, 1964).
  • John, V.C. H.H. Moran Mor Ignatius Elias III (Malayalam) (Chingavanam: S.J. Book Depot, 1982).
  • Kulathramannil, Fr. Joseph, Suriyani sabha jyothissukal (Malayalam) (Udayagiri: Seminary Publications, 1996).
  • Kaniamparambil, V. Rev. Curian, Five Saints (Malayalam) (Thiruvalla: author; 2003).
  • Rajan, Fr. K.M., "St. Patriarch Ignatius Elias III" (Malayalam), The Journal of the Kottayam Diocese 8:11 (February 2004), 5-7.

Copyright © Syriac Orthodox Resources. All Rights Reserved.
Last Update: February 12, 2003