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SYRIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH IN INDIA
(also known JACOBITE SYRIAN CHRISTIAN CHURCH in India)
The Christian Community of Kerala (India) traces back its origin to the advent of St.Thomas, the Apostle to India, who reached the Cragnanore Port in AD 52, and its subsequent spiritual stabilization and growth.
It is believed that the Apostle started his gospel mission in India, from a small town called "Malayankara" on the sea coast of 'Paravur' Taluk in Kerala, at a short distance away from Cranganore Port. It is thus that, when about 400 Christian Settlers from Syria came over in AD 345 under the leadership of Thomas Kana, they, for want of anything better, started referring to all their surroundings as "Malankara" (Phonetically similar to 'Malayankara'). In course of time, as the settlers spread out, all of the Malayalam speaking areas together become 'Malankara' (Rhymes well with the local language, Malayalam too). This has been recorded in the writings of Mor Youseph, an emissary of the Holy See of Antioch, sent over to administer the needs of the Syrian Christian settlers.
With the migration of these Christians from Syria in AD.345, the early Christian converts (St.Thomas Christians) as well as the new Christian settlers (Knanaya Christians) came to be known as 'Syrian Christians', as the entire Malankara Christian community thereon adopted the rites & liturgies of the Syrian Church of Antioch and became a part of that ancient Patriarchal See.
From such small beginnings, the Christian Community of Kerala grew up to its present stature against heavy odds aided, among other providential factors, by the continued tolerance and hospitality of many a neighborhood, the good will of the local rulers and chieftains and others. However in due course, for various reasons, the Church in Kerala, founded by the Apostle and nurtured by the 4th century Syrian Christian settlers, split into a number of denominations; the Orthodox Churches, the Catholic Church, the Nestorian Church and various other Episcopal as well as non-episcopal protestant churches.
The Syrian Orthodox Church, which in India (Malankara) also referred to as Jacobite Syrian Christian Church, though in its long history, had to put up with stiff challenge, trials and tribulations; by God's grace, it continues to practice the true Apostolic faith taught by its Holy fathers and be a part of the ancient Universal Syriac Orthodox Church with its distinct identity.
H.B. Catholicos Aboon Mor Baselios Thomas I with the Metropolitans
of the Syrian Church at the St. Thomas church, Paravur
(Photo: 3 July 2006)
The administration of the Jacobite Syrian Church is considered to be a perfect blend of Episcopal and democratic system, which is a continuation of the tradition followed by the Indian Church from a very early period.
The Patriarch of Antioch & all the East is the spiritual supreme of the Indian Church, but its temporal powers rests with an independent body (Jacobite Syrian Christian Association), elected from among the representatives of Parishes of Malankara. The head of this association & the local Church is the Catholicos who is also the Metropolitan Trustee. While the Chief Prelate (Catholicos) of the Indian Church has powers to administer the general affairs of the Church, he or the Metropolitan of the dioceses under him have only a limited authority over individual parishes.
Each of the parishes has its own elected body which takes decisions related to temporal matters; no external body like the diocese or the Church can interfere in their internal administrative structure unless requested by an overwhelming majority. The Metropolitan's primary role is to give spiritual guidance and also to some extent to look after the diocesan properties; but again there is an elected diocesan council to help the Metropolitan for looking after the diocesan properties.
Thus a proper mix of Episcopal & democratic system exists in the Jacobite Syrian Church which makes it administrative structure so unique. The present form of administration came into existence in the Mulanthuruthy Synod which was held under the auspices of the late lamented Moran Mor Ignatius Peter-IV the Patriarch of Antioch & all the East, in A.D. 1876.
Besides this, there are other dioceses/associations, independent of each other that came into existence in the last century as per the desire of the faithful and are under the direct jurisdiction of the Patriarch. These are the Simhasana (Thronal) churches, the St. Antony's congregation and Honawar Mission (based at Mangalore, founded by Mor Julius Alwarez), the Evangelical Association of the East ('Pourasthya Suvisesha Samagam') and the Syrian Orthodox Archdiocese of Greater India (comprising of Outside Kerala dioceses-in India). All of these are administered by Metropolitans appointed by the Patriarch of Antioch. Also there is a separate Knanaya Archdiocese that was established in early 20th century for the 4th century Knanaya migrants and is under the administration of Metropolitans from the community. All of the above dioceses have their own associations, and decisions pertaining them are taken by themselves, but with the approval of the Patriarch of Antioch.
