The 3rd Apostolic visit of His Holiness the Patriarch of Antioch & All the East to INDIA




'CATHOLICOS OF THE EAST' was originally the title conferred to the ecclesiastical head of the Christian congregation in the erstwhile Persian Empire that extended from Mesopotamia in the west, to the boundaries of the present day Afghanistan and Northern India in the east. In the beginning the bishop who assumed this title was known as MAJOR METROPOLITAN / CATHOLICOS OF SELEUCIA; Seleucia being the capital city of Persian Empire. This institution was initially set up to serve as a link between the Patriarch of Antioch, and the Syrian Christian Community in Persia who found the journey to the Patriarchate at Antioch, hazardous because of the bitter political rivalry between the Roman and Persian empires.

The office of the Catholicate and the Maphrianate

In the early centuries the Christians in the Persian and the Roman Empires were subject to religious persecutions, so the Church spread its wings without the help of any of the imperial authorities. After the Roman Emperor adorned Christianity in 315, the church in Rome was spared from atrocities, but from then onwards the Persian Kings became much more hostile towards those Christians in Persia as they were considered as agents of the former. It was during this period the office of the Great Metropolitan, which later came to be known as the Catholicate of East, was established in Persia. As the enmity between the empires increased; the leaders of the Church in Persia found it nearly impossible to continue ecclesiastical commune with the universal church. Meanwhile some in the Catholicate of Persia found it more convenient to adopt the Nestorian Christology which was earlier officially dejected by the universal Christian councils for its remarks on the Mother of God; thus they tried to convince the Persian rulers that they distance themselves from the mother Church and the Roman (Byzantine) Empire. By this act, the Christians in Persia who accepted Nestorian Christology could easily win the favour of the Persian rulers while those of non-Nestorian faith suffered severe persecution. As the office of the Catholicate fell into heresy, the Orthodox faithful were wandering in wilderness. The Catholicose of Seleucia meanwhile took over the title 'Patriarch', thus trying to be equal in status with the Patriarch of Antioch.

Even though the Church in Persia had officially accepted Nestorius as a Church father, a substantial group of Christians in Mosul, Niniveh and Tigris (Tagrit) continued to keep their loyalty to the old faith. A few decades later the Orthodox wing of the Church in Persia that continued to be under the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch & all the East, got reorganized under St. Ya`qub Burdono and installed St. Ahudemmeh as 'The Great Metropolitan of the East', but he too experienced it difficult to discharge his ecclesiastical duties smoothly. However by the 7th century the situation changed for better which finally led to the formation of an office of the 'Maphrianate of the East’ at Tigrit (Tagrit).

In AD 629, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East elevated St. Marutha (Marooso) as the first MAPHRIYONO OF THE EAST for the rejuvenated Syrian Orthodox (Jacobite) Church in Persia. Later the centre of the Maphrianate was shifted to St.Mathew’s Dayro in the city of Mosul in Iraq and continued there till the middle of 19th century.



In 1860 the office of Maphrianate was abolished as per the decision of the Syrian Orthodox Church Synod held at Deyrul'alZafran Monastery (Kurkumo Dayro) under Patriarch Ignatius Ya`qub II. The same was re-established in India in 1964 by the Universal Syrian Orthodox Synod held at Kottayam, presided by the Patriarch of Antioch & all the East Moran Mor Ignatius Ya`qub III. From the days of the establishment of this Maphrianate in India, the Church started to officially use the title ‘Catholicos of the East’, with his jurisdiction limited to India in the East. In 2002 the office of the Catholicate of the Syrian Orthodox Church was renamed as ‘CATHOLICOS OF INDIA’ in accordance with its actual jurisdiction. Present headquarters of this ancient Maphrianate/Catholicate of the Syrian Orthodox Church is at Puthencuriz, Cochin, with Catholicos Aboon Mor Baselios Thomas I as the presiding hierarch of the Church in India.

In Episcopal dignity the Catholicos rank second to the Patriarch of Antioch and, as His Holiness's deputy, presides over the provincial Holy Synod. He and all the clergy of the faithful in India pledge loyalty to the Patriarch of Antioch & all the East, the supreme authority of the Syriac Orthodox Church.


The Maphriyonos /Catholicoses from the Middle East who came to India

1. St. Baselios Yeldo (d. 1685), entombed at the Marthoma Church, Kothamangalam

2. Mor Baselios Sakralla III (d. 1764), entombed at the Marth Mariam Church, Kandanad


The Catholicoses of Indian Church

1. Mor Baselios Augen I (1964-1975)

2. Mor Baselios Paulose II (1975-1996)

3. Mor Baselios Thomas I (2002- )


 The Presiding Hierarch of the Jacobite Syrian Church in India



External Links:

For a detailed history of the Catholicate of the East & the list of Catholioses/Maphriyonos, visit:  





@ MSCR  -  Malankara Syriac Christian Resources