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Antonious Nikolas
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« on: January 08, 2014, 10:57:40 PM »

Did St. Thomas actually establish a throne in southern India?  When did this idea emerge?

I realize that this can be a controversial topic, and that it has been politicized and propagandized due to the current disputes between the Bava faction and the Metran faction in the Malankara Church, but I'm hoping that we can discuss it here in a mature fashion.

I'm not interested in "historical proof" per se, because Church Tradition trumps secular history for me.  In other words, if some Western academic tells me that St. Thomas probably never made it to Kerala in the first place and that the India mentioned in his hagiography actually meant someplace else entirely, it doesn't mean a wad of horse snot to me.  Blow it out your rosewood pipe, Poindexter.  I'm also not interested in any attempted denigration of St. Thomas (may his prayers be with us) asserting that he lacked the episcopal authority common to all of the Apostles or some other such insulting nonsense.

What I'm asking is, was there an established tradition in the Church that St. Thomas established a throne and consecrated an immediate successor for himself, as St. Mark did in Alexandria and St. Peter did in Antioch.  St. Mark had St. Anianus and St. Peter had St. Evodius, and both of their lines of unbroken succession can be traced down to H.H. Pope Tawadros II and H.H. Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas respectively.  Did St. Thomas also establish an unbroken line of succession or did the idea of a Throne of St. Thomas truly not emerge until later?

The earliest reference I can find appears to be to the consecration of Mar Thoma I in 1653.  Before that time, the Church seems to have been governed by Mooppens (called "Archdeacons" in Western histories, though the term doesn't actually refer to an archdeacon in the classical sense).  There are also others who assert that Mar Thoma I himself never claimed to sit on the Throne of St. Thomas and that the term didn't appear until the 20th century.

I have no doubt that St. Thomas preached in India and established the Christian community there, but what is unclear is whether or not he established a throne.  In the hagiography I've read, I see that St. Thomas ordained Siphor to the priesthood and Wazan to the diaconate, commanding them to see to the increase of the Church and the needs of the faithful immediately before his martyrdom at the hands of King Mazdai's soldiers near the city of Mylapore.  I don't see any record of him ordaining anyone as a bishop and successor in the same way that St. Mark and St. Peter did in Alexandria and Antioch respectively.  If there is another hagiographical tradition which asserts that he did, however, I'd be willing to consider it.
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« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2014, 12:01:02 AM »

What I'm asking is, was there an established tradition in the Church that St. Thomas established a throne and consecrated an immediate successor for himself, as St. Mark did in Alexandria and St. Peter did in Antioch.  St. Mark had St. Anianus and St. Peter had St. Evodius, and both of their lines of unbroken succession can be traced down to H.H. Pope Tawadros II and H.H. Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas respectively.  Did St. Thomas also establish an unbroken line of succession or did the idea of a Throne of St. Thomas truly not emerge until later?

I suppose it depends on what you mean by "unbroken succession": clearly death breaks the succession unless there is a coadjutor in the wings.  And if we consider the history of various sees, there are years-long gaps between patriarchs at certain points, if not with regard to the see of Alexandria, definitely with regard to the sees of Antioch and "the East".  Rarely is there a truly "unbroken" succession, even though there is always continuity. 

Another issue is how you define "throne".  Frankly, the entire debate, as it currently exists in India, is rather anachronistic: the apostles didn't establish cathedrals and sit in thrones to preach during the Liturgy, so in what sense can we speak of "throne" at this early stage other than "episcopal succession"? 

So if we're going to ask "Did St Thomas ordain a bishop to succeed him?" then I think the answer has to be in the affirmative for a couple of reasons. 

The first is that, to the best of my knowledge, the distinction between episcopacy and presbyterate that we recognise today wasn't so clear-cut in the apostolic era.  St Paul, for example, writes only of bishops and deacons, even though we accept that the presbyterate is also an "apostolic" order.  So were "presbyters" simply what we would recognise as "bishops" without authority over a local Church ("general bishops", "auxiliary bishops", "titular bishops", etc. are still bishops, after all)?  I'm not certain that the distinctions we recognise today applied back then, so if anyone was ordained by St Thomas who wasn't a deacon, such a person would've been ordained as what we recognise as a bishop: someone with pastoral authority over a local Church with the ability to ordain ministers for his own Church, including successors.  The weight of the historical, patristic, and liturgical texts which touch upon St Thomas indicate that he did in fact ordain successors: why would he be the only one of twelve to spread the Gospel but not establish communities in the same pattern as the others?  Why would eleven apostles establish what we recognise as Orthodox Churches and the twelfth settled for what we might call "Prayer Fellowships", "Tabernacles of Praise", etc., or Orthodox Churches that, since the leaders could not ordain successors, were destined to become like the "priestless Old Believers"?  It is true that, AFAIK, there is no list of names, but there are a few possibilities as to why such things have not survived to this day.  More below.       

The second reason why I think St Thomas actually ordained bishops is that there is an undisputed tradition that St Thomas "built" seven churches in Kerala.  Much of the hagiography makes a point of the fact that he was a carpenter, that he was skilled, that he was commissioned by kings to build palaces but built churches instead (which became, for the king, a palace in heaven), etc.  And we know the churches he built because they exist to this day: not that the original structures are still standing 1,900 years later, but newer structures were built on the same foundation/spot as the original churches.  There has been an unbroken Christian presence in those places from the time of St Thomas.  It makes no sense for him to have preached, baptised, and even gone through the trouble of building actual church buildings (however complex or primitive they might have been) but not ordain bishops who would carry on the work after him.  Even if he didn't actually build the buildings, it is still clear that his reputation as a carpenter is being applied to his establishment of Churches (communities) in particular places, which have names (which we do know).  He would've ordained bishops for these communities in the twenty years during which he evangelised India.   

Quote
The earliest reference I can find appears to be to the consecration of Mar Thoma I in 1653.  Before that time, the Church seems to have been governed by Mooppens (called "Archdeacons" in Western histories, though the term doesn't actually refer to an archdeacon in the classical sense).  There are also others who assert that Mar Thoma I himself never claimed to sit on the Throne of St. Thomas and that the term didn't appear until the 20th century.

I would say that a മൂപ്പൻ (mooppan) was more like an ethnarch: the head of a particular race or tribe.  Since the Christians in pre-Portuguese days were basically one community, they were regarded more or less like a caste.  Due to the links between the Church in India and the East Syrian Church which would develop a few centuries after St Thomas' mission, links which brought the Church in India more in line with what we would recognise as regular ecclesiastical order, the leader of the community could very well have been an archdeacon.  The order of deacons has always been closely linked to the bishop, and the archdeacon in particular was the right hand of the bishop.  Syriac tradition allows for both deacons and priests to be elevated to the archdiaconate, and so this is one way that the leadership of the local Church in India in later centuries may have been independent in an administrative sense while being dependent on bishops from the neighbouring Church for those things which require the specific "powers" of a bishop (e.g., ordinations, chrism)...appointing a priest as archdeacon would also link that person closely with the bishop offering spiritual care.

The term "Throne of St Thomas", as used in the 20th century, has a very distinct trajectory: it has precedent in history (if it did not, it would be manifestly foolish, as it is when Eastern Catholic and Protestant groups less than two hundred years old try to use it), but its recent history is inextricably linked to the internal dispute in the Orthodox Church between "autocephalous" and "autonomous" factions.   

You might find this timeline somewhat helpful and definitely interesting.  It doesn't address certain questions, of course, but it's worth a good look. 
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« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2014, 12:18:24 AM »

More below.       

I forgot to add the more.  Tongue

I said that there were possible reasons why there is no extant list of names of the line of succession from St Thomas in India.  One is related to the climate: humid, tropical, southwestern India is not as good a place to preserve ancient manuscripts as, say, the dry Egyptian deserts.  Another issue is the advent of the Portuguese colonists and their missionaries' attempt to subjugate the native Church to the Roman Church.  Among their tactics was the systematic destruction of books, records, and other artifacts.  Honestly, there are fifteen centuries of our own history about which we know very little compared to what other Churches know of their history during that time: it's hardly unreasonable to presume that, in their attempt to conquer the local Church and redefine its history, they would seek to erase from the historical record lists of succession, histories, and similar records.  We depend on whatever artifacts the climate and the Portuguese managed not to destroy, extra-Indian writings and scholarship, oral tradition, archaeology, and other means to piece this part of our history together, but it's not without "holes".   
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« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2014, 12:51:20 AM »

Mor, do you know of anywhere I could read more about the history of Western Christianity colonizing Indian Christianity that doesn't favor the former?
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« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2014, 01:04:06 AM »

I'm too tired to come up with that list right now, so let me think about it some and, if others don't chime in first, I'll see what I can come up with.  Tongue
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« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2014, 12:21:48 PM »

Thank you, Mor.  The information you've provided is very helpful and much appreciated.  In the main, I agree with you, but I'd like to tease this out a bit further for my own elucidation, if you don't mind.

