Home      Syro Malabar

THE SYRO MALABAR CHURCH: AN OVERVIEW

The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church is one of the 22 Eastern (Oriental) Catholic Churches in full communion with Rome. It is the second largest Eastern Catholic Church after the Ukrainian Church and the largest of the Saint Thomas Christian (Nazrani) denominations with 4.6 million believers. It is a sui juris Church governed by the Synod of Bishops headed by the Major Archbishop. The Syro-Malabar Church, with its deep-rooted spirituality and high rate of vocations to priesthood and religious life, can be considered as the most vibrant Catholic community in the world.


The St. Thomas Christians (Nazranis)

The Syro-Malabar Church is an Apostolic Church which traces its origin to the St. Thomas, the Apostle, who landed at Cranganore (Muziris) in 52 AD and founded seven Christian communities in Kerala, at Palayur, Cranganore, Kokkamangalam, Kottakavu (Parur), Quilon, Niranam, and Chayal. St. Thomas was martyred in A.D. 72 at Mylapore, near Chennai/Madras. The early Christian community in India was known as St. Thomas Christians. They were also called Nazranis, meaning those who follow the path of Jesus of Nazareth.


The East Syrian (Chaldean) Connection

From early centuries, the Church of St. Thomas Christians came into contact with the East Syrian Church, which also traces its origin to Apostle Thomas. From the 4th century until the end of the 16th century Thomas Christians were governed by Bishops who were appointed and sent by the Patriarch of the East Syrian Church. The Thomas Christians developed a unique system of ecclesiastical administration with the Bishops from Persia in charge of liturgical and spiritual matters and the local Archdeacon of All India (A priest) heading the Christian community and handling the administration of the Church through Palliyogam (early form of Synod).Thus the Thomas Christians shared the liturgical, theological, spiritual and other ecclesiastical traditions with the East Syrian Church; in socio-cultural organization and practices, however, they were distinctively Indian.


The Arrival of Portuguese and the Influence of the Latin Church

The arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th Century marks a new era in the life of the Thomas Christians. East Syrian Bishops stopped coming. Archdeacon lost his position and Latin Prelates exercised full authority over ecclesiastical administration for almost three centuries. This paved way for the latinization of liturgy and ecclesiastical administration. Following the Coonan Cross oath in 1653 and the introduction of the Padroado (the Portuguese jurisdiction under the Propaganda Congregation) in 1661, the Thomas Christians got divided into two groups, of which the group who resisted Latin rule formed a separate community under the Archdeacon. Later they accepted the West Syrian theological and liturgical tradition of the West Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch and came to be known as the Jacobite Church. They were further divided into several independent Churches. The group that remained faithful to Rome came to be known as Syro-Malabar Church, a name which became a common epithet only in the nineteenth century. It literally means Syrian Christians of the Malabar Coast (Kerala).


The Syro-Malabar Church

In 1886 the Padroado jurisdiction over the whole Malabar (Kerala) was suppressed and in 1887 Pope Leo XIII re-organized the Syro-Malabar Catholics into two independent Vicariates of Kottayam and Trissur. Finally, the Syro-Malabar Church obtained bishops of their own rites and nationality in 1896, when they were further reorganized into three vicariates of Trissur, Changanacherry and Ernakulam by Pope Leo XIII through his Brief Quae rei Sacrae. Later, the Syro-Malabar Hierarchy was established on December 21, 1923, by the Apostolic Constitution Romani Pontifices of Pope Pius XI (Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 16 [1924], pp. 257-262), with Ernakulam as the Metropolitan See and Trichur, Changanacherry and Kottayam (established in 1911 for the Southists) as suffragans. In 1956 Changanacherry was raised to the status of a Metropolitan See, with Pala as a suffragan diocese.

The restoration of the hierarchy initiated a process of liturgical reform that sought to restore the oriental identity of the Latinized Syro-Malabar rite, which was approved by Pius XII in 1957 and introduced in 1962. In subsequent years several new dioceses were established both within and outside Kerala. From 1962, the Church began to set up mission centers in Northern India, which later became dioceses. Last 40 years have been a period of steady growth for the Syro-Malabar Church.


