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Author Topic: Interactions between Orthodox and Church of the East Saint Thomas Christians  (Read 1915 times) Average Rating: 0
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KostaC
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« on: July 23, 2013, 01:49:39 AM »

I understand that is in an incredibly obscure and quite possibly difficult to answer question, but by any chance does anyone here know of the relationship (or lack thereof) between the Oriental Orthodox Communion and the Church of the East Christians in southern India? Did the Portuguese invasions change how these two Churches interact with one another? Did either Church influence the other?
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« Reply #1 on: July 23, 2013, 05:39:56 PM »

Other than the Church in India, I doubt any of the other OO Churches have relations with the Assyrians in India.  I could try taking a stab at this question if I knew what you were looking for.  Maybe you could expand on your questions?  Right now, it's too broad to say anything but "we get along".  Tongue
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« Reply #2 on: July 23, 2013, 11:50:02 PM »

I seem to recall times when Indian hierarchs or clergy of the Church of the East were present at Malankara and/or Syriac Orthodox events in southern India and the Gulf, but I can't think of where now...
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« Reply #3 on: July 26, 2013, 02:30:38 PM »

Thank you both kindly for your response. I've been meaning to write back, really I have, it's just that these last few days have been my Father's first days off in over two months. Before I head back out again, I want to say that I got my facts wrong, very wrong. As such, I will have to completely rephrase my question, as I was asking a rather anachronistic one.

Thank you again,
Constantine
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« Reply #4 on: July 26, 2013, 02:44:06 PM »

Dads are important, this not so much.  Take your time.  Smiley
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« Reply #5 on: July 27, 2013, 01:30:47 PM »

the assyrians (from what is now iraq and surrounding area) were the first to go to india (after saint thomas), so the early church there ended up sort of nestorian.
then the jacobite (oriental orthodox) bishops went over from syria and sorted out their theology.
all was fine for ages until the portugese went over and tried to make them all roman catholics, as if their orthodoxy was not good enough. most of them made the switch, although there are still plenty of orthodox Christians in india.
but the indians were smart, and you'll find nearly all the orthodox theology and practices still there in the indian catholic churches (source: one good friday service with the malankara catholics in south east england - they had been fasting all day till after vespers, just like good orthodox Christians, they then invited random non malyalam speaking visitor to eat with them and have fellowship).

disclaimer - this abbreviated account may be slightly biased...
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« Reply #6 on: July 27, 2013, 02:08:27 PM »

I understand that is in an incredibly obscure and quite possibly difficult to answer question, but by any chance does anyone here know of the relationship (or lack thereof) between the Oriental Orthodox Communion and the Church of the East Christians in southern India? Did the Portuguese invasions change how these two Churches interact with one another? Did either Church influence the other?

Not much other than to say that they are descendents of St. Thomas the Apostle who traveled to India and set up village churches there.
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« Reply #7 on: August 01, 2013, 11:12:36 PM »

the assyrians (from what is now iraq and surrounding area) were the first to go to india (after saint thomas), so the early church there ended up sort of nestorian.
then the jacobite (oriental orthodox) bishops went over from syria and sorted out their theology.
all was fine for ages until the portugese went over and tried to make them all roman catholics, as if their orthodoxy was not good enough. most of them made the switch, although there are still plenty of orthodox Christians in india.
but the indians were smart, and you'll find nearly all the orthodox theology and practices still there in the indian catholic churches (source: one good friday service with the malankara catholics in south east england - they had been fasting all day till after vespers, just like good orthodox Christians, they then invited random non malyalam speaking visitor to eat with them and have fellowship).

disclaimer - this abbreviated account may be slightly biased...

I think the timeline was a touch different. I remember reading a Malankara Orthodox (?) source discussing the liturgical changes, first the latinizations imposed by the Portuguese and then the switch from the East Syrian to West Syrian Rite after the rejection of Rome and union with the Church of Antioch. If I can find the link or source I'll post it...
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« Reply #8 on: August 08, 2013, 12:00:07 PM »

Dads are important, this not so much.  Take your time.  Smiley
I think the timeline was a touch different. I remember reading a Malankara Orthodox (?) source discussing the liturgical changes, first the latinizations imposed by the Portuguese and then the switch from the East Syrian to West Syrian Rite after the rejection of Rome and union with the Church of Antioch. If I can find the link or source I'll post it...

Thank you all for understanding. I am finally ready to re-ask my question. But first, I think I need to explain how I got things wrong.

So, I've read some things about the Saint Thomas Christians, about the Church of the East, and about the Oriental Orthodox Communion present in India. I even been to a Knanaya Catholic church before several times, so I've been fortunate enough to meet real Saint Thomas Christians (if heavily-Latinised and even kind of Byzantinified). However, I never knew that before the brutal Portuguese invasions, all Christians in India were members of the Church of the East! That came as quite a shock to me. Previously, I had figured that the Oriental Orthodox Church and Church of the East sort of did their own thing and converted the people of the Malabar Coast (and beyond, even into northern Sumatra if Wikipedia is to be believed) on their and co-existed.

