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|St. Thomas the Apostle|
|Regions with significant populations|
Malayalam, English, Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Marathi
|St. Thomas the Apostle|
|Regions with significant populations|
Malayalam, English, Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Marathi
The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church (Classical Syriac: ܥܹܕܬܵܐ ܕܡܲܠܲܒܵܪ ܣܘܼܪܝܵܝܵܐ (Edtha d'Malabar Suryaya or Church of Malabar Syrians)) is an East Syrian Rite, Major Archiepiscopal Church in India in full communion with the Catholic Church. It is one of the 22 sui iuris Eastern Catholic Churches in the Catholic Church. It is the largest of the Saint Thomas Christian denominations with around 4 million believers and traces its origins to the evangelistic activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century. It is also the second largest Eastern Catholic Church in communion with the Bishop of Rome.
The church is headed by the Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly, Cardinal Mar George Alencherry. Saint Alphonsa is the first canonised saint from the Church. The members of the Church are known as Nasaranis or Marthoma Suriyani Nazarani.
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|Saint Thomas Christians|
|Nasrani · Mar Thoma Nasrani · Syrian Christians|
|Saint Thomas · Thomas of Cana · Mar Sabor and Mar Proth · Tharisapalli plates · Synod of Diamper · Coonan Cross Oath|
|Monuments · Churches · Shrines · Liturgical language · Church music|
|Paremmakkal Thoma Kathanar · Abraham Malpan · Gheevarghese Mar Gregorios of Parumala · Marth Alphonsa · Mar Kuriakose Elias Chavara · Mar Varghese Payyappilly Palakkappilly · Thoma of Villarvattom|
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It is believed that St. Thomas the Apostle (Mar Thoma shleeha) landed at Kodungalloor (Muziris) in 52 A. D. and established Christian communities in different parts of India and died at Mylapur in 72 A. D. According to tradition, he founded seven churches or communities in Kerala; at Kodungalloor, Niranam, Kollam, Chayal, Kottakkavu (North Paravur), Kokkamangalam and Palayoor.
From early centuries the Church of St. Thomas Christians came into communication with the Christian communities that came to be known as the Church of the East. This relationship made the St. Thomas Christians share the liturgical, spiritual and other ecclesiastical traditions with the Church of the East (therefore they are classified as being of the East Syrian Rite). The Christians of St. Thomas kept their distinctive character especially in Church administration and socio-cultural and ascetic- spiritual life. At least from the 4th century until the end of the 16th century the Bishops of the Church of Malabar were sent from the East Syrian Church, appointed by the Patriarch of the Church of the East. While the bishops originally hailing from Persia who arrived here were placed in charge of liturgy, the administration of the church remained under the control of the local Archdeacon, who was also the head of the local community.
The bishops who came from the East Syrian Church, were concerned with spiritual matters. Essentially, the Thomas Christians followed three distinct ways of activity in their religious sphere: their liturgy was of the East Syrian Rite:their culture was purely Indian:they had their own style of life. The governance of the Church was through Palliyogam, Synod, etc. as was prevalent in Oriental Churches.
The Portuguese Admiral Vasco da Gama arrived in Calicut on 20 May 1498. When Gama and the Portuguese missionaries arrived they found no Christians in the country except in Malabar Coast (modern day Kerala). The Christians they found were St. Thomas Christians. The Christians were friendly to Portuguese missionaries at first; there were exchange of gifts between them, and these groups were delighted at their common faith. A fraction of the St. Thomas Christians joined the Latin Church and they form the present Latin Syrian Community.
Later, due to certain differences, mainly in the liturgy, the relations between the missionaries and local St. Thomas Christians became increasingly strained. Under the Padroado (patronage) agreement with the Holy See the Portuguese missionaries started to interfere in day to day operations of the church and things took a turn for the worse. They accused the Indian Christians of heresy and schism (also see: Schism in Christianity); and attempted to introduce the Latin customs and Latin manner of ecclesiastical administration, severing the East Syrian connection.