Rarely is there a truly "unbroken" succession, even though there is always continuity....Another issue is how you define "throne".  Frankly, the entire debate, as it currently exists in India, is rather anachronistic: the apostles didn't establish cathedrals and sit in thrones to preach during the Liturgy, so in what sense can we speak of "throne" at this early stage other than "episcopal succession"?  So if we're going to ask "Did St Thomas ordain a bishop to succeed him?"...

Yes, an immediate successor consecrated before St. Thomas's martyrdom, continuity, and gaps which are both infrequent and not of enormous length are what I would consider to be an "unbroken" succession.

The first is that, to the best of my knowledge, the distinction between episcopacy and presbyterate that we recognise today wasn't so clear-cut in the apostolic era.  St Paul, for example, writes only of bishops and deacons, even though we accept that the presbyterate is also an "apostolic" order.  So were "presbyters" simply what we would recognise as "bishops" without authority over a local Church ("general bishops", "auxiliary bishops", "titular bishops", etc. are still bishops, after all)?  I'm not certain that the distinctions we recognise today applied back then, so if anyone was ordained by St Thomas who wasn't a deacon, such a person would've been ordained as what we recognise as a bishop: someone with pastoral authority over a local Church with the ability to ordain ministers for his own Church, including successors.

This is a fair point, but not entirely unassailable.  St. Mark, for example, is said to have ordained (on the same occasion) his successor Pope St. Anianus as ἐπίσκοπος (with the power to ordain) along with three priests (without said power) and seven deacons.  I'm not saying that this totally invalidates your assertion that the lines between bishops and priests were not as hard and fast in the first century as they are today, but merely stating that the distinction was made at least in the Alexandrian context.  I think the key, as you've pointed out, is did St. Thomas ordain someone (or a group of people) who were empowered to ordain others, including successors.

The weight of the historical, patristic, and liturgical texts which touch upon St Thomas indicate that he did in fact ordain successors: why would he be the only one of twelve to spread the Gospel but not establish communities in the same pattern as the others?  Why would eleven apostles establish what we recognise as Orthodox Churches and the twelfth settled for what we might call "Prayer Fellowships", "Tabernacles of Praise", etc., or Orthodox Churches that, since the leaders could not ordain successors, were destined to become like the "priestless Old Believers"?

This is a very fair point, and I agree, but, the possibility also exists that St. Thomas did establish such communities, complete with episcopal overseers, and that for whatever reason these did not endure and consequently these communities became dependant upon other sees.  For example, according to his hagiography, St. Matthew established a church in Ethiopia, and, before he was martyred by a local king (whose name is Romanized as "Fulvian" in the hagiography) he ordained a successor: St. Platon.  Upon St. Matthew's death, St. Platon became the bishop of Ethiopia.  Then, a repentant Fulvian, absolved by the hand of St. Platon, renouncing his royal throne and taking the baptismal name of Matthew, became a celibate priest and, upon St. Platon's death, the third bishop of Ethiopia.  For whatever reason, however, this line did not endure, and the Ethiopian Patriarchs of today sit on the throne of St. Tekla Haymanote, having never asserted that they sit upon the Throne of St. Matthew the Apostle.

Some argue that this is because this story took place not in Ethiopia proper (i.e. Abyssinia), but in Nubia (since the term Ethiopia was broadly applied to several African and Asiatic nations by the Graeco-Roman cultures) but even then, as with Ethiopia proper (i.e. Abyssinia) Nubia also became dependant upon Alexandria and never claimed succession from St. Matthew, St. Platon, and St. Matthew-Fulvian.  As with the situation you're describing in India, the reasons as to why have been lost in the mists of time.  I'm very curious as to why India eventually became dependant upon the Catholicos of the East in Persia when it had its own Apostle and, according to what you've posted here (which I don't discount) its own bishops to succeed him.  (I'd also love to know why no enduring Throne of St. Matthew ever appeared in any of the "Ethiopias", and why they all became dependant upon the Throne of St. Mark for so many centuries, but that's another discussion.)

This leads to some interesting questions in itself:

Let's say for the sake of argument that at some point the line of St. Thomas was lost to the ages as was the line of St. Matthew in Ethiopia.  Would it be possible for a modern bishop to claim the title anyway and "reconstitute" or "revitalize" the line of St. Thomas?  In other words, to claim the title despite his own succession coming from Antioch as with the modern bishops of India?

Do any of the bishops of India today - in any faction - claim that their succession comes from St. Thomas and not from Antioch?

It is true that, AFAIK, there is no list of names, but there are a few possibilities as to why such things have not survived to this day.  More below...

The "more below" is readily acknowledged and highly probable, especially the part about the brutality and destructiveness of what might be termed the Portuguese "inquisition" in India.  Fair point indeed.  If such records did exist, it is highly probable that they were destroyed by the Western wolves, who similarly destroyed many Orthodox manuscripts during their incursion into Ethiopia in an attempt to separate the Ethiopian Church from their Orthodoxy and force her under Rome.

The second reason why I think St Thomas actually ordained bishops is that there is an undisputed tradition that St Thomas "built" seven churches in Kerala.  Much of the hagiography makes a point of the fact that he was a carpenter, that he was skilled, that he was commissioned by kings to build palaces but built churches instead (which became, for the king, a palace in heaven), etc.  And we know the churches he built because they exist to this day: not that the original structures are still standing 1,900 years later, but newer structures were built on the same foundation/spot as the original churches.  There has been an unbroken Christian presence in those places from the time of St Thomas.  It makes no sense for him to have preached, baptised, and even gone through the trouble of building actual church buildings (however complex or primitive they might have been) but not ordain bishops who would carry on the work after him.  Even if he didn't actually build the buildings, it is still clear that his reputation as a carpenter is being applied to his establishment of Churches (communities) in particular places, which have names (which we do know).  He would've ordained bishops for these communities in the twenty years during which he evangelised India.

Again, a very fair point.  Excellent.  

I would say that a മൂപ്പൻ (mooppan) was more like an ethnarch: the head of a particular race or tribe.


Not to be confused with the Moops who once ruled Spain.



There, I got that out of the way and preemptively derailed the dicussion before anyone else could.  You know, like a controlled burn in forest management.

Since the Christians in pre-Portuguese days were basically one community, they were regarded more or less like a caste.  Due to the links between the Church in India and the East Syrian Church which would develop a few centuries after St Thomas' mission, links which brought the Church in India more in line with what we would recognise as regular ecclesiastical order, the leader of the community could very well have been an archdeacon.  The order of deacons has always been closely linked to the bishop, and the archdeacon in particular was the right hand of the bishop.  Syriac tradition allows for both deacons and priests to be elevated to the archdiaconate, and so this is one way that the leadership of the local Church in India in later centuries may have been independent in an administrative sense while being dependent on bishops from the neighbouring Church for those things which require the specific "powers" of a bishop (e.g., ordinations, chrism)...appointing a priest as archdeacon would also link that person closely with the bishop offering spiritual care.

This is fascinating.  So you're saying that due to the unique circumstances in India (i.e. the caste system, endogamous groups, connections to the East Syriac Church, et cetera) that the office of the mooppan developed.  He was at once a bishop/ethnarch (though not precisely in the same sense as the Eastern Orthodox ethnarchs during the Ottoman period) and an archdeacon, with the power to ordain priests, et cetera.  It also leads to some additional questions (which may not be answerable due to paucity of records):

Did the Indian Church have a synod during this period?

If not, did it send bishops to participate in the synod of the East Syriac Church in Persia?

Were the mooppans regarded as bishops outside of India?

For that matter, was there a distinction in India between mooppans and bishops, or were they not seen as being distinct offices?

If the mooppans had the power to ordain, how did India become dependant upon the Catholicos of the East prior to the Portuguese invasion?

The term "Throne of St Thomas", as used in the 20th century, has a very distinct trajectory: it has precedent in history (if it did not, it would be manifestly foolish, as it is when Eastern Catholic and Protestant groups less than two hundred years old try to use it), but its recent history is inextricably linked to the internal dispute in the Orthodox Church between "autocephalous" and "autonomous" factions.
 