So now I have to ask, after Portugal invaded the western coast and changed the demographics of the glorious Subcontinent forever,
*How did the Nestorian community's hierarchy fall apart?
*How did the Oriental Orthodox Church move in to save the Saint Thomas Christians from joining the Catholic Church after their own Church had fallen apart?
*Is there any record of there being difficulty with the transition for the Christian community of India from the Church of the East to the Oriental Orthodox Church?
*Why did the Saint Thomas Christians switch from an East Syriac liturgy to a West Syriac liturgy? Was that change necessary, or did the community choose to make the shift? Are there significant differences between the two?
« Last Edit: August 08, 2013, 12:00:39 PM by KostaC » Logged

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« Reply #9 on: August 08, 2013, 04:30:40 PM »

However, I never knew that before the brutal Portuguese invasions, all Christians in India were members of the Church of the East! That came as quite a shock to me. Previously, I had figured that the Oriental Orthodox Church and Church of the East sort of did their own thing and converted the people of the Malabar Coast (and beyond, even into northern Sumatra if Wikipedia is to be believed) on their and co-existed.
Actually what you had figured is not completely incorrect. When people think of the Church of the East they immediately think of the Nestorian (though there are claims that this church did not hold on to the Nestorian heresy as others accuse them of) church. The fact is there was an autonomous Oriental Orthodox “Church of the East” right from the time of Ephesus. The head of the Oriental Orthodox Church of East was called Maphrian http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maphrian to distinguish him from the  head of the Nestorian Church of the East; Catholicose.

Both Oriental Orthodox Church of the East as well as the Nestorian Church of the East did their own thing in Malabar Coast.

There is surviving pre-Protughese inscription on a church wall that refer to Virgin Mary as Yaldath Aloho aka Theotokos. This clearly had to be Oriental Orthodox as the Nestorian Church would not have used that term.

*How did the Nestorian community's hierarchy fall apart?

Around the same time period as the arrival of the Portuguese to India, there was something interesting happening in the Nestorian Church of the East. This church had a split over who gets to be the Patriarch-Catholicose. This was in the 1553. One of the groups joined with Rome and became a “Rite” under the Pope. This group survives to this day and is called the Chaldean Catholic Church. The Nestorian Church of the East that did not join with Rome is today known as the Assyrian Church of the East.

Portuguese landed on the Malabar coast in 1498 and by the 1550s was the predominant Naval Power on the west coast of India. They pretty much controlled all the ports on the Malabar coast and controlled export / import of goods as well as what kind of Christian hierarchs could come and go.

After the 1553 split in the Nestorian Church of the East; only the Roman Rite ; ie the Chaldean Catholic Church was successful in sending Bishops to India. No Bishop from the Assyrian Church of the East or the OO Church of the East under the Maphrian was successful in landing in India from the time of the arrival of the Portughese till they were defeated and over powered by the Dutch.

The last two Mesopotamian Bishops in India are:
Mar Joseph http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Sulaqa (He is the brother of John Sulaqa the first Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Rite ; and the leader of the group that joined with Rome)
Mar Abraham http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Methran

Mar Abraham died in 1597

The Synod of Diamper ; the church council conducted by the Portughese that formally brought the Malabar Church under Rome happened only in 1599. But since Mar Joseph and Mar Abraham were also in communion with Rome via the Chaldean Catholic Rite and they served as prelates since 1556.. one can argue 1556 as the year in which the Malabar church came under Rome.

*How did the Oriental Orthodox Church move in to save the Saint Thomas Christians from joining the Catholic Church after their own Church had fallen apart?

For 54 years, from 1599 to 1653, the church in Malabar was under Rome led by Portuguese Prelates. Also by 1650s Portuguese power on the west coast of India had declined. Dutch was the predominant naval power. In 1653, several priests and lay members gained courage and they assembled at Mattanchery and took an oath touching on a cross (since everyone could not touch the cross, they tied a long rope to the cross, and everyone touched the rope).  In this oath known as the Coonen Cross Oath     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coonan_Cross_Oath , the Malabar Church declared its independence.

The oath was:
By the Father, Son and Holy Spirit that henceforth we would not adhere to the Franks, nor accept the faith of the Pope of Rome.
And after taking the oath, on 22-May-1653, 12 priests laid their hands on one of the priests and elevated him as Bishop with the title Mar Thoma I.

As soon as these events took place in India, Rome took notice. One of the 12 priests who ordained Mar Thoma I , went back from the oath.
This priest Fr. Parambil Chandy , went to Rome and was ordained by Rome as a Bishop with the title Alexander de Campo. Rome also brought back the Syriac Liturgy. But this was the Latin Mass translated to Syriac and not the original Church of the East Syriac Liturgy.  