The Portuguese established a Roman Catholic (Latin Church) diocese in Goa (1534) and another in Cochin (1558) with the hope of bringing the St. Thomas Christians under Latin Catholic jurisdiction. At a Goan Synod held in 1585, it was decided to introduce the Latin liturgy and practices among the Thomas Christians. During the Synod of Diamper of 1599, the Portuguese Archbishop, Don Alexis Menezes succeeded in appointing a Latin bishop to govern the St. Thomas Christians. The Portuguese padroado (patronage) was extended over them. The strife between the Portuguese missionaries and the indigenous Christians and their Mesopotamian prelates was of an ecclesiological and jurisdictional character. Attempts to resist the Latinization process were branded as heretical. Under their Archdeacon, the Thomas Christians resisted, and, consequently, the once united Church in full communion with the East Syrian Patriarch ended up in various denominations.
Rome sent Carmelites in two groups from the Propagation of the Faith to Malabar headed by Fr. Sebastiani and Fr. Hyacinth. Fr. Sebastiani arrived first in 1655. He began to deal directly with the Archdeacon, Mar Thoma I. Fr. Sebastiani gained the support of many, especially with the support of Parambil Mar Chandy, Alexandar Kadavil and the Vicar of Muttam. These were the three councilors of Mar Thoma I, who were reconciled with Gracia (SJ)[who?] before the arrival of Sebastaini, according to Jesuit reports.
Between 1661 and 1662, out of the 116 churches, the Carmelites reclaimed eighty-four churches, leaving Archdeacon Mar Thomas I with thirty-two churches. The eighty-four churches and their congregations were the body from which the Syro Malabar Church has descended. The other thirty-two churches and their congregations represented the nucleus from which the Syriac Orthodox (Jacobites & Orthodox), Thozhiyur, Mar Thoma (Reformed Syrians), Syro Malankara Catholics have originated.
In 1665 Mar Gregorios, a Bishop sent by the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, arrived in India. The dissident group under the leadership of the Archdeacon welcomed him. Though most of the St. Thomas Christians gradually relented in their strong opposition to the Western control, the arrival of the Bishop Mar Gregory of the Syriac Orthodox Church in 1665 marked the beginning of a formal schism among the St. Thomas Christians. Those who accepted the West Syrian theological and liturgical tradition of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch of Mar Gregory became known as the Jacobite, The Syrian Catholics remained in communion with Rome and later came to be known as the Syro Malabar Church.
After the split in the church community, some priests and laymen have attempted to persuade the hierarchy to improve the identity of the local church and for the appointment of bishops from local priests. To represent their position, Kerala's Syrian Catholics Joseph Kariattil and Paremmakkal Thomma Kathanar went to Rome in 1778. While they were in Europe, Kariatty Joseph Kathanar was installed in Portugal as the Archbishop of Kodungalloor Archdiocese. While journeying home, they stayed in Goa where Kariattil died before he could formally take charge. Before he died, Kariattil appointed Kathanar as the Administrator of Kodungalloor Archdiocese after him. The new administrator ran the affairs of the church establishing his headquarters at Angamaly. In 1792, the headquarters of the Archdiocese was shifted to Vadayar dodging the invasion of Tippu Sultan. In the last four years of his life, Thomma Kathanar managed church administration from his own parish, Ramapuram.
After being under Chaldean bishops earlier and under Latin Church Roman Catholic bishops from 1599, St. Thomas Christians got their own dioceses from 1887. They came to be known as the Syro Malabar Catholics from that point on, to differentiate them from the Latin Church Catholics in Kerala. The Syro Malabar Hierarchy was restored on 21 December 1923 with Mar Augustine Kandathil as the first Metropolitan and Head of the Church.
