James was born on 16 August 1935 at Ullannoor in Pandalam as the son of Mathai Malancharuvil and Aleyamma. He had his elementary education at Mezhuveli. He successfully completed his tenth standard in 1950. He is one among the six brothers of the Malancheruvil family who gave importance to the religious life dedicating their life to the service of Christ and his Church. He was sent to the Bethany Ashram by Archbishop Mar Ivanios and was received there on 15 June 1950. He made his temporary profession of vows on 18 March 1953. Later he was sent to the Bethany Ashram, Pune to pursue his studies in Philosophy and Theology at the Pontifical Athenaeum. On completing the major seminary and ashram formations successfully he was ordained priest at the Papal Seminary, Pune in 1960. After returning to Kerala, Fr. Cyril took charge of some of the mission centers in Thiruvananthapuram. Here he learnt the initial lessons of doing good to the human society especially to the poor. Thereafter he was sent to Rome and joined the Gregorian University to study Canon Law. His dissertation titled ‘the Syro-Malankara Church’ is the study that specifies the canonical status of the Malankara Catholic Church. On returning to Kerala, he was appointed professor in St. Thomas Apostolic Seminary, Vadavathoor, Kottayam. Fr. Cyril was sent to St. John’s University in New York in 1970 for his higher education in Psychology, which he completed with the highest rank.
He was elected superior general of the Bethany Ashram in 1974. He was appointed Metropolitan of Bathery in 1978. His stewardship of the Eparchy for 19 years was a milestone in the social development of the whole of Bathery. He was appointed a member of Congregation for the Eastern Church in 1989. He participated in the Asian Bishop’s Conference held in Indonesia in 1990 as the representative from India. He became the president of Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Indian twice.
He became the administrator of the Malankara Catholic Church on the demise of Archbishop Benedict Mar Gregorios. He was appointed Metropolitan of the Malankara Catholic Church and Archbishop of Trivandrum by Pope John Paul II on 29 November 1995. It was his farsightedness and hard work that raised the Malankara Catholic Church to the status of a Major Archiepiscopal Church. He assumed the title “Catholicos of the Malankara Catholic Church.” Moran Mor Cyril Baselios, the First Major Archbishop-Catholicos passed away on Thursday 18 January 2007. His mortal remains are entombed at the St. Mary’s Cathedral, Pattom, Trivandrum by the side of his illustrious predecessors Servant of God Archbishop Mar Ivanios and Archbishop Mar Gregorios.