Now  there were two jurisdiction in the Malabar Church, one headed by Mar Thoma I and a RC rite.

There were doubts about the legitimacy of the ordination of Mar Thoma I as he was not properly ordained, but enthroned by 12 priests as a Bishop. So the Malabar Church appealed to the OO Syriac Orthodox, Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East for help. Keep in mind, the Syriac Orthodox Church had pre-Portughese connections with the Malabar Church via the Maphrian.  Also by this time the Dutch had overtaken the Portughese as the predominant Naval Power on the west coast. The Protestant Dutch, didn’t care much about which Bishops could land on the Malabar coast. So it was once again possible for Non-RC affiliated Bishops to come to Malabar.

In 1665 Mor Gregorious Abdul, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregorios_Abdul_Jaleel the Syriac Orthodox Archbishop of Jerusalem was send to the Malabar coast by the Syriac Synod. Mor Gregorious regularized the episcopal ordination of Mar Thoma I who was ordained 2 years earlier by 12 priests.

Mor Gregorious insisted on the removal of all Nestorian references in the liturgy; and that can be referred to as the starting point of the adoption of the West Syriac liturgy in Malabar.

*Is there any record of there being difficulty with the transition for the Christian community of India from the Church of the East to the Oriental Orthodox Church?

None that I am aware of. We have to keep in mind that there was a pre-portughese OO presence in India.
Also right from the time of Mar Joseph 1556 there was no true Assyrian Church of the East presence in India.  Mar Joseph was from the Chaldean Catholic Church an RC rite that was started by his bother Mar John Sulaqa joining with Rome.

And at 1665 there were only two jurisdictions; the RC rite that used the Syriac translation of the Latin Mass and the Syriac Orthodox under Mar Thoma I.

*Why did the Saint Thomas Christians switch from an East Syriac liturgy to a West Syriac liturgy? Was that change necessary, or did the community choose to make the shift? Are there significant differences between the two?
By 1665, there was no original Nestorian East Syriac liturgy left in Malabar. It had evolved into a latinized form of the East Syriac liturgy coming from the ‘Chaldean Catholic’ rite and later becoming a complete Syriac translation of the Latin Mass ; but pronounced in East Syriac.
So when the Malabar Church under Mar Thoma I got official recognition from the Syriac Orthodox Synod via Mar Gregorious Abdul (Syriac Orthodox Archbishop of Jerusalem), the Malabar Church started accepting the West Syriac liturgy of the Syriac Orthodox Church.
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« Reply #10 on: August 08, 2013, 10:29:09 PM »

From the arrival of Mar Joseph Sulaqa, the Chaldean Catholic Bishop in 1556 till 1907 there was no Nestorian hierarchy in India. There was only RC Syro-Malabar rite and OO Malankara Syriac Orthodox. In the late 1800s, a split occurred in the Syro-Malabar RC rite and a very small group, predominantly from the town of Trichur rejoined the Assyrian Church of the East in 1907; and again Nestorian hierarchy in India was re-established.

Though in the rest of the world the Nestorian Church of the East is known as the Assyrian Church of the East, in India they are known as the Chaldean Syrian Church.
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« Reply #11 on: August 08, 2013, 10:41:10 PM »

From the arrival of Mar Joseph Sulaqa, the Chaldean Catholic Bishop in 1556 till 1907 there was no Nestorian hierarchy in India. There was only RC Syro-Malabar rite and OO Malankara Syriac Orthodox. In the late 1800s, a split occurred in the Syro-Malabar RC rite and a very small group, predominantly from the town of Trichur rejoined the Assyrian Church of the East in 1907; and again Nestorian hierarchy in India was re-established.

Very interesting, I did not know that.   
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« Reply #12 on: August 08, 2013, 11:47:01 PM »

From the arrival of Mar Joseph Sulaqa, the Chaldean Catholic Bishop in 1556 till 1907 there was no Nestorian hierarchy in India. There was only RC Syro-Malabar rite and OO Malankara Syriac Orthodox. In the late 1800s, a split occurred in the Syro-Malabar RC rite and a very small group, predominantly from the town of Trichur rejoined the Assyrian Church of the East in 1907; and again Nestorian hierarchy in India was re-established.

Very interesting, I did not know that.  

There are some exceptions to my above statement. They are:

1. Mar Abraham (buried at Angamaly Kezhekke Palli/ East Church) that I have listed above was sent by the Nestorian Church of the East in 1557. He was arrested by the Portuguese and deported. He then had to accept the Chaldean Catholic RC rite and was allowed to return to Malabar in 1568.

2. In 1578 Mar Simon arrived from the Nestorian Church of the East and claimed to be the legitimate Metropolitan of India, while the above mentioned Mar Abraham who had switched to the Chaldean Catholic rite was presiding. He was arrested and deported by the Portuguese in 1585.