CHURCH HEAD QUARTERS IN PUTHENCURIZ
The Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas Centre (Patriarch Centre) at Puthencuriz in Ernakulam District is the administrative headquarters of the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church in India. The central office of the Malankara Catholicate is situated here. Puthencuriz, being the meeting point of three major dioceses of the Church, is an important place for the Syriac Christian community. The vast majority living here are the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Christians. Malecuriz Dayro where the mortal remains of Catholicos Mor Baselios Paulose II Bava were interred is just a few distance away from the Patriarch centre. National Highway (NH 49) is also very near to the site and Cochin city is 20 Km away. The International Airport at Nedumbasserry is 40 Km from the Church centre.
The Church headquarters in the past centuries functioned in places where the Chief Metropolitans resided. The Malankara Church in those days never thought of a permanent central office nor there was any need for that as a decentralized form of administrative structure was existing in Malankara then. When Pulikottil Mor Divanasios Thirumeni was the chief of the Malankara Church, the Syrian (Old) seminary at Kottayam was his headquarters and later when Valiya Thirumeni (St. Athanasius Paulose) assumed the responsibility, Thrikkunnathu Seminary at Aluva became the central office. This was later shifted to Muvattupuzha when Catholicos Baselios Paulose II Bava headed the Indian Church from 1975 to '96. Due to the various trials and tribulations in the past century, the Church was not able to develop any of these centers as permanent HQs until the present Catholicos Aboon Mor Baselios Thomas I took the initiative to develop the Church centre at Puthencuriz. Also with the change of times it became an absolute necessity for the Church to have a permanent headquarters complex to fulfill the various and manifold services and for the effective and prompt functioning of its administrative system. For the hundreds of parish churches and more than one million faithful, the new complex at Puthencuriz was a long cherished dream.
The site for the headquarter complex was blessed on April 9, 2000 by H.H. Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I when His Holiness visited Malankara to inaugurate the Episcopal jubilee of the late Chief Metropolitan of the East Mor Clemis Abraham. During the Patriarch's third apostolic visit to Malankara, on 24th September 2004, the Holy Father consecrated the main portion of the Church Head quarters in co-operation with His Beatitude the Catholicos and the Metropolitans. H.H. Ignatius Zakka-I Bava stayed here for three days during this short historic visit to India. The Malankara Syriac Christian community is greatly indebted to His Holiness for the Apostolic blessings and whole hearted support for this dream project.
The Head quarter Complex is named as "Patriarch Ignatius Zakka-I Iwas Centre", in remembrance of the silver jubilee year of the Patriarchal enthronement. The Central office of the Church, including the Catholicate office now functions here. During the current apostolic visit, a modern book stall started in the Patriarchal Centre, has been inaugurated by His Holiness,
ST. ATHANASIUS CATHEDRAL
The church established at the Patriarchal Centre complex was named after St. Athanasius Paulose (Valiya Thirumeni, d.1953), the former Malankara Metropolitan and the head of the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church. The foundation stone for the church was blessed on 24 September 2004 by the Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I and was laid on 25 January 2005 by His Beatitude the Catholicos Mor Baselios Thomas I. Two years later on December 26, 2006, the consecration ceremony of the St. Athanasius Cathedral was held under the auspices of the Catholicos Aboon Mor Baselios Thomas I and assisted by all the Metropolitans of Malankara Church.
During the apostolic visit of our former Patriarch Ignatius Zakka-I Iwas, on 17th October 2008, the church was consecrated with Holy Mooron. His Beatitude the Catholicos led the ceremonies, assisted by Metropolitans from Malankara and Suryoyo.
For the training of the clergy, a Theological Seminary established by former Catholicos Mor Baselios Paulose II of blessed memory functions at Udayagiri, Vettickal, near Mulunthuruthy, located 20 km from Cochin. The President and Resident Metropolitans of the seminary are Their Excellencies Mor Severious Abraham and Mor Theophilos Kuriakose respectively and the Principal is Very. Rev. Adai James Corepsicopa.
More details of the seminary is available at http://sor.cua.edu/ChMon/UdayagiriMSOTS/index.html
The Church in India: (Links)
Christian Community of Kerala (India):
History of the Indian Church:
Links to a few of the Parishes & Monasteries of the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church in India
Primates of the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church in India
Catholicos Mor Baselios Thomas I:
Metropolitans of India:
Arch-Episcopo Very Rev. Curien Corepiscopa Kaniamparambil, Malankara Malfono, :
© MSCR - Malankara Syriac Christian Resources