Time line of events
While modern Syro-Malabar identity is rooted in the Mar Thoma Margam or the sacred tradition of the Ancient Church of St. Thomas Christians - Syro-Malabar Historian and theologian Fr. Placid Podipara describes it as "Catholic by faith, Indian by culture & East Syrian/Syriac/Oriental in liturgy." Today, the Syro-Malabar Church finds herself as the second-largest Eastern Catholic Church in the world with 4.5 million worldwide.
The St. Thomas Christians got their bishops from the Assyrian Church of the East/Chaldean Church from ca. 500 AD till the end of the sixteenth century, until it was stopped by the Portuguese Roman Catholics (Latin Church) in 1597, after the death of Mar Abraham.
As per the East Syriac tradition, liturgical day of the Syro-Malabar Church starts at sunset (6 p. m.). Also the worshiper has to face the east while worshiping.
According to the East Syriac tradition, the following are the seven times of prayer:
The Holy Mass, which is called Holy Qurbana in East Syriac Aramaic and means 'Eucharist', is celebrated in its solemn form on Sundays and special occasions. During the celebration of the Qurbana, priests and deacons put on elaborate vestments which are unique to the Syro-Malabar Church.
East Syrian liturgy has three Anaphorae; those of the Holy Apostles (Saints Addai and Mari), Mar Nestorius, and Mar Theodore the Interpreter. The first is the most popularly and extensively used. The second was traditionally used on the Epiphany and the feasts of St. John the Baptist and of the Greek Doctors, both of which occur in Epiphany-tide on the Wednesday of the Rogation of the Ninevites, and on Maundy Thursday. The third is used (except when the second is ordered) from Advent Sunday to Palm Sunday. The same pro-anaphoral part serves for all three.
In the second half of 20th century, there was a movement for better understanding of the liturgical rites. A restored Eucharistic liturgy, drawing on the original East Syrian sources, was approved by Pope Pius XII in 1957 and for the first time on the feast of St. Thomas on July 3, 1962, the vernacular, Malayalam, was introduced for the celebration of the Syro-Malabar Qurbana. Currently they celebrate the Divine Liturgy of Addai and Mari and the Anaphora of Mar Theodre in Malayalam, Syriac or English.
Besides the Anaphora of Mar Addai and Mari being used currently in Syro-Malabar Liturgy, there are two more Anaphorae known as Anaphora of Mar Theodore and Anaphora of Mar Nesthorius. The fact that the Anaphora of Mar Theodore which was withdrawn from use after the Synod of Diamper is being used again in Syro-Malabar Church after 415 years is indeed an important historical reality. Pope Pius XII during the process of restoration of the Syro-Malabar Qurbana in 1957 had requested the restoration of the Anaphorae of Mar Theodore and Mar Nesthorius. The draft of the Anaphora of Mar Theodore was restored after meticulous study by the Central Liturgical Committee, Liturgical Research Centre, various Sub-Committees and the eparchial liturgical commissions. Many changes befitting to the times have been made in the prayers maintaining maximum fidelity to the original text of the Second Anaphora. It was this Text so prepared that was sent to Rome for the recognitio of the Apostolic See in accordance with the decision of the Syro-Malabar Synod. The Congregation for the Eastern Churches on 15 December 2012 gave its approval for using this Anaphora on an experimental basis for three years.
The Latinization of the Syro-Malabar rite churches was brought to a head when in 1896 Ladislaus Zaleski, the Apostolic Delegate to India, requested permission to translate the Roman Pontifical into Syriac. This was the choice of the Malabar prelates, who chose it over the East Syrian Rite and West Syrian Rite pontificals. Various problems and concerns delayed the approval of this translation, until in 1934 Pope Pius XI stated that Latinization was no longer to be encouraged among Eastern Rite Catholics. He initiated a process of liturgical reform that sought to restore the oriental nature of the Latinized Syro-Malabar rite. A restored Eucharistic liturgy, drawing on the original East Syrian sources, was approved by Pius XII in 1957 and introduced in 1962.