3. In 1862, one Indian Syro-Malabar priest by the name of Fr.Anthony Thondanat went to get ordained as Bishop by the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch. When he was refused ordination, he approached the Assyrian (Nestorian) Church of the East and was ordained Bishop with the title Mar Abdisho Thondanat. On his return to India he worked with Mar Elia Mellus http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elias_Mellus who was a Bishop sent by the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch. So it is questionalbe if Mar Thondanat was Nestorian or Chaldean RC rite.

4. In 1908, Mar Abimalek Timotheus http://www.churchoftheeastindia.org/marabimalek.html was ordained by the Nestorian Patriarch and send to India. He died in 1945 and is buried at Trichur. He has to be seen as the full Nestorian Bishop after 1556.
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« Reply #13 on: August 10, 2013, 07:25:07 AM »

And this is an interesting thread.
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« Reply #14 on: August 10, 2013, 07:41:53 AM »

However, I never knew that before the brutal Portuguese invasions, all Christians in India were members of the Church of the East! That came as quite a shock to me. Previously, I had figured that the Oriental Orthodox Church and Church of the East sort of did their own thing and converted the people of the Malabar Coast (and beyond, even into northern Sumatra if Wikipedia is to be believed) on their and co-existed.
Actually what you had figured is not completely incorrect. When people think of the Church of the East they immediately think of the Nestorian (though there are claims that this church did not hold on to the Nestorian heresy as others accuse them of) church. The fact is there was an autonomous Oriental Orthodox “Church of the East” right from the time of Ephesus. The head of the Oriental Orthodox Church of East was called Maphrian http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maphrian to distinguish him from the  head of the Nestorian Church of the East; Catholicose.

Both Oriental Orthodox Church of the East as well as the Nestorian Church of the East did their own thing in Malabar Coast.

There is surviving pre-Protughese inscription on a church wall that refer to Virgin Mary as Yaldath Aloho aka Theotokos. This clearly had to be Oriental Orthodox as the Nestorian Church would not have used that term.

*How did the Nestorian community's hierarchy fall apart?

Around the same time period as the arrival of the Portuguese to India, there was something interesting happening in the Nestorian Church of the East. This church had a split over who gets to be the Patriarch-Catholicose. This was in the 1553. One of the groups joined with Rome and became a “Rite” under the Pope. This group survives to this day and is called the Chaldean Catholic Church. The Nestorian Church of the East that did not join with Rome is today known as the Assyrian Church of the East.

Portuguese landed on the Malabar coast in 1498 and by the 1550s was the predominant Naval Power on the west coast of India. They pretty much controlled all the ports on the Malabar coast and controlled export / import of goods as well as what kind of Christian hierarchs could come and go.

After the 1553 split in the Nestorian Church of the East; only the Roman Rite ; ie the Chaldean Catholic Church was successful in sending Bishops to India. No Bishop from the Assyrian Church of the East or the OO Church of the East under the Maphrian was successful in landing in India from the time of the arrival of the Portughese till they were defeated and over powered by the Dutch.

The last two Mesopotamian Bishops in India are:
Mar Joseph http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Sulaqa (He is the brother of John Sulaqa the first Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Rite ; and the leader of the group that joined with Rome)
Mar Abraham http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Methran

Mar Abraham died in 1597

The Synod of Diamper ; the church council conducted by the Portughese that formally brought the Malabar Church under Rome happened only in 1599. But since Mar Joseph and Mar Abraham were also in communion with Rome via the Chaldean Catholic Rite and they served as prelates since 1556.. one can argue 1556 as the year in which the Malabar church came under Rome.

*How did the Oriental Orthodox Church move in to save the Saint Thomas Christians from joining the Catholic Church after their own Church had fallen apart?

For 54 years, from 1599 to 1653, the church in Malabar was under Rome led by Portuguese Prelates. Also by 1650s Portuguese power on the west coast of India had declined. Dutch was the predominant naval power. In 1653, several priests and lay members gained courage and they assembled at Mattanchery and took an oath touching on a cross (since everyone could not touch the cross, they tied a long rope to the cross, and everyone touched the rope).  In this oath known as the Coonen Cross Oath     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coonan_Cross_Oath , the Malabar Church declared its independence.

The oath was:
By the Father, Son and Holy Spirit that henceforth we would not adhere to the Franks, nor accept the faith of the Pope of Rome.
And after taking the oath, on 22-May-1653, 12 priests laid their hands on one of the priests and elevated him as Bishop with the title Mar Thoma I.

As soon as these events took place in India, Rome took notice. One of the 12 priests who ordained Mar Thoma I , went back from the oath.
This priest Fr. Parambil Chandy , went to Rome and was ordained by Rome as a Bishop with the title Alexander de Campo. Rome also brought back the Syriac Liturgy. But this was the Latin Mass translated to Syriac and not the original Church of the East Syriac Liturgy.  

Now  there were two jurisdiction in the Malabar Church, one headed by Mar Thoma I and a RC rite.

