Author Topic: The History of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church  (Read 1348 times)

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Offline Matthew777

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The History of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church
« on: January 08, 2005, 07:35:53 PM »
In case anyone is interested, I am providing for your reading enjoyment the history of the Malankara church:

"The name, Malankara Orthodox Church, refers to the section of the St.Thomas Christians of India, that Canonically came under Catholicate of the East with its head quarters at Devalokam, Kottayam, Kerala, India. St.Thomas Christians at present belong to ten different churches and denominations. The Malankara Orthodox Church is one among them and it is the second largest.

 St. Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, is the founder of the ancient church in India. Christian writers and historians from the 4th century refer to the evangelistic work of Apostle Thomas in India, and the Indian Christians ascribe the origin of their church to the labors of the apostle in the 1st century.

"Insistent tradition ascribes the introduction of Christianity to India to the Apostle Thomas, one of the original Twelve."
History of Christianity. Vol.1. By Kenneth Scott Latourette. Page 80.

It is reasonable to believe that the St. Thomas came to India, preached the gospel, established the church and died there as a martyr. It is believed that St.Thomas arrived in Cranganore, Kerala, India, in 52 A.D. He preached the gospel and established churches at seven places; Cranganore, Palur, Paraur,Gokkamangalam, Niranam, Chayal and Quilon, and appointed prelates and priests. He is believed to have been martyred at Mylapur, Madras,India, around 72 A.D. Malankara Orthodox Church in India is as old as any ancient Christian communities elsewhere in the world.

South India had trade connections with the Mediterranean and West Asian world since ancient times. This enabled the Church in those areas, particularly Persia, to have a knowledge of the existence of a Christian community in India. Many Christians, when they were persecuted in Persian Empire, fled to the Southwestern coast of India and found there a ready and warm welcome.

There is no documentary evidence referring to the way the Indian Church was governed during early centuries. According to tradition, the successor of St. Thomas corresponded with the leaders of the Christian Churches in the Middle East; and the church of India from time to time was ruled by prelates from that part of the world.

Like the other churches, the Indian Church maintained its autonomous character was under its local leader. When the Portuguese established themselves in India in the 16th Century, they found the Church in Kerala, as an administratively independent community. Following the arrival of Vasco de Gama, the Portuguese General, in Calicut, Kerala, India, in 1498, they came to South India and established their political power there. The Portuguese brought with them missionaries to carry on evangelistic work in order to establish churches in communion with Rome under the Portuguese patronage. These missionaries were eager to bring the Indian Church also under the Pope. They succeeded in their efforts in 1599 with the `Synod of Diamper'. The representatives of various parishes who attended the assembly were forced by Portughese Authorities to accept the Papal authority.

Following the synod, the Indian Church came to be governed by Portuguese prelates. They were as a whole, unwilling to respect the integrity of the Indian Church, and a majority of people were not happy about the state of affairs. This disaffection led to general revolt in 1653 which is known as "The Coonen Cross Pledge". They demanded administrative autonomy for the Indian Church. This body, since it had no bishop to guide spiritually, had to face serious difficulties. Yet it was determined to keep the independence of Indian Church.

The party that sought to preserve the Church's freedom stood in need of assistance in restoring its Episcopal succession. It appealed to several eastern Christian centers for help. The Antiochene Syrian Patriarch responded and sent metropolitan Mar Gregorios of Jerusalem to India in 1665. He came to India and confirmed Marthoma I as the bishop and both of them worked together to organize the Church on firm footing. The Malankara Church began to grow steadily.

In 1795 the British captured Malabar, Kerala. In 1806 the Marquis of Wellesley, the British Governor General of India sent Rev.Claudius Buchanan, an Anglican priest, to conduct researches into the life of the ancient Church of St.Thomas in India. It started another chapter in the life of Malankara Church.

The Anglican missionaries were deeply interested in the welfare of Malankara Church, and they helped the church to start theological seminary at Kottayam in 1815. Soon the missionaries began to impose Protestant doctrines on the seminarians. As a result the Malankara church had to discontinue their association with them.

This eventually gave rise to the division of the community into three bodies. One of them tried to bring about serious reforms in the liturgy and practices of the Church, but failed. After about half a century of conflict within the Church, this body had to withdraw and organize itself as the Mar Thoma Church. A smaller body of the Malankara Church opted to join with the missionaries and be absorbed in the Anglican Church. A large majority of the community continued in the Malankara Orthodox Church without accepting the reforms.

Since then, despite the enormous troubles, trials, tribulations, tests, and persecutions, the Malankara church has being struggling and now it has become a strong autonomous and autocephalus church under the Catholicate."

« Last Edit: January 08, 2005, 07:36:49 PM by Matthew777 »
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