With one using it as a means to assert independence against Antioch and the other denying its existince to thwart the former, yes?  Or is this incorrect?

I'm sure you can see how this can all be confusing for an outsider trying to get a clear picture here.  There seems to be (possibly) three Orthodox lines of succession operating in the same Church in the same small region:

West Syrian (Antioch)

East Syrian (Seleucia-Ctesiphon/Church of the East - not to be confused with the Nestorian Church of the East in the same region)

Throne of St. Thomas

A bit hard to keep track of, especially when you've got manuscripts rotting in the humidity and the mad-dog Portuguese burning everything in sight and drowning bishops at sea.

You might find this timeline somewhat helpful and definitely interesting.  It doesn't address certain questions, of course, but it's worth a good look.  

Thanks.  It was very interesting.  It did mention the Council of Seleucia-Ctesiphon in 410, but did not specify if India sent a bishop to participate.

Also, I'm hoping you'll explain this bit for me, related to the discussion of mooppans and bishops above:

Quote
The Christian community in Malabar eventually developed a model of self-governance under a native leader, who was known as the Archdeacon. The Archdeacon was the religious, social, communal and political leader of the St. Thomas Christians. All the Archdeacons we know of were also priests. In later centuries, the community is described as a 'Christian Republic'. The bishops for the most part exercised the power of order only.

What does the bolded bit - "power of order only" - mean regarding Indian bishops of the period?

Mor, do you know of anywhere I could read more about the history of Western Christianity colonizing Indian Christianity that doesn't favor the former?

One very good book (though somewhat biased) is The Indian Christians of St. Thomas by Leslie Brown, a bishop and Oxford academic of the COE.
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« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2014, 01:52:36 PM »

East Syrian (Seleucia-Ctesiphon/Church of the East - not to be confused with the Nestorian Church of the East in the same region)
If I may interject: at what point was there a non-Nestorian East Syrian Rite church anywhere after Ephesus? As I understood it, the see of Seleucia-Ctesiphon went Nestorian after that council to distinguish itself from Rome, and all Assyrians with it.
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« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2014, 03:48:29 PM »

If I may interject: at what point was there a non-Nestorian East Syrian Rite church anywhere after Ephesus? As I understood it, the see of Seleucia-Ctesiphon went Nestorian after that council to distinguish itself from Rome, and all Assyrians with it.

This was always my understanding too, but lately, on the websites of churches belonging to both of the Orthodox factions in India, I've seen the idea advanced that there was always an Orthodox presence in the region, albeit a diminished one, that maintained ties with the Orthodox faithful in India.  Further, websites of the autocephalous faction advance the idea that the title of the primate of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, Catholicos of the East, was preserved in the Orthodox faction and eventually transferred to the Orthodox prelates of India some time after the Nestorian apostasy.  As here:

Quote
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.

http://www.catholicose.org/PauloseII/Catholicate.htm

And from the wikipedia article "Catholicose of the East and Malankara Metropolitan"

Quote
In 431, the Council of Ephesus condemned the teachings of Nestorius, who was the Patriarch of Constantinople. After the council, a significant portion of the Church in Persia nevertheless adopted Nestorian teachings concerning the nature of Christ.
 
In 544, Theodosius, the Patriarch of Alexandria, ordained Bishop Mar Jacob Baradaeus for the expansion of a Syriac Church weakened by Byzantine persecution subsequent to the Council of Chalcedon. In 559, Mar Jacob visited the east and consecrated a Catholicos for Orthodox Christians who accepted the Council of Ephesus and rejected the Council of Chalcedon. Mar Jacob himself was ordained a general bishop by Patriarch Theodosius of Alexandria.

The Indian Orthodox Church holds that the Catholicate was originally instituted by St. Thomas the Apostle, en route to India. The Synod of Markabata, presided over by Catholicos Dadyeshu, confirmed the independence of the Persian church. The Synod proclaimed:
 
"By the word of God we define: The Easterners cannot complain against the Patriarch to western Patriarchs; that every case that cannot be settled in his presence must await the judgement of Christ...(and) on no grounds whatever one can think or say that the Catholicos of the East can be judged by those who are below him, or by a Patriarch equal to him he himself must be the judge of all those beneath him, and he can be judged only by Christ who has chosen him, elevated him and placed him at the head of his church."
 
The church recognizes that the Catholicate was briefly brought under the Patriarchate of Antioch, during the Nestorian Persecution and reduced to the position of a 'Maphriyan,' roughly similar to an Arch-Metropolitan, or the Catholic post of "Major Archbishop."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholicos_of_The_East_and_Malankara_Metropolitan
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« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2014, 04:22:58 PM »

This is a fair point, but not entirely unassailable.  St. Mark, for example, is said to have ordained (on the same occasion) his successor Pope St. Anianus as ἐπίσκοπος (with the power to ordain) along with three priests (without said power) and seven deacons.  I'm not saying that this totally invalidates your assertion that the lines between bishops and priests were not as hard and fast in the first century as they are today, but merely stating that the distinction was made at least in the Alexandrian context.  I think the key, as you've pointed out, is did St. Thomas ordain someone (or a group of people) who were empowered to ordain others, including successors.

Is it specified in the Alexandrian tradition that the presbyters ordained by St Mark specifically lacked the power to ordain?  I can see the ordination of St Anianus as bishop and the others as priests meaning what we would think it means, but I can also see it being an "administrative" distinction and not necessarily a sacramental one: it would clarify who is the leader, whose succession represents the authentic succession were a schism to develop, etc., but not necessarily indicate that there was a "sacramental inequality" between St Anianus and the presbyters.  But it could be as you say, and that would be interesting.

Quote
Let's say for the sake of argument that at some point the line of St. Thomas was lost to the ages as was the line of St. Matthew in Ethiopia.  Would it be possible for a modern bishop to claim the title anyway and "reconstitute" or "revitalize" the line of St. Thomas?  In other words, to claim the title despite his own succession coming from Antioch as with the modern bishops of India?

Well, that is sort of what happened. 

We cannot say for sure what happened with any succession left behind by St Thomas.  We know he ordained leaders, and we know he built churches/communities.  At least one of them would've been a bishop as we know it, but it is more probable IMO that there were up to seven.  At any rate, what happened to those lines is unknown.  What is not often remembered is that St Thomas was active throughout the East.  For example, the Church of Persia (East Syriac) traces its lineage back to St Thomas directly, and despite the emphasis on the work of SS Peter and Paul in Antioch, the third apostle (if you could call him that) of the Church of Antioch is St Thomas because of his work in "Syriac" regions.  According to Armenian tradition (at least as I read on their Eastern US diocese's website), it was St Thomas who appointed the apostles SS Thaddeus and Bartholomew (the latter was also active in India) to take the gospel to Armenia.  He's usually known only for having doubted Christ, but arguably he worked at least as hard as St Paul, though without leaving behind a corpus of writings. 

Fast forward to the fifth century: with the advent of Nestorianism, the Church of Persia was divided into "Nestorian" and "Orthodox" groups.  Each had a Catholicos claiming the original lineage from St Thomas, but since the Orthodox group was the minority, there was a greater reliance on the Church of Antioch for support.  This Catholicosate continued for some centuries (IIRC, Bar Hebraeus was one of the occupants of the see) before falling out of use. 

Huge leap forward to the twentieth century: when what we know now as the autocephalous faction of the Indian Church claimed its independence in 1912, the Patriarch of Antioch Abdul Mshiho (deposed from the see at the time: of course, the reasons for this, and their legitimacy, are debate) appointed one of the Indian bishops (not the Metropolitan of Malankara, but another bishop) as Catholicos, resurrecting the lineage of the Orthodox Catholicosate in Persia that had died out centuries before.  It is in THAT sense that the primates of the independent Indian Church claim the lineage of St Thomas: canonically they claim the Persian lineage, even if they might claim the Indian lineage "in spirit".    Basically, the Indian Catholicos is considered the "Orthodox" counterpart of HH Mar Dinkha IV of Seleucia-Ctesiphon (currently based in Chicago): he is the Orthodox Catholicos of the Orthodox Church of the East, of which the Metropolis of India was a part.  Technically, the office of Catholicos of the East and the office of Metropolitan of Malankara are separate offices and could (and originally were) held by two different individuals, though they are held by one person now and have been for some time.  Whatever controversy might have been sparked by this "translation" of the Catholicosate in the post-1912 period, upon the reconciliation effected by both factions in 1957, this was accepted as a given, and at least implicitly confirmed at the 1965 council in Addis.     