There were doubts about the legitimacy of the ordination of Mar Thoma I as he was not properly ordained, but enthroned by 12 priests as a Bishop. So the Malabar Church appealed to the OO Syriac Orthodox, Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East for help. Keep in mind, the Syriac Orthodox Church had pre-Portughese connections with the Malabar Church via the Maphrian.  Also by this time the Dutch had overtaken the Portughese as the predominant Naval Power on the west coast. The Protestant Dutch, didn’t care much about which Bishops could land on the Malabar coast. So it was once again possible for Non-RC affiliated Bishops to come to Malabar.

In 1665 Mor Gregorious Abdul, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregorios_Abdul_Jaleel the Syriac Orthodox Archbishop of Jerusalem was send to the Malabar coast by the Syriac Synod. Mor Gregorious regularized the episcopal ordination of Mar Thoma I who was ordained 2 years earlier by 12 priests.

Mor Gregorious insisted on the removal of all Nestorian references in the liturgy; and that can be referred to as the starting point of the adoption of the West Syriac liturgy in Malabar.

*Is there any record of there being difficulty with the transition for the Christian community of India from the Church of the East to the Oriental Orthodox Church?

None that I am aware of. We have to keep in mind that there was a pre-portughese OO presence in India.
Also right from the time of Mar Joseph 1556 there was no true Assyrian Church of the East presence in India.  Mar Joseph was from the Chaldean Catholic Church an RC rite that was started by his bother Mar John Sulaqa joining with Rome.

And at 1665 there were only two jurisdictions; the RC rite that used the Syriac translation of the Latin Mass and the Syriac Orthodox under Mar Thoma I.

*Why did the Saint Thomas Christians switch from an East Syriac liturgy to a West Syriac liturgy? Was that change necessary, or did the community choose to make the shift? Are there significant differences between the two?
By 1665, there was no original Nestorian East Syriac liturgy left in Malabar. It had evolved into a latinized form of the East Syriac liturgy coming from the ‘Chaldean Catholic’ rite and later becoming a complete Syriac translation of the Latin Mass ; but pronounced in East Syriac.
So when the Malabar Church under Mar Thoma I got official recognition from the Syriac Orthodox Synod via Mar Gregorious Abdul (Syriac Orthodox Archbishop of Jerusalem), the Malabar Church started accepting the West Syriac liturgy of the Syriac Orthodox Church.

Great post dhinuus. I've read the account on CNEWA's website, but that doesn't include all of the details you mentioned -- for example, I didn't know till today that there was an OO presence in India going back to the early church.

I would like to add one thing to your account: that some "went back" (I apologize if I sound polemical by using that phrase, but it seems to fit in this case) to the Roman Communion after about 300 years (1930), forming the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. Based on what I read from CNEWA, this doesn't seem to have been a matter of proselytizing (but if the OO perspective on it is different, I would of course be interested to hear it).
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« Reply #15 on: August 10, 2013, 07:44:04 AM »

From the arrival of Mar Joseph Sulaqa, the Chaldean Catholic Bishop in 1556 till 1907 there was no Nestorian hierarchy in India. There was only RC Syro-Malabar rite and OO Malankara Syriac Orthodox. In the late 1800s, a split occurred in the Syro-Malabar RC rite and a very small group, predominantly from the town of Trichur rejoined the Assyrian Church of the East in 1907; and again Nestorian hierarchy in India was re-established.

Very interesting, I did not know that.   

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« Reply #16 on: August 10, 2013, 10:29:59 AM »

From the arrival of Mar Joseph Sulaqa, the Chaldean Catholic Bishop in 1556 till 1907 there was no Nestorian hierarchy in India. There was only RC Syro-Malabar rite and OO Malankara Syriac Orthodox. In the late 1800s, a split occurred in the Syro-Malabar RC rite and a very small group, predominantly from the town of Trichur rejoined the Assyrian Church of the East in 1907; and again Nestorian hierarchy in India was re-established.

Though in the rest of the world the Nestorian Church of the East is known as the Assyrian Church of the East, in India they are known as the Chaldean Syrian Church.

While the above is factually correct, one important observation to make is that the Eastern Catholic Chaldean hierarchies in the Church of the East (in the ME) were very unstable and extremely fluid at that point of time . At times, more that one line of Bishops existed who had made professions of the Catholic faith at certain points in time( 3 separate lines at one point of time) .  This perhaps explains the Portuguese refusal to allow any Chaldean bishops into India. In fact the Eastern Catholic line of Joseph Saluqa is the Church of the East line which Mar Dinkha represents today . For long if a rival line moved to Catholicism the other line reversed to Nestorianism.

In fact Mar Abdisho (Antony) Thondanatt of Pala was referred to the Nestorian Patriarch in Qudshanis, Kurdistan for reception of episcopal orders by the then Eastern Catholic Chaldean Patriarch ( Joseph Audo VI) because Rome had forbidden the consecration of an India by the Chaldeans.  The creation of the Church of the East in India was also due to work of the Chaldean Catholic bishops Mar Elia Mellus in India.

