Malankara Orthodox Catholicos, SVOTS professors honored during joyous convocation

St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary (SVOTS) hosted a special academic convocation Friday, September 23, 2022, to honor His Holiness, Baselios Marthoma Mathews III, the primate of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (MOSC) of India; and to honor several of the Seminary's faculty members.

Conferral of Honorary Doctorate

SVOTS bestowed the degree of Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa upon His Holiness, who was visiting the United States for the first time since his enthronement as catholicos. The ceremony was attended by members of the SVOTS community, a large number of MOSC clergy (many of them SVOTS alumni) and laity from parishes in the Tri-State area, and other guests. His Grace, Zachariah Mar Nicholovos of the MOSC's Northeast American Diocese, and a member of SVOTS Board of Trustees, opened the ceremony. His Grace, Youhanon Mar Demetrios, the metropolitan of the MOSC's Diocese of Delhi in India was also in attendance.  

“I am humbled that St. Vladimir's Seminary has given me this great honor,” said His Holiness. “I accept this honorary doctorate, not for our modest self, but for the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church.”

His Holiness is known for his philanthropic work, among other areas of his ministry. He works tirelessly to uplift the poor in India, and has started many ventures to provide economic opportunities for impoverished women, in particular.

Upon receiving the honorary degree, His Holiness also mentioned that he had first heard about St. Vladimir's decades ago as a student at St. Petersburg Theological Academy in Russia (then known as the Leningrad Theological Academy), and dreamed of studying at SVOTS as well someday. But after his studies in Russia his bishop at the time sent His Holiness to continue his education in Rome instead.

“Think of it—tonight, you have actually become an alumnus of St. Vladimir's Seminary!” SVOTS President The Very Rev. Dr. Chad Hatfield remarked after His Holiness's words.

“We were deeply honored to receive His Holiness, the Catholicos,” Fr. Chad added later. “This night was as much a recognition of his ministry and efforts for the Church in India as it was a joyful celebration of the Seminary's longstanding history with the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. We look forward to continuing and strengthening our partnership with the Malankara Church in the future, with the prayers and guidance of His Holiness.”

To that end, His Holiness met with SVOTS’ administration and faculty as part of his visit to campus to discuss joint future endeavors, which could include student exchanges, publications, and further dialogue. He also spent time with MOSC seminarians, leading vespers in the Seminary's Malankara chapel and giving a talk to the students who had gathered from both St. Vladimir's and St. Tikhon's seminaries.

Over SVOTS’ history, the Seminary has educated numerous seminarians of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church from North America and India. This year, eleven students from the MOSC are enrolled across SVOTS’ degree programs. Faithful of the MOSC have also served SVOTS in various capacities over the years, including as members of staff, faculty, and board of trustees. Currently, His Grace, Zachariah Mar Nicholovos of the MOSC’s Northeastern American Diocese serves as trustee; The Reverend Dr. Varghese M. Daniel serves as the Seminary’s assistant professor of Malankara studies.

Faculty Awards

Following the conferment of the honorary doctorate, Fr. Chad announced honors for several SVOTS faculty members. These faculty awards—tied to endowments—are a major first step toward SVOTS' goal of creating faculty chairs in the various academic disciplines represented at the Seminary (and other disciplines as SVOTS looks to expand its faculty).

“The creation of faculty chairs, with support from our endowment, will give us more freedom to do other things in addition to expanding the faculty and supporting related programs and degree programs we offer,” Fr. Chad explained.

He then announced the following honors: SVOTS Academic Dean Dr. Ionuț-Alexandru Tudorie has been named Peter N. Gramowich Professor of Church History; Dr. Peter C. Bouteneff is Kulik Professor of Sacred Arts and Systematic Theology; The Rev. Dr. Bogdan Bucur is John Meyendorff Associate Professor of Patristics; The Rev. Dn. Dr. Vitaly Permiakov is Alexander Schmemann Assistant Professor of Liturgical Theology; Dr. Harrison Russin is Prokofiev Assistant Professor of Liturgical Music; and finally the Very Rev. Dr. Chad Hatfield himself was named Skvir Professor of Pastoral Theology.

Giving thanks to God for all their respective work in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, May God grant His Holiness and all SVOTS faculty members honored this night many, many years!