Quote
Do any of the bishops of India today - in any faction - claim that their succession comes from St. Thomas and not from Antioch?

Again, the canonical claim is that the succession is from St Thomas through the Persian line, and the autocephalous Church claims this.  I don't think the autonomous Church has ever claimed the "throne of St Thomas", even though the previous head of that jurisdiction also claimed to be the Catholicos of the East (and thus the same line), because of their dependence on Antioch.  The Malankara Catholics have recently pretended to claim this succession, but it's utterly baseless and uncanonical precisely because they're not claiming the Persian lineage.  IIRC, at least at some point if not now, the head of the Protestant "Marthoma Church" may have also claimed the succession in this same spirit. 

Quote
This is fascinating.  So you're saying that due to the unique circumstances in India (i.e. the caste system, endogamous groups, connections to the East Syriac Church, et cetera) that the office of the mooppan developed.  He was at once a bishop/ethnarch (though not precisely in the same sense as the Eastern Orthodox ethnarchs during the Ottoman period) and an archdeacon, with the power to ordain priests, et cetera.

It's not clear that he was a bishop: probably he was just a presbyter who was also an archdeacon.  There may have been "foreign" bishops resident in India (one of those links I posted yesterday claims that much), but no indigenous bishops.  The leader of the community, then, was the archdeacon.  As the right hand of the bishop, archdeacons have certain canonical prerogatives and can exercise certain types of "ordinary jurisdiction" in the name of the bishop, but they cannot ordain, consecrate churches, chrism, etc. 

Quote
Did the Indian Church have a synod during this period?

In terms of how we'd define it, probably not.  But I suppose that whatever type of "committee" existed functioned for all intents and purposes as a synod. 

Quote
If not, did it send bishops to participate in the synod of the East Syriac Church in Persia?

Since there were no indigenous bishops (at least as far as I'm aware), the bishop(s) responsible for India were a part of the Persian Church.  One of them represented the Church of India at the first ecumenical council, so I suppose they were also active in local and regional synods. 

Quote
Were the mooppans regarded as bishops outside of India?

No.

Quote
For that matter, was there a distinction in India between mooppans and bishops, or were they not seen as being distinct offices?

The primary distinction is that an archdeacon is not a bishop.  IMO, the best way to imagine the office of മൂപ്പൻ is to consider him as an ethnarch: the leader of what is considered to be a particular caste united by common religious and cultural ties.  It means very little in terms of ecclesiastical order because there is no such position in the canonical tradition of the Church.  Whatever ecclesiastical prerogatives were proper to the മൂപ്പൻ existed because he was simultaneously archdeacon. 

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If the mooppans had the power to ordain, how did India become dependant upon the Catholicos of the East prior to the Portuguese invasion?

St Thomas came to India, so we believe, because he was evangelising in areas with Jewish communities (India had these, and they exist to this day).  We presume that they would've had the OT with them, and our tradition is that St Thomas brought with him a Hebrew copy of St Matthew's Gospel.  But that's it: no other Gospels, no Epistles.  We're not certain what the liturgical life of this community was, except to imagine that it might've been some blend of synagogue worship with the Eucharist.  There was a wave of emigration from the East to India in the fourth century (the group known as Knanaites), as well as other groups before and possibly after which weren't so endogamous.  By this time, regional liturgical traditions were being developed and synthesised, and probably due to their influence, the "atypical" life and organisation of the Church in India was brought in line with standards that prevailed in the rest of the Church: a particular liturgical rite, the full canon of Scripture, models of ecclesiastical governance, etc.  And that link simply continued.  There's no indication, AFAIK, that there was indigenous opposition to this, or that the immigrants were trying to take over the Church in a hostile manner, ISTM it was just the normalising of what was a unique context.       

Quote
The term "Throne of St Thomas", as used in the 20th century, has a very distinct trajectory: it has precedent in history (if it did not, it would be manifestly foolish, as it is when Eastern Catholic and Protestant groups less than two hundred years old try to use it), but its recent history is inextricably linked to the internal dispute in the Orthodox Church between "autocephalous" and "autonomous" factions.
 

With one using it as a means to assert independence against Antioch and the other denying its existince to thwart the former, yes?

Basically.

Quote
Quote
The Christian community in Malabar eventually developed a model of self-governance under a native leader, who was known as the Archdeacon. The Archdeacon was the religious, social, communal and political leader of the St. Thomas Christians. All the Archdeacons we know of were also priests. In later centuries, the community is described as a 'Christian Republic'. The bishops for the most part exercised the power of order only.

What does the bolded bit - "power of order only" - mean regarding Indian bishops of the period?

As above, it means that bishops did things only bishops could do: ordain, consecrate chrism, churches, etc.
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« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2014, 04:28:47 PM »

If I may interject: at what point was there a non-Nestorian East Syrian Rite church anywhere after Ephesus? As I understood it, the see of Seleucia-Ctesiphon went Nestorian after that council to distinguish itself from Rome, and all Assyrians with it.

This was always my understanding too, but lately, on the websites of churches belonging to both of the Orthodox factions in India, I've seen the idea advanced that there was always an Orthodox presence in the region, albeit a diminished one, that maintained ties with the Orthodox faithful in India.  Further, websites of the autocephalous faction advance the idea that the title of the primate of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, Catholicos of the East, was preserved in the Orthodox faction and eventually transferred to the Orthodox prelates of India some time after the Nestorian apostasy. 

Since I've addressed this above, I'll simply add that we know, based on things that have survived the ravages of time, that there were "Orthodox" East Syrians.  For instance, in my reading I've come across references to some literature and/or archaeological finds in India which predate the Portuguese but are well after the third ecumenical council which refer to our Lady as Theotokos.  There is also some extant literature which is basically anti-Chalcedonian polemic.  Neither of these things would be palatable to the "Nestorian-minded", and only one would be acceptable to the Portuguese. 
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« Reply #10 on: January 09, 2014, 08:33:20 PM »

Is it specified in the Alexandrian tradition that the presbyters ordained by St Mark specifically lacked the power to ordain?  I can see the ordination of St Anianus as bishop and the others as priests meaning what we would think it means, but I can also see it being an "administrative" distinction and not necessarily a sacramental one: it would clarify who is the leader, whose succession represents the authentic succession were a schism to develop, etc., but not necessarily indicate that there was a "sacramental inequality" between St Anianus and the presbyters.  But it could be as you say, and that would be interesting.

You could be right.  It is true that the distinctions between the presbyteroi and the episkopoi weren't solidified until after the Apostles had reposed.  I suppose that the relationship between St. Anianus and his priests c. 68 AD could be open to interpretation in that regard.  At any rate, I'm not sure a debate on this score would be either helpful or necessary in order to establish that St. Thomas ordained a successor in India before his repose.

St. Paul does mention priests in his Epistle to St. Titus 1:5-7, and in this context, the terms seem to be used pretty much interchangeably.

If we are then considering eposkopoi and presbyteroi to be pretty much analogous during the Apostolic era, would you consider Siphor to be St. Thomas's immediate successor? (I realize that, as you've clarified, the Thomite succession in India comes from the East Syriac Church of Persia, not St. Thomas's mission in India itself.)  Is there any tradition of that in India?  Is Siphor regarded as a saint?

 
Huge leap forward to the twentieth century: when what we know now as the autocephalous faction of the Indian Church claimed its independence in 1912, the Patriarch of Antioch Abdul Mshiho (deposed from the see at the time: of course, the reasons for this, and their legitimacy, are debate) appointed one of the Indian bishops (not the Metropolitan of Malankara, but another bishop) as Catholicos, resurrecting the lineage of the Orthodox Catholicosate in Persia that had died out centuries before.  It is in THAT sense that the primates of the independent Indian Church claim the lineage of St Thomas: canonically they claim the Persian lineage, even if they might claim the Indian lineage "in spirit".

Fascinating!  So, if at some point the Patriarch-Catholicos of Ethiopia decided to resurrect the See of St. Matthew and add it to his titles, this would be perfectly canonical?

Basically, the Indian Catholicos is considered the "Orthodox" counterpart of HH Mar Dinkha IV of Seleucia-Ctesiphon (currently based in Chicago): he is the Orthodox Catholicos of the Orthodox Church of the East, of which the Metropolis of India was a part.