(Edit: U word replaced with "Eastern Catholic.
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« Reply #17 on: August 10, 2013, 10:57:22 AM »

I would like to add one thing to your account: that some "went back" (I apologize if I sound polemical by using that phrase, but it seems to fit in this case) to the Roman Communion after about 300 years (1930), forming the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. Based on what I read from CNEWA, this doesn't seem to have been a matter of proselytizing (but if the OO perspective on it is different, I would of course be interested to hear it).

Well if we want to be very technical about, if it was "went back" or "went".. we have to start from the pre 1500's ; and say the Malabar Church was forced to enter into communion with Rome initially implicitly by the Portuguese embargo on any Bishops not in communion with Rome from coming into the Malabar and then very explicitly in 1599 by the Synod of Diamper. The entire faithful shook away this forced "communion" and RC faith at the oath of Coonen Cross. Some went back into the roman communion very soon with the defection of Parambil Chandy (aka Alexander de Campo) forming the Syro-Malabar rite and some waited further and went back in 1930s with the defection of Mar Ivanios forming the Syro-Malankara rite.

So now you tell me who "went" and who "went back". So it is very complicated and not simple.

In 1930 the Syro-Malankara was formed with just two Bishops joining Rome. There were no faithful who joined Rome at that time.  And their size increased by proselytizing not from among the millions of Hindus and Muslims of India, but from among the OO Christians.
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« Reply #18 on: August 10, 2013, 11:52:51 AM »

I would like to add one thing to your account: that some "went back" (I apologize if I sound polemical by using that phrase, but it seems to fit in this case) to the Roman Communion after about 300 years (1930), forming the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. Based on what I read from CNEWA, this doesn't seem to have been a matter of proselytizing (but if the OO perspective on it is different, I would of course be interested to hear it).

Well if we want to be very technical about, if it was "went back" or "went".. we have to start from the pre 1500's ; and say the Malabar Church was forced to enter into communion with Rome initially implicitly by the Portuguese embargo on any Bishops not in communion with Rome from coming into the Malabar and then very explicitly in 1599 by the Synod of Diamper. The entire faithful shook away this forced "communion" and RC faith at the oath of Coonen Cross. Some went back into the roman communion very soon with the defection of Parambil Chandy (aka Alexander de Campo) forming the Syro-Malabar rite and some waited further and went back in 1930s with the defection of Mar Ivanios forming the Syro-Malankara rite.

So now you tell me who "went" and who "went back". So it is very complicated and not simple.

True.

In 1930 the Syro-Malankara was formed with just two Bishops joining Rome. There were no faithful who joined Rome at that time.  And their size increased by proselytizing not from among the millions of Hindus and Muslims of India, but from among the OO Christians.

Well, I think everyone agrees/admits that the conversions to the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church were from OOs and not from non-Christians ... but whether it was proselytizing seems to be in dispute.
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« Reply #19 on: August 10, 2013, 12:39:01 PM »

Well, I think everyone agrees/admits that the conversions to the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church were from OOs and not from non-Christians ... but whether it was proselytizing seems to be in dispute.

I suppose what's really in dispute is the definition of "proselytism". 
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« Reply #20 on: August 10, 2013, 02:38:48 PM »

Well, I think everyone agrees/admits that the conversions to the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church were from OOs and not from non-Christians ... but whether it was proselytizing seems to be in dispute.

I suppose what's really in dispute is the definition of "proselytism". 

Yes that's possible. I wouldn't see it as proselytizing unless there was some "incentivizing" conversion (or worse, if people were actually forced to convert). That is, if it was just a matter of saying "If you want to become Catholic, you can maintain the Syro-Malakara Rite" then I wouldn't call that proselytism.
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« Reply #21 on: August 10, 2013, 03:27:36 PM »

I think it depends on who is approaching whom.  If the Catholics are approaching the Orthodox and talking to them about converting, and promising they won't have to change their rite to convert, it's proselytizing.
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« Reply #22 on: August 10, 2013, 04:54:38 PM »

Yes that's possible. I wouldn't see it as proselytizing unless there was some "incentivizing" conversion (or worse, if people were actually forced to convert). That is, if it was just a matter of saying "If you want to become Catholic, you can maintain the Syro-Malakara Rite" then I wouldn't call that proselytism.

Well, incentivised conversion, if I'm understanding your use of that term correctly, is certainly a factor, and I think I've brought it up in other posts.

That aside, it's not simply a matter of "you can keep your rite if you want to become Catholic", because that presumes that people want union with the Pope of Rome and want their rite.  These are really two separate issues. 