The church uses one of several Bible translations into Malayalam.
Syro Malabar Church has its own liturgical year. It is ordered according to the flow of salvation history. It focuses on the historical life of Jesus. There are nine seasons for the liturgical year. They are:
Major feasts of the Church are,
The curia of the Syro-Malabar Church began to function in March 1993 at the archbishop’s house of Ernakulam-Angamaly. Later, on 27 May 1995, it was shifted to new premises at Mount St. Thomas near Kakkanad, Kochi. The newly constructed curial building was opened on 3 July 1998.
The administration of the Syro-Malabar Church has executive and judicial roles. The major archbishop, officials, various commissions, committees, and the permanent synod form the executive part. The permanent synod and other offices are formed in accordance with the CCEO. The officials include the chancellor, vice-chancellor, and other officers. Various commissions are appointed by the major archbishop: Liturgy, Pastoral care of the migrant and Evangelisation, Particular Law, Catechism, Ecumenism, Catholic Doctrine, Clergy and Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. The members of the commissions are ordinarily bishops. But there are also priests in different commissions. For judicial activities there is the major archiepiscopal ordinary tribunal formed in accordance with CCEO and it has a statutes and sufficient personnel with a president, as its head. At present, Rev. Dr. Mathew Kochupurackal is the president. The Major archiepiscopal curia functions in the curial building in Kerala, India. They have prepared the particular law for their Church and promulgated part by part in Synodal News, the official Bulletin of this Church. There are statutes for the permanent synod, for the superior and ordinary tribunals. Regarding economo, CCEO c. 122 § 2 is specific in the particular law, that the term of the office shall be five years and the same person shall not be appointed for more than two terms consecutively.
There are 31 eparchies. Five of them are Archeparchies at present – Ernakulam-Angamaly, Changanacherry, Trichur, Tellicherry and Kottayam. There are other 13 eparchies – Bhadravathi, Belthangady, Irinjalakuda, Kanjirapally, Kothamangalam, Idukki, Mananthavady, Mandya, Palai, Palghat, Ramanathapuram, Thamarassery and Thuckalay within the canonical territory of the Major Archiepiscopal Church. There are 13 eparchies outside the canonical territory of which Adilabad, Bijnor, Chanda, Gorakhpur, Jagdalpur, Kalyan, Rajkot, Sagar, Satna, and Ujjain in India are with exclusive jurisdiction and Kalyan, Faridabad eparchies in India, the St. Thomas Eparchy of Chicago in the United States of America and St. Thomas the Apostle Eparchy of Melbourne in Australia enjoy personal jurisdiction.
The believers of this church are organized under 5 Archdioceses. All five are in Kerala.
|Institutes of Consecrated Life- Men & Women||53|
|Major & Minor Seminary||71|
|Regular,Technical & Other Colleges||691|
|Teachers’ Training Institutes||24|
|Engineering Colleges |
Higher Secandary & Primary Schools
|Non-formal & Adult Education||503|
|Health Care Institutions||700|
|Nurses Training Schools||44|
|Hospitals,Dispensaries & Health Centers |
|Specialized Health Care Centers,Incurables & Leprosy Care Centers||54|
|Old age Homes||211|
|Rehabilitation Centers and other institutions||1616|
|Diocesan and religious priests||9121|
|Seminarians (men studying for the priesthood)||2907|
|Major Arch Bishop||1|
There are sixteen eparchies within the proper territory of the Syro Malabar Church.
Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly has 510,000 members with 347 parishes, 731 religious/secular priests, 632 male religious and 4935 female religious. Archeparchy of Trichur has 471,328 members with 195 parishes, 418 religious/secular priests, 358 male religious and 3315 female religious. Eparchy of Idukki has 400,000 members with 129 parishes, 119 religious/secular priests, 109 male religious and 1320 female religious.