Cool.  This is very interesting.

Technically, the office of Catholicos of the East and the office of Metropolitan of Malankara are separate offices and could (and originally were) held by two different individuals, though they are held by one person now and have been for some time.
 

I'd imagine, never to be separated again.

Again, the canonical claim is that the succession is from St Thomas through the Persian line, and the autocephalous Church claims this.

Did the Indian bishops need the (deposed) Patriarch of Antioch to resurrect the Thomite line for them, or could they have done it on their own?

IIRC, at least at some point if not now, the head of the Protestant "Marthoma Church" may have also claimed the succession in this same spirit.  

Yeah, in fact, on the wiki page for the Throne of St. Thomas, it says:

Quote
The malankara simhasanam (malankara throne or st thomas throne ) is now under the custody of malankara marthoma syrian church.

Thanks again for all the info, and for helping me to finally understand exactly what the role of the mooppan in Keralite society was!
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« Reply #11 on: January 09, 2014, 10:26:48 PM »

If we are then considering eposkopoi and presbyteroi to be pretty much analogous during the Apostolic era, would you consider Siphor to be St. Thomas's immediate successor? (I realize that, as you've clarified, the Thomite succession in India comes from the East Syriac Church of Persia, not St. Thomas's mission in India itself.)  Is there any tradition of that in India?  Is Siphor regarded as a saint?

I have no idea because I hadn't heard of him before you mentioned him.  Is this a name preserved in Coptic tradition?  Some other source? 

Quote
So, if at some point the Patriarch-Catholicos of Ethiopia decided to resurrect the See of St. Matthew and add it to his titles, this would be perfectly canonical?

Without knowing more about the history, I hesitate to say.  For it to be a parallel of the Indian situation, it would have to be a translation to Ethiopia of another see with a Matthewite succession.  Was the see of St Matthew in a different location from the current see?  Is the location of that see within the jurisdiction of the current see? 

Quote
Technically, the office of Catholicos of the East and the office of Metropolitan of Malankara are separate offices and could (and originally were) held by two different individuals, though they are held by one person now and have been for some time.
 

I'd imagine, never to be separated again.

Probably.  There doesn't seem to be any need to do otherwise.  Any non-Indians who are Orthodox and live within the jurisdiction of the Church of the East probably depend happily on Antioch, so I doubt there will be an interest in resurrecting a multi-national jurisdiction. 

Quote
Did the Indian bishops need the (deposed) Patriarch of Antioch to resurrect the Thomite line for them, or could they have done it on their own?

I don't see how they could've claimed the Persian see without having it translated to India by what would be recognised by the people as a higher authority.  I suppose they could've claimed an Indian succession on their own initiative, but what would that even mean in the absence of so much history? 

In the 17th century, in the wake of Portuguese activity, and claiming an Alexandrian precedent IIRC, twelve priests ordained another priest as a bishop with the name Mar Thoma I: when the Syrian Orthodox bishop of Jerusalem visited India in 1665, he regularised this "ordination" by ordaining him to the episcopate properly. 

Similarly, I think there wouldn't be so much of a future for a specifically Indian line of succession for reasons already stated...it, too, would probably be "corrected" down the line.  By transferring the Persian succession in 1912, mutual acceptance of this during the 1957 reconciliation and at the 1965 council in Addis, it has been recognised as legitimate by all except those with an interest in not accepting it.  It's not perfect, but it is legitimate.   
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« Reply #12 on: January 09, 2014, 10:28:27 PM »

 
Huge leap forward to the twentieth century: when what we know now as the autocephalous faction of the Indian Church claimed its independence in 1912, the Patriarch of Antioch Abdul Mshiho (deposed from the see at the time: of course, the reasons for this, and their legitimacy, are debate) appointed one of the Indian bishops (not the Metropolitan of Malankara, but another bishop) as Catholicos, resurrecting the lineage of the Orthodox Catholicosate in Persia that had died out centuries before.  It is in THAT sense that the primates of the independent Indian Church claim the lineage of St Thomas: canonically they claim the Persian lineage, even if they might claim the Indian lineage "in spirit".

Fascinating!  So, if at some point the Patriarch-Catholicos of Ethiopia decided to resurrect the See of St. Matthew and add it to his titles, this would be perfectly canonical?

Did the Indian bishops need the (deposed) Patriarch of Antioch to resurrect the Thomite line for them, or could they have done it on their own?
Please keep in mind the majority of the Indian Bishops in 1912 were not ready for breaking away from the Syriac Patriarchate of Antioch. Other than Bishop Mar Ivanios Murimattathil who was installed as the Catholicose, only Bishop Mar Divannasious Vattasseril was for this. The other 4 bishops out of the total of 6 Bishops in India at that time was against this. There was no way Mar Divannasious Vattesseril by himself could have enthroned Mar Ivanious Murimattathil as Catholicose. A minimum of 3 Bishops was needed for this. This is where the deposed Patriarch of Antioch comes in. The deposed Patriarch Abdul Mshiho , Mar Ivanious the Candidate to be Catholicose , and Mar Divannasious (that makes it 3 bishops) ordained Monk Geevarghese Punnose Kallasseril as Mar Gregorious Kallasseril on 8-Sept-1912 then a week later on 15-Sept-1912 this new Bishop Mar Gregorious Kallasseril, the deposed Patriarch Abdul Mshiho and Mar Divannasious Vattesseril (that makes it 3 bishops) in turn enthrones Mar Ivanious Murimattathil as Catholicose Baselious Paulose I.

That is why the Indian Bishops needed the help of a deposed Patriarch.

https://sites.google.com/site/malankarathoughts/


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« Reply #13 on: January 10, 2014, 09:00:13 AM »

I have no idea because I hadn't heard of him before you mentioned him.  Is this a name preserved in Coptic tradition?  Some other source?

I've read about him in the Acts of Thomas and the Lives of the Apostles (the latter published by the EO Holy Apostles Convent).  The reason I mentioned him is because in these works, he is named and clearly identified as being ordained as a πρεσβύτερος by St. Thomas before his martyrdom.  I realize that neither of the Orthodox factions in India claims succession from any of the bishops or presbyters St. Thomas might've ordained there, but based on these works, Siphor is clearly the latter.  I was just wondering if there was any additional extant hagiography concerning his life and ministry post-St. Thomas.

Without knowing more about the history, I hesitate to say.  For it to be a parallel of the Indian situation, it would have to be a translation to Ethiopia of another see with a Matthewite succession.  Was the see of St Matthew in a different location from the current see?  Is the location of that see within the jurisdiction of the current see?

If the story actually took place in Nubia - as some contend - I guess it would be analogous.  If it actually did take place in Abyssinia, however, I guess not.  It all depends upon what was intended by the term Αἰθιοπία.  It's a moot point anyway, as the Ethiopian Church has shown no interest in the Throne of St. Matthew, and the above-mentioned story doesn't appear in their tradition or synaxarium.

Please keep in mind the majority of the Indian Bishops in 1912 were not ready for breaking away from the Syriac Patriarchate of Antioch. Other than Bishop Mar Ivanios Murimattathil who was installed as the Catholicose, only Bishop Mar Divannasious Vattasseril was for this. The other 4 bishops out of the total of 6 Bishops in India at that time was against this. There was no way Mar Divannasious Vattesseril by himself could have enthroned Mar Ivanious Murimattathil as Catholicose. A minimum of 3 Bishops was needed for this. This is where the deposed Patriarch of Antioch comes in. The deposed Patriarch Abdul Mshiho , Mar Ivanious the Candidate to be Catholicose , and Mar Divannasious (that makes it 3 bishops) ordained Monk Geevarghese Punnose Kallasseril as Mar Gregorious Kallasseril on 8-Sept-1912 then a week later on 15-Sept-1912 this new Bishop Mar Gregorious Kallasseril, the deposed Patriarch Abdul Mshiho and Mar Divannasious Vattesseril (that makes it 3 bishops) in turn enthrones Mar Ivanious Murimattathil as Catholicose Baselious Paulose I.

That is why the Indian Bishops needed the help of a deposed Patriarch.

https://sites.google.com/site/malankarathoughts/


Thanks for this additional information, dhinnus.  Without taking sides, I have to admit that this site makes some very valid points.  It's often hard for a non-Keralite to discern what is true from what is false in this struggle, but I have read that the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch is ready to recognize the autocephaly of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church provided that the latter desists from seizing and/or suing for the properties of the Jacobite Church (I know this can be a problematic term, used in India only for legal reasons) and allows those who wish to remain in the autonomous church to do so in peace.

