Malankara Orthodox Church

THE MALANKARA ORTHODOX SYRIAN CHURCH


Catholicate of the East


The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church was founded by St. Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, who came to India in A.D. 52.

At least from the fourth century the Indian Church entered into a close relationship with the Persian or East Syrian Church. From the Persians, the Indians inherited East Syrian language and liturgies and gradually came to be known as Syrian Christians.

In the sixteenth century Roman Catholic missionaries came to Kerala. They tried to unite the Syrian Christians to the Roman Catholic Church and this led to a split in the community. Those who accepted Catholicism are the present Syro-Malabar Catholics. Later Western Protestant missionaries came to Kerala and worked among Syrian Christians; That also created certain splits in the community.

In the seventeenth century the Church came to a relationship with the Antiochene Church which again caused splits. As a result of this relationship the Church received West Syrian liturgies and practices.

The Church entered into a new phase of its history by the establishment of the Catholicate in 1912.

At present the Church is using the West Syrian liturgy. The faith of the Church is that which was established by the three Ecumenical Councils of Nicea (A.D. 325), Constantinople (A.D. 381) and Ephesus (A.D. 431).

The Church is in communion with the other Oriental Orthodox Churches namely, Antiochene, Alexandrian, Armenian, Eritrean and Ethiopian Orthodox Churches. The Church is in good ecumenical relationship with the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches.

At present the Church has over 2 million faithful with 24 dioceses all over the world

The Catholicate of the Malankara orthodox Syrian Church .

The Catholicate of the Malankara orthodox Syrian Church


    The word ‘Catholicos’ means “the general head” or “general bishop”. It can be considered as equivalent to “universal Bishop”. This title and rank is much more ancient than the title Patriarch in the church.

    In the ministry of the early church there were only three ranks namely; Episcopos (Bishop), Priest and Deacon. By the end of the third century or by the beginning of the  fourth century certain bishops of certain important cities or provincial capitals in the Roman empire gained pre- eminence than other bishops and they came to be known as Metropolitans. The Ecumenical councils of the fourth century recognized the authority of these Metropolitans.

   By the fifth century the Bishops in major cities like Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch etc. gained control over the churches in the surrounding cities. Gradually they became the heads of each independent regional church and were called Patriarch which means ‘common father’.
The same rank in the Churches outside the Roman Empire was called Catholicos. There were three ancient Catholicates in the Church before the fifth century. They were the  Catholicate of the East (Persia), the Catholicate of Armenia and the Catholicate of Georgia. None of these ranks and titles are the monopoly of any church. Any Apostolic and national church has the authority to declare and call its head, Catholicose, Pope, or Patriarch.


    Even though the title Catholicose had not existed in India before the 20th century, the idea behind the Catholicate or Patriarchate  as the head of  a national independent Church  was there from the early centuries and there was similar native position or authority in the Indian Church.  As we say that St. Peter was the first Pope of Rome, St. Thomas was the first  Head or the Catholicos of India. As all other Apostles did, he also established Church in India and made a set up to continue its administration in India.That was the Apostolic authority existed in India throughout the centuries.

 

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