It is no secret that in India, the OO are divided into two "factions" due to internal politics.  On the local level, these things can get quite ugly, with infighting not just within local parishes and communities but also within families.  In that context, there are people who feel disillusioned and look at the Malankara Catholics and see a Church that's "just like us", though smaller, and has more peace, stability, and even progress.  How carefully they are observing the liturgy to say that it's "just like us" is not always certain, there are those who think the Mar Thoma Church (Eastern rite Protestants) is also "just like us".  But the primary push here is getting away from one form of church politics into another denomination that seems to have little or none.  Are the Orthodox guiltless in this situation?  No.  But if "escaping" is a legitimate form of conversion, then I guess that works for you.  I don't think so, and if the post-Vatican II Catholic Church is serious about its own stated commitments to positive relations with the East, then encouraging "escapees" by holding out the rite as a carrot is not really acceptable.  You're free to do that, but then don't talk out of both ends of your mouth.  Unfortunately, even if the Vatican plays "good cop" there are local hierarch(ie)s who have no problem playing "bad cop", and Rome will look in another direction, whistle, and pretend not to know anything when they are called on it.  You can't always tell if Rome is being deceived or is the deceiver. 

The second issue is choosing a faith.  If people actually want to become Catholic because they freely choose to, because they believe, and not because they're running away from something else or getting something in return, I think that's fine, they should have the freedom to do so, whatever rite they choose.  But most of these people, in my experience, invariably end up as functional (if not official) Roman Catholics because "it's all the same" (except that being RC requires less of an investment for the same product).  The rite is not as much of an issue for these people, unless it provides them with the protection of an "alternate" hierarchy within which to get away with things that might not be so easy elsewhere.         
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« Reply #23 on: August 10, 2013, 08:01:50 PM »

Both good posts, Salpy and Mor Ephrem.

I wish I could, but can't, deny that before Vatican II the Catholic Church had a basically universal policy of encouraging non-Catholics to convert. I'm sure that played a role ... but on the other hand, from what I've read, it sounds the 20th century didn't see a massive effort (a la the Union of Brest) to get OOs to join the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church.
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« Reply #24 on: August 10, 2013, 11:29:07 PM »

... but on the other hand, from what I've read, it sounds the 20th century didn't see a massive effort (a la the Union of Brest) to get OOs to join the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church.

I don't know a lot of the history surrounding the Union of Brest, but in terms of percentage if not also in terms of sheer numbers, those European populations were more solidly Christian and (?) Orthodox than 20th century India, so if any "Unia" was going to work there, it was going to have to be a major effort. 

In India, the situation was quite different.  Out of the total number of Orthodox in India at the time, the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church was created (or "reunited") with two bishops, a priest, a deacon, and one layman.  That was it.  The rest of the "growth" was a combination of poaching, incentivised conversion, encouraging escapees, creating myths, and so on, and the primary source of "converts" was the OO because they would not need to be taught the rite. 

To their credit, they benefited from implementing better administrative practices learned from Rome, better funding, building charitable and educational institutions and infrastructure, etc., and I don't begrudge them that.  They are more than welcome to school us in such matters, IMO.  But no one should think that a sui iuris Church of five individuals grew to be what it is today due to an intense missionary and evangelistic outreach to the unchurched and the disenfranchised.  A good chunk of this was pure, unapologetic "scavenging", both before and after the Second Vatican Council.     
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« Reply #25 on: August 17, 2013, 03:08:25 PM »

Actually what you had figured is not completely incorrect. When people think of the Church of the East they immediately think of the Nestorian (though there are claims that this church did not hold on to the Nestorian heresy as others accuse them of) church. The fact is there was an autonomous Oriental Orthodox “Church of the East” right from the time of Ephesus. The head of the Oriental Orthodox Church of East was called Maphrian http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maphrian to distinguish him from the  head of the Nestorian Church of the East; Catholicose.

Both Oriental Orthodox Church of the East as well as the Nestorian Church of the East did their own thing in Malabar Coast.

There is surviving pre-Protughese inscription on a church wall that refer to Virgin Mary as Yaldath Aloho aka Theotokos. This clearly had to be Oriental Orthodox as the Nestorian Church would not have used that term.

Around the same time period as the arrival of the Portuguese to India, there was something interesting happening in the Nestorian Church of the East. This church had a split over who gets to be the Patriarch-Catholicose. This was in the 1553. One of the groups joined with Rome and became a “Rite” under the Pope. This group survives to this day and is called the Chaldean Catholic Church. The Nestorian Church of the East that did not join with Rome is today known as the Assyrian Church of the East.

Portuguese landed on the Malabar coast in 1498 and by the 1550s was the predominant Naval Power on the west coast of India. They pretty much controlled all the ports on the Malabar coast and controlled export / import of goods as well as what kind of Christian hierarchs could come and go.

After the 1553 split in the Nestorian Church of the East; only the Roman Rite ; ie the Chaldean Catholic Church was successful in sending Bishops to India. No Bishop from the Assyrian Church of the East or the OO Church of the East under the Maphrian was successful in landing in India from the time of the arrival of the Portughese till they were defeated and over powered by the Dutch.