Regarding H.H. Mor Abdul Mshiho, I have read that he was indeed deposed for reasons relating to his mental health.  I don't feel like searching for the source at the moment (and I'm not sure its available online anyway), but the story I'm familiar with is that he basically had a nervous breakdown in the aftermath of one of the many slaughters of the Syriac people by the Turks.  He was surveying the damage, riding his horse through a decimated village, and the horse kept bridling because it couldn't help but step on the bodies in the streets.  The Patriarch was overcome.  Eventually, a European physician treating him prescribed alcohol (I think it was brandy) to help soothe his nerves.  In the long run, this made things worse, and the Patriarch eventually became unfit to carry out his duties.  This story didn't have anything to do with India, just the reasons for the Synod's decision to remove a patriarch who had become incapable of carrying out his duties.  It's just one story, however, and I could be wrong.  Someone from the SyriaC Church would know for sure.
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« Reply #14 on: January 10, 2014, 10:25:05 AM »

IIRC, nearly all the early Traditions connect St. Thomas to Parthia, as in Eusebius
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf201.iii.viii.i.html

Parthia would be the closest to India, although the most direct route at the time came from Egypt.
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« Reply #15 on: January 10, 2014, 06:29:37 PM »

I think more than anything, one needs to recognize that whether Peter or Thomas or Mark or Andrew, we all carry an Apostolic tradition.  For all I care, to be honest, I'm not sure it makes any difference if the Ethiopian Church one day calls itself the "see of St. Philip or St. Matthew".  What I do care is in fact an Apostolic lineage indeed?  We as Copts carry the same lineage as the Syriac through St. Jacob Baradeus, a very important bishop.  That does not mean we "lost" Markan descent.

Consider St. Ireneus of Lyons (which is waaaaay west of Smyrna).  He takes his lineage to St. Polycarp, who takes his lineage to St. John.  Sadly, I hear of no "see of St. John" or "see of St. Jude" or any see of the disciples.  No apostle ever really cared about geographical overlapping in their ministry.  They established bishops in geographical areas where later on they would take upon the work of the lineage of the faith.  Perhaps, the See of St. Mark might have really been the "See of St. Peter", where St. Peter established St. Mark as a bishop of Alexandria.  St. Peter established a bishop for Antioch.  St. Peter established a bishop for part of Rome and St. Paul established another one for another part of Rome.  The point is, the establishment of bishops have become the first part of the ministry.  Later on, the Church chose practically 3 political centers of the world to represent all of Christianity, to unite all the bishops of the Apostolic lineage:  Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch, and these 3 were not because of a particular Apostle, but because they were political centers.  Later on, this 3 expanded to 4 including Jerusalem, and then 5, including Constantinople.  Today, we have numerous political centers of the world.  We need to recognize this.  Otherwise, we only dress up "Petrine Primacy" theology with a different name, "Markan Primacy", "Thomas Primacy", "Thaddian/Bartholemian Primacy", "Andrew Primacy", etc. 

I like how Fr. Laurent Cleenewerk sums up the Apostolic lineage, who describes all Orthodox Christians should claim to have "Petrine lineage".  It is indeed the person of Peter who we all as churches of the Apostles inherit.  What was given to Peter in Matthew 16 is given to the rest of the Apostles in Matthew 18.  "Apostolic Church" is "Petrine Church" in the sense that we all can take a lesson from St. Peter to be the first among many to pronounce the Orthodox faith.  The Petrine Church is not limited to just Rome, but to all major sees of all political centers in the world that can trace itself back to the Apostles.  All sees are the see of St. Peter, the see of St. Paul, the see of St. Mark, the see of St. Thomas, the see of St. Matthew, etc.  We are all the see of the Apostolic faith in Christ.

What I wish to see is that we shouldn't be so infatuated with "lording over" other geographical areas in order to "claim a more unbroken lineage" of "Apostolic descent".  This debate becomes all too similar with what the Latin Church wants to establish.
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« Reply #16 on: January 10, 2014, 08:06:03 PM »

I think more than anything, one needs to recognize that whether Peter or Thomas or Mark or Andrew, we all carry an Apostolic tradition. 

I agree 100%.

For all I care, to be honest, I'm not sure it makes any difference if the Ethiopian Church one day calls itself the "see of St. Philip or St. Matthew". 

Here I disagree a bit.  I understand what you're saying, but I do think historical accuracy is important and that we shouldn't go around claiming specific Apostolic lineages [cedric_the_entertainer]all willy-nilly[/cedric_the_entertainer].  They do matter.  Yes, we all share the same Apostolic Faith, and that's what counts, but I think it would cheapen our legitimate histories to try to rewrite the record to suit our own aims.  St. Phillip, for example, converted St. Bakos the Eunuch, but he certainly never established a see in Ethiopia, and no one would ever claim so.  I realize you're speaking in generalities here, and as I said I thoroughly agree that we all share the same Orthodox Faith as imparted to us by whatever Apostle happened to preach in our respective neck of the woods, but I also think there's something to be said for recording and reporting the history of the Church accurately.

We as Copts carry the same lineage as the Syriac through St. Jacob Baradeus, a very important bishop.  That does not mean we "lost" Markan descent.

That's true, especially since one of the bishops who ordained St. Jacob in St. Theodora's palace was Pope St. Theodosius I of Alexandria!

Consider St. Ireneus of Lyons (which is waaaaay west of Smyrna).  He takes his lineage to St. Polycarp, who takes his lineage to St. John.

Okay, but lineage is one thing and the establishment of a see is something else.  It would be ridiculous to call Lyons the See of St. Polycarp or the See of St. John.

Today, we have numerous political centers of the world.  We need to recognize this.  Otherwise, we only dress up "Petrine Primacy" theology with a different name, "Markan Primacy", "Thomas Primacy", "Thaddian/Bartholemian Primacy", "Andrew Primacy", etc...What I wish to see is that we shouldn't be so infatuated with "lording over" other geographical areas in order to "claim a more unbroken lineage" of "Apostolic descent".  This debate becomes all too similar with what the Latin Church wants to establish.

I dig you, but "lording it over" anyone is not really what this thread was about as all.  It was a simple academic question: Was the idea of the Throne of St. Thomas an ancient one or a modern one?  Mor's replies were as encyclopedic and exhaustive as anyone could ever hope to be on a message board, and everyone conducted themselves admirably.  Frankly, this is the most cordial discussion I've seen on the subject anywhere online, and I think all parties are to be applauded for their helpful dispassionate responses.

Should we insist on "primacy" of any sort and endeavor to subjugate our brothers and sisters in Christ?  Absolutely not.  Should we regard the Patriarchs and Catholicoi of all Apostolic sees maintaining the Orthodox Faith as brothers and equals.  Absolutely yes. But I don't think it's necessary to rewrite history and invent a bunch of crazy new titles in order to do so.  (Just for the record, by the way, I wouldn't consider the transfer of the Catholicate of the East from Seleucia-Ctesiphon to Kerala as described by Mor an example of this at all).

By the way, Mor, I notice that a few of the present Patriarchs of Antioch (the OO, the EO, and the Syriac Catholic) also amend the phrase "and all the East" to their titles as well.  Does this simply have to do with the traditional prerogatives of the Patriarch of Antioch, or does this have anything to do with the Catholicate of the East as well?

I've learned loads here, and I truly thank everyone for their restraint and helpfulness.  May God bless and heal His Church in India!
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« Reply #17 on: January 10, 2014, 09:32:36 PM »

By the way, Mor, I notice that a few of the present Patriarchs of Antioch (the OO, the EO, and the Syriac Catholic) also amend the phrase "and all the East" to their titles as well.  Does this simply have to do with the traditional prerogatives of the Patriarch of Antioch, or does this have anything to do with the Catholicate of the East as well?

Technically, the former: the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate is the city of Antioch and the Roman Diocese of the East.  The Church of the East, being outside the empire, was a separate jurisdiction.  Of course, with the post-Ephesian schism and the increasing tendency of the Orthodox Church of the East to rely on Antioch, the latter's "and all the East" was taken to include this jurisdiction as well (and in Churches without an Orthodox Church of the East, such as the EO and the EC's, it does technically include this jurisdiction...not that anyone is paying attention). 
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« Reply #18 on: January 10, 2014, 09:45:00 PM »

Technically, the former: the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate is the city of Antioch and the Roman Diocese of the East.  The Church of the East, being outside the empire, was a separate jurisdiction.  Of course, with the post-Ephesian schism and the increasing tendency of the Orthodox Church of the East to rely on Antioch, the latter's "and all the East" was taken to include this jurisdiction as well (and in Churches without an Orthodox Church of the East, such as the EO and the EC's, it does technically include this jurisdiction...not that anyone is paying attention). 