Archeparchy of Changanacherry has 390,000 members with 266 parishes, 615 religious/secular priests, 534 male religious and 2705 female religious. Eparchy of Palai has 348,128 members with 169 parishes, 502 religious/secular priests, 127 male religious and 3312 female religious. Archeparchy of Tellicherry has 317,782 members with 222 parishes, 293 religious/secular priests, 263 male religious and 1664 female religious.. Eparchy of Irinjalakuda has 258,200 members with 128 parishes, 233 religious/secular priests, 132 male religious and 2350 female religious.
Eparchy of Kothamangalam has 217,420 members with 115 parishes, 242 religious/secular priests, 163 male religious and 2210 female religious. Eparchy of Kanjirapally has 192,000 members with 136 parishes, 314 religious/secular priests, 210 male religious and 1840 female religious. Archeparchy of Kottayam has 175,300 members with 149 parishes, 161 religious/secular priests, 107 male religious and 1233 female religious. Eparchy of Mananthavady has 170,100 members with 140 parishes, 413 religious/secular priests, 358 male religious and 1546 female religious. Eparchy of Thamarasserry has 129,600 members with 128 parishes, 247 religious/secular priests, 257 male religious and 1321 female religious.. Eparchy of Palghat has 68,004 members with 106 parishes, 167 religious/secular priests, 82 male religious and 1360 female religious.
According to a study conducted, in Kerala about 30 percent of the Syro Malabar Church members lived in the erstwhile Cochin State. The remaining 70 percent lived in Travancore state. In the Travancore State, Meenachil Taluk had the largest proportion, followed by Changanaserry Taluk. Erstwhile Cochin State, Meenachil and Changanaserry together had 56 percent of the total Syro Malabar Population. Kottayam, Muvattupuzha, Kanjirappally, Thodupuzha, Kothamangalam, Cherthala, Mukundapuram (irinjalakkuda-chalakkudy), Wadakkancherry, Thrissur, North Parur, Alwaye, Kunnathunadu, Ambalapuzha, Kuttanad, Peerumedu, Nedumkandam and Devikulam etc. are the prominent taluks.
There are eleven eparchies outside the proper territory of the Syro Malabar Church.
Eparchy of Kalyan has 100,000 members with 106 parishes, 146 religious/secular priests, 105 male religious and 270 female religious. St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago, USA has 85,000 members with 11 parishes, 45 religious/secular priests, 13 male religious and 16 female religious. Eparchy of Chanda has 14,079 members with 5 parishes, 51 religious/secular priests, 182 male religious and 352 female religious. Eparchy of Adilabad, has 13,273 members with 25 parishes, 50 religious/secular priests, 41 male religious and 143 female religious. Eparchy of Rajkot has 12,850 members with 12 parishes, 140 religious/secular priests, 142 male religious and 421 female religious.
The Religious Congregations are divided in the Eastern Catholic Church Law (Code of Canons of the Oriental Churches – CCEO) as Monasteries, Hermitages, Orders, Congregations, Societies of Common Life in the Manner of Religious, Secular Institutes and Societies of Apostolic Life.
The Varthamanappusthakam is the first travelogue written in the Malayalam language. It is written by Paremmakkal Thoma Kathanar. It describes the history of the Nasrani Church between the years 1773 and 1786 with emphasis on the journey of its author and Malpan Mar Ousep (Joseph) Kariattil from Malabar to Rome via Lisbon and back. Despite attempts by European ecclesiastical authorities to destroy it the major part of this book survived.
Abraham of Angamaly (Syriac: ܐܒܪܗܡ ܡܛܪܢ, Mar Abraham died c. 1597) was the last in the long line of Mesopotamin Bishops who governed the Church of Saint Thomas Christians. In spite of the express approbation of the Pope, he was not welcomed by the Portuguese ecclesiastical authorities.
Mar Abrham died in January 1597 at Angamaly and his body was buried in the Cathedral church (St. Hormis or East church, Angamaly, under Syro Malabar church).
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