The last two Mesopotamian Bishops in India are:
Mar Joseph http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Sulaqa (He is the brother of John Sulaqa the first Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Rite ; and the leader of the group that joined with Rome)
Mar Abraham http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Methran

Mar Abraham died in 1597

The Synod of Diamper ; the church council conducted by the Portughese that formally brought the Malabar Church under Rome happened only in 1599. But since Mar Joseph and Mar Abraham were also in communion with Rome via the Chaldean Catholic Rite and they served as prelates since 1556.. one can argue 1556 as the year in which the Malabar church came under Rome.

For 54 years, from 1599 to 1653, the church in Malabar was under Rome led by Portuguese Prelates. Also by 1650s Portuguese power on the west coast of India had declined. Dutch was the predominant naval power. In 1653, several priests and lay members gained courage and they assembled at Mattanchery and took an oath touching on a cross (since everyone could not touch the cross, they tied a long rope to the cross, and everyone touched the rope).  In this oath known as the Coonen Cross Oath     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coonan_Cross_Oath , the Malabar Church declared its independence.

The oath was:
By the Father, Son and Holy Spirit that henceforth we would not adhere to the Franks, nor accept the faith of the Pope of Rome.
And after taking the oath, on 22-May-1653, 12 priests laid their hands on one of the priests and elevated him as Bishop with the title Mar Thoma I.

As soon as these events took place in India, Rome took notice. One of the 12 priests who ordained Mar Thoma I , went back from the oath.
This priest Fr. Parambil Chandy , went to Rome and was ordained by Rome as a Bishop with the title Alexander de Campo. Rome also brought back the Syriac Liturgy. But this was the Latin Mass translated to Syriac and not the original Church of the East Syriac Liturgy.  

Now  there were two jurisdiction in the Malabar Church, one headed by Mar Thoma I and a RC rite.

There were doubts about the legitimacy of the ordination of Mar Thoma I as he was not properly ordained, but enthroned by 12 priests as a Bishop. So the Malabar Church appealed to the OO Syriac Orthodox, Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East for help. Keep in mind, the Syriac Orthodox Church had pre-Portughese connections with the Malabar Church via the Maphrian.  Also by this time the Dutch had overtaken the Portughese as the predominant Naval Power on the west coast. The Protestant Dutch, didn’t care much about which Bishops could land on the Malabar coast. So it was once again possible for Non-RC affiliated Bishops to come to Malabar.

In 1665 Mor Gregorious Abdul, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregorios_Abdul_Jaleel the Syriac Orthodox Archbishop of Jerusalem was send to the Malabar coast by the Syriac Synod. Mor Gregorious regularized the episcopal ordination of Mar Thoma I who was ordained 2 years earlier by 12 priests.

Mor Gregorious insisted on the removal of all Nestorian references in the liturgy; and that can be referred to as the starting point of the adoption of the West Syriac liturgy in Malabar.

None that I am aware of. We have to keep in mind that there was a pre-portughese OO presence in India.
Also right from the time of Mar Joseph 1556 there was no true Assyrian Church of the East presence in India.  Mar Joseph was from the Chaldean Catholic Church an RC rite that was started by his bother Mar John Sulaqa joining with Rome.

And at 1665 there were only two jurisdictions; the RC rite that used the Syriac translation of the Latin Mass and the Syriac Orthodox under Mar Thoma I.


By 1665, there was no original Nestorian East Syriac liturgy left in Malabar. It had evolved into a latinized form of the East Syriac liturgy coming from the ‘Chaldean Catholic’ rite and later becoming a complete Syriac translation of the Latin Mass ; but pronounced in East Syriac.
So when the Malabar Church under Mar Thoma I got official recognition from the Syriac Orthodox Synod via Mar Gregorious Abdul (Syriac Orthodox Archbishop of Jerusalem), the Malabar Church started accepting the West Syriac liturgy of the Syriac Orthodox Church.

Wow, thank you very much for responding in such a thorough, thought-out manner, friend! It was very helpful and very informative. You answered all questions that I had. Hopefully, in the future, if I have any more questions about Christianity in India, I can go to you!

Thank you again!
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« Reply #26 on: August 18, 2013, 10:18:55 PM »

I understand that is in an incredibly obscure and quite possibly difficult to answer question, but by any chance does anyone here know of the relationship (or lack thereof) between the Oriental Orthodox Communion and the Church of the East Christians in southern India? Did the Portuguese invasions change how these two Churches interact with one another? Did either Church influence the other?

This isn't specific to India, but will probably interest you nonetheless:

Quote from: Wikipedia
In 1997, he [ACoE Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV] entered into negotiations with the Syriac Orthodox Church and the two churches ceased anathematizing each other.

Granted that's not saying very much, but I think it's worth noting.
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