Cool.  Thanks again.  You're a goldmine for Syriac Church info.
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« Reply #19 on: January 11, 2014, 03:50:24 AM »



Thanks for this additional information, dhinnus.  Without taking sides, I have to admit that this site makes some very valid points.  It's often hard for a non-Keralite to discern what is true from what is false in this struggle, but I have read that the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch is ready to recognize the autocephaly of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church provided that the latter desists from seizing and/or suing for the properties of the Jacobite Church (I know this can be a problematic term, used in India only for legal reasons) and allows those who wish to remain in the autonomous church to do so in peace.

Regarding H.H. Mor Abdul Mshiho, I have read that he was indeed deposed for reasons relating to his mental health.  I don't feel like searching for the source at the moment (and I'm not sure it’s available online anyway), but the story I'm familiar with is that he basically had a nervous breakdown in the aftermath of one of the many slaughters of the Syriac people by the Turks.  He was surveying the damage, riding his horse through a decimated village, and the horse kept bridling because it couldn't help but step on the bodies in the streets.  The Patriarch was overcome.  Eventually, a European physician treating him prescribed alcohol (I think it was brandy) to help soothe his nerves.  In the long run, this made things worse, and the Patriarch eventually became unfit to carry out his duties.  This story didn't have anything to do with India, just the reasons for the Synod's decision to remove a patriarch who had become incapable of carrying out his duties.  It's just one story, however, and I could be wrong.  Someone from the Syriac Church would know for sure.
[/quote]

Antonious, much has been said about the reasons for the deposition of Patriarch Abdul Messiah. I think a most unfortunate story about the mental health of the deposed Patriarch was introduced by later worthies who by that time had a vested interest in the matter. I think it started to gain much currency in the time of Patriarch Aprem.
None of the then witnesses from the Indian church including then Monk Augen who became a Metropolitan in the Patriarchal Party and later a Catholicos (at a time when the Church re-united) recount it .
HH Augen had visited Patriarch Abdul Messiah in Turkey during his long stay in the Middle East and had attended the First Catholicosal consecration when the Patriarch visited India in 1912. No abnormalities were recorded by any one from either party in 1912.
Indians are extremely conservative in liturgical matters, if there was a canonical issue regarding the health or morals of the Patriarch, His Holiness would not have been invited to visit India. Also I don't think it was possible for a person in advanced age who had lost his bodily integrity to have made the long journey from Mardin to India and then to have taken steps which created an immense furore then. The Patriarch's visit was vehemently opposed by the Patriarchal Party who sought to obstruct HH's passage and numerous complaints to the British authorities were made; if the then Imperial Government of India had seen something malafide being committed, it would have been stopped.
No contemporary accounts of the Patriarch Abdul Messiah’s time recount any such issues. What we have are later accounts which to my mind were brought into play to discredit and create suspicions of canonical irregularity about the creation of the 1912 Catholicosate in India.
This episode was and is not a curious side note in the difficulties of the Church in India; one of the reasons from Fr V C Samuel leaving the Patriarchal jurisdiction was his witnessing the creation of a forged Synodical Order deposing Patriarch Abdul Messiah during the period of the legal suits.
A much more reasonable view from my POV is that Patriarch Abdul Messiah was deposed in favour of Patriarch Abdullah Sadadi by the Ottoman authorities as they were so wont to do during that period.  The Sublime Porte regularly deposed ruling Patriarchs even hanging some from the doors of the Phanar.
Patriarch Abdullah’s ascension to Patriarchal authority was accepted both in the Syrian and the Indian churches de jure, but except some comments here and there, in my opinion there is no base to the unfortunate slander of Patriarch Abdul Messiah which was done merely to buttress a temporal power grab in India.
Now regarding the number of Metropolitans in the Indian Church and their respective stances during that time a few clarifications are in order.
1.   As of 1909 prior to the visit of Patriarch Abdullah to India, there were 4 Indian bishops and 1 Syrian Delegate in India.  The 4 ruling bishops were the Metropolitan Mar Dionysius VI, Mar Kurrilos Paulose, Mar Ivanios of Kandanad (the senior most Bishop) and Mar Julius (Alvares) the Bishop of Goa and Ceylon (excluding Malankara) the Syrian Delegate who acted purely as a Delegate without a Diocese was Mar Ostateos Sleeba.
2.   The Patriarch on his arrival demanded registered deeds accepting temporal authority over the diocese and the Malankara Church from all Bishops, large Parishes and even from individual laymen. As can be seen from deeds being demanded from laymen, the Patriarch was seeking to buttress his rights over the life of the Indian Church.
3.   The Metropolitan refused to sign such a deed and was subjected to frequent threats and letters from the Patriarch threatening excommunication. Neither Mar Ivanios nor Mar Julius submitted the deeds and in fact wrote a joint encyclical protesting the actions of the Patriarch when the Patriarch went ahead with his excommunication of the Metropolitan in 1911. So if the majority view of the Synod is to be considered prior to unilateral consecrations by the Patriarch, there were 3 India bishops including the Metropolitan against Mar Kurilos Paulose who by now tended towards the Patriarchal party.
4.   Subsequently without reference to the ruling Metropolitan, the other ruling Bishops and the General Synod which had been established in India by his predecessors, the Patriarch on his own initiative unilaterally consecrated 2 more Bishops after receiving the required deeds from them. Subsequently Mar Paulose Kurrilos submitted the required deed too. The argument that the Metropolitan proceeded with the establishment of the Catholicosate against the majority view of the Bishops is thus manifestly false. The Patriarch unilaterally consecrated Bishops to send a signal that he could exercise his rights without reference to established canonical customs.
5.   One of the 2 Bishops unilaterally consecrated was Mar Severios Geevarghese for the Knanaya diocese. Till that time the endogamous community and their parishes were administered by a vicar general and a Knanaya committee, thus subsisting as a part of the larger Orthodox Church in Malankara.  Subsequent events testify that this creation of a separate diocese based purely on ethnicity was the first step in the creation of a separate Autonomous Self-Governing Church dependant directly on the Patriarch, thus severing the unity of the Church in India. Today the Knanaya Syriac Orthodox Church of India is a separate self governing jurisdiction with its own Metropolitans and dioceses. The actions of Patriarch Abdullah lead to similar demands from the Eastern Catholic Southists to which Rome gave in creating the Eparchy of Kottayam against the protests of the Syro-Malabarese.  Yet Rome tried to maintain the basic canonical integrity of the Syro-Malabar Church making the Arch-Eparchy of Kottayam an integral part of the Syro-Malabar church rather than erecting yet another Sui-Juris church in India depending directly on her.
To say that Rome acted much more fairly and in a more orthodox way than fellow Orthodox is such an irony but to divide and rule has been a old tactic well tested and proven.



 
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« Reply #20 on: January 11, 2014, 11:42:01 AM »

Hi, surajiype.  Thanks for this additional information.  When I get the chance, I'd really like to do some independent research on H.H. Mor Abdul Mshiho (may he intercede at the Throne of God for my worthlessness).  I don't wish to degrade him in any way.  Perhaps what I've read about his life is exaggerated, biased or flat out untrue.  If the stories are true, however, who could blame the poor man for experiencing what we would now call PTSD?  If I were a bishop, and I had to wade through a village full of the corpses of the flock entrusted to me by God, each of whom I probably loved as my own children, and the bodies were so thick that my horse couldn't walk without stepping on them, I'd probably never be right again.  Heck, I know it'd take a lot less to scar me for life!

Regarding the information you've posted which contradicts dhinnus's claims regarding the bishops in India and who was in the majority, it really is hard for an outsider to know the difference without engaging in what would have to be an enormous amount of independent research.  Even finding non-partisan, academic sources which discuss this subject at all is exceedingly difficult (I've tried).  Almost everything that treats the subject at all seems to have been produced by one of the factions involved or the other.  What might be considered "neutral" source material is very often the product of Catholic or Protestant "missionaries" who were operating in the area during the colonial period, and of course they have their own enormous, red-flag biases.  If you could point me toward anything that could be considered an impartial academic treatment of the subject, I'd be most appreciative.
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« Reply #21 on: January 11, 2014, 03:54:37 PM »

Regarding the information you've posted which contradicts dhinnus's claims regarding the bishops in India and who was in the majority,

If you could point me toward anything that could be considered an impartial academic treatment of the subject, I'd be most appreciative.

First of all, no such impartial academic treatment of the subject exists. All books and papers published are by partisans portraying things as black and white.. with no appreciation or credibility given to the claims of the other side. And then each side goes on to invent thrones that does not exist to counter claims of St.Thomas in some way lacks from other apostles etc.. which are all problematic.

Second, the real question is not about the metal state of H.H Abdul Mesiah. He was removed from office in 1905; that was communicated to Malankara in 1905 itself and in 1908 when new Bishops were to be ordained the Malankara Church sent them to the new Patriarch and not to H.H Abdul Mesiah. These are facts. Now also say even if H.H Abdul Mesiah was the legitimate Patriarch in 1912, he in not authorized to do things unilaterally without discussing and gaining the approval of his synod.. which he never did. So irrespective of the mental state or the reasons of the removal of H.H Abdul Mesiah, he acting unilaterally without the approval of his synod is in itself reason to make his actions illegitimate.

I dont think Suraj contradicted me about the position of the Majority of Bishops in India in 1911. What he did was question the way in which two of those Bishops were elected. The fact is that these two Bishops were elected by proper councils of clergy and laymen similar to in the past. Mar Ivanious was selected by the Patriarch and approved by a council called by the Patriarch at Mulanthurthy. In a very similar manner, Mar Athanasious was selected by the Patriarch and approved by a council called by the Patriarch at Aluva. These Bishops enjoyed wide spread support from among the people too.  Also he didnot contradict me about the position of the majority of the 3 trustees.

He did bring up the question of Bishop Alvares Mar Yulios. I had deliberately not mentioned him, as I was not sure how appropriate is it to include Bishop Alvares Mar Yulious in the Malankara Synod. He was enthroned as a Bishop without any input from the lay council or priest council of the Malankara Church. Whether we include or exclude him, the majority was still not for breaking away from the Syriac Patriarchate of Antioch. Bishop Alvares Mar Yulios who was not even from the same political entity as the Malankara Church. Malanakra Church was from the Kingdom of Travancore and Kingdom of Cochin both part of the British Indian Empire. Bishop Mor Yulios was from Potughese Goa. The notion of an independent country of "India" including these Kingdoms and the Potughese territory did not even exist at that time. The Indian National Congress , the movement that led freedom movement of India under Gandhi had not even stated fully independent India including all these kingdoms at that time. Such a stated goal happened only in 1930. Bishop Alvares Mar Yulious was a Latin Catholic priest who joined the Syriac Church and led a "Western Rite" church.

Just wanted to clarify this. I am just going to stay in the sidelines and observe. Participating in this debate, is not very healthy for my salvation. It only helps to add fuel to the fire. I can only pray that everyone will see things with more respect and appreciation for the other parties views and some day we can have true Peace between the "East Syriac" and "West Syriac" wings of the Syriac Church.
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« Reply #22 on: January 11, 2014, 08:33:41 PM »

First of all, no such impartial academic treatment of the subject exists.

That's a shame, both in the sense that no academic has found such a fascinating subject worthy of treatment and that those who are not of Malankara heritage themselves but are desirous of learning more about this topic are doomed to a steady diet of polemics from which they will have to suss out the truth by degrees.

All books and papers published are by partisans portraying things as black and white.. with no appreciation or credibility given to the claims of the other side. And then each side goes on to invent thrones that does not exist to counter claims of St.Thomas in some way lacks from other apostles etc.. which are all problematic. 

I truly applaud you for acknowledging the bias of both sides.  I've been slogging through dozens of discussions on this topic on various forums and church websites lately, and this is a rare treat.

Second, the real question is not about the metal state of H.H Abdul Mesiah. He was removed from office in 1905; that was communicated to Malankara in 1905 itself and in 1908 when new Bishops were to be ordained the Malankara Church sent them to the new Patriarch and not to H.H Abdul Mesiah. These are facts. Now also say even if H.H Abdul Mesiah was the legitimate Patriarch in 1912, he in not authorized to do things unilaterally without discussing and gaining the approval of his synod.. which he never did. So irrespective of the mental state or the reasons of the removal of H.H Abdul Mesiah, he acting unilaterally without the approval of his synod is in itself reason to make his actions illegitimate.

Good point.

I dont think Suraj contradicted me about the position of the Majority of Bishops in India in 1911...

Forgive me for not being precise in my language.  I didn't mean to say that he contradicted that point precisely or invalidated any of the points you've made, merely that he provided a contrary or divergent assessment of the events in question.  Again, all of the additional information you've provided here is certainly food for thought for me and I definitely intend to research it further.

Just wanted to clarify this. I am just going to stay in the sidelines and observe. Participating in this debate, is not very healthy for my salvation. It only helps to add fuel to the fire. I can only pray that everyone will see things with more respect and appreciation for the other parties views and some day we can have true Peace between the "East Syriac" and "West Syriac" wings of the Syriac Church.

I totally understand, and I ask your prayers.
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« Reply #23 on: January 11, 2014, 09:53:24 PM »

I thought this thread was about finding his bathroom/water closet.  So disappointed.
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« Reply #24 on: January 11, 2014, 09:55:44 PM »

That relic was lost a long time ago, but thanks for your interest.  Tongue
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« Reply #25 on: January 13, 2014, 01:46:50 AM »

 Smiley, the thing about writing anything about the Church in India, is that it appears unnecessarily combative and unhelpful to general Christian spiritual health. It need not always be so, we can hold strong opinions yet discuss them dispassionately atleast to the extent it is possible.

Yes Antonious it will take substantial research to atleast formulate a coherent opinion about the Church in India, but if we start from canons that regulate Orthodox Church life the world over and then proceed to examine each act of each party against that norm, then it is possible atleast to find out where things went wrong.

I have often seen the argument being made that Patriarch Abdul Messiah acted without Synodal authorization and thus his acts were de facto invalid. I am thankful for the rediscovery of the Synodal tradition of Orthodoxy by the Syrian Orthodox in Middle East & India and it augurs well for the future, but in the late 1800's Syrian Orthodox Patriarchs rarely acted as Heads of Synods, instead they acted as Absolute Heads both the Church and the Millet. Patriarch Peter III when he divided Malankara into 6 Metropolitanates did not do so on the basis of any Syrian Synodal Resolution, it was instead an absolute act which thankfully was good for the life of the Church in India.
Patriarch Abdul Messiah his successor and Patriarch Abdullah acted in the same manner. To argue therefore that Pat. Abd' Messiah needed Synodal approval is thus a straw man, the West Syrians Patriarchs in that period acted in a far more papal manner and we really cannot hold it against him.

Patriarch Peter III had setup certain structures for the administration of the Church in India, an association of the clergy, laity and Bishops was organized whose agreement was required for the selection of new Bishops and so on. In the legal fights against the Anglican inspired reformists these structures had won legal validity and were thus in force.
In spite of the fact that neither the Metropolitan and his Synod nor the Malankara Association had required the Patriarch to ordain Bishops the Patriarch still went ahead with the ordinations.
Let me clarify that both the bishops ordained unilaterally were pious men and not unsuitable for the episcopate in any way, yet by violating both the canons and the bye-laws of the Church in India, the Patriarch was intending to reduce the powers of the Metropolitan, thus reducing the Church in India to a number of independant dioceses each depending directly on the Patriarch rather than on a Local Primate in the person of the Metropolitan. This was essentially setting the stage for the creation of a schism which followed in short order.

Of course India is a political entity did not exist during the time of the troubles in 1912, the Malankara church subsisted in the theoretically autonomous kingdoms of Travancore & Cochin, yet the idea or the notion of India, and our identity as an Indian people was ever present. The West Syrians themselves referred to us as Hindo; so although I am not using India in the sense of using the political idea to butress autocephaly, I don't think I am in serious error.

Mar Julius was ordained by the Metropolitan Mar Dionysius V with the participation of other hierarchs with the approval of the Patriarch. Although he was a missionary Bishop looking after the Latin Christians who had been received into Orthodoxy, he was an Orthodox Bishop who thankfully chose to speak out to register his voice against an injustice and thus his joint encyclical with Mar Ivanios of Kandanad is a lasting testament and witness for all times.
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