The Syro-Malabar Major Archiepiscopal Church

On December 16, 1992, Pope John Paul II, by the Apostolic Constitution Quae maiori (Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 85[1993], pp. 398-399), raised the Syro-Malabar Church to the status of Major Archiepiscopal sui iuris Church with the title of Ernakulam-Angamaly. Mar Antony Paidyara, the then Metropolitan of Ernakulam was appointed its First Major Archbishop with Mar Abraham Kattumana as the Pontifical Delegate who discharged the duties of the Major Archbishop. Archbishop Kattumana died unexpectedly during his visit to Rome in April 1995 and Mar Padiyara was given the powers of the Major Archbishop. In November 1996 Cardinal Padiyara resigned from his office as Major Archbishop. In his place Archbishop Varkey Vithayathil, C.Ss.R. was appointed as the Apostolic Administrator. In December 1998 he was appointed Major Archbishop by the Pope. In February 2001 Archbishop Vithayathil was created a Cardinal by Pope John Paul II. In 2004, the Holy See granted full administrative powers to the Syro-Malabar Church, including the power to elect bishops.

Major Archbishop Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil passed away on Arpil 1, 2011. On 24 May 2011 Mar George Alencherry was elected Major Archbishop. Pope Benedict XVI confirmed the election on 25 May 2011. He is the first head of the Syro-Malabar Church to be elected by its Synod. On February 18, 2012 Major Archbishop George Alencherry was made Cardinal and a member of the Consistory.


The Syro-Malabar Church Today

Today the Syro-Malabar Church is the second largest Eastern Church in Catholic communion and constitutes the largest group of St. Thomas Christians. The other two Catholic Churches in India are the Latin Church and the Syro-Malankara Church.

At present there are five Archdioceses - Ernakulam-Angamaly, Changanacherry, Trichur, Tellicherry and Kottayam and 13 eparchies - Bhadravathi, Belthangady, Irinjalakuda, Kanjirapally, Kothamangalam, Idukki, Mananthavady, Mandya, Palai, Palghat, Ramanathaapuram, Thamarassery, and Thuckalay within the canonical territory of the Major Archiepiscopal Church and 12 eparchies outside, of which Adilabad, Bijnor, Chanda, Gorakhpur, Jagdalpur, Kalyan, Rajkot, Sagar, Satna, and Ujjain in India are with exclusive jurisdiction and Kalyan and Faridabad in India and the St. Thomas Eparchy of Chicago in the United States of America and Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle of Melbourne enjoy personal jurisdiction.. There are altogether 4018204 (4 million) Syro-Malabarians within the 30 Syro-Malabar Eparchies and approximately 5,85,900 members live as migrants outside any Syro-Malabar Eparchy. There are 47 Bishops, 8547 priests (3,556 diocesan and 4,991 religious), and 32,114 women religious and 1214 major seminarians. Many Bishops, priests, religious and laity of the Syro-Malabar Church are present all over the world and share in missionary and pastoral life of the sister Churches.

The Syro-Malabar Church is very actively involved in educational, social and health-related fields. The Syro-Malabar Church runs 4860 educational, 262 ecclesiastical and 2614 health and charitable institutions. The corporate contribution of the of the Syro-Malabar Church to nation-building is inestimable.

CHRONOLOGY

CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS IN THE HISTORY OF THE SYROMALABAR CHURCH

Year
Month/date
Event

Ancient Era

52
November 21
Arrival of St. Thomas the Apostle in Muziris (near Kodungalloor) in Kerala. Established churches at Kodungalloor, Palayoor, Paravur (Kottakkavu), Kokkamangalam, Chayal (Nilackel), Niranam and Kollam.
72
July 3
Martyrdom of St. Thomas the Apostle at Chinnamala, Mylapore, Chennai (Tamil Nadu).
105
Church at Kuravilangad.
189–90
Arrival of Stoic Philosopher Pantaenus from Alexandria reported by Eusebius of Caesarea and Jerome. According to Eusebius of Caesarea, Pantaenus was for a time a missionary preacher, traveling as far as India, where it was reported that he found Christians who were using the Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew.
295 - 300
Journey of Mar David of Basra (Bishop of Maishan, southern part of modern Iraq, according to the Chronicle of Seert.
325
Mar Yohannan, the Persian presiding over the churches in all Persia and Great India attended First Council of Nicaea and signed in the decrees of the Council.
327
Apparition of Blessed Virgin Mary at Kuravilangad.
340-60
By the Thazhekad Sasanam the Nazranies granted special rights and privileges.
345
Arrival of Thomas of Kynai at Kodungalloor with bishop Uraha Mar Yausef, four priests, several deacons and 72 families from the Middle East.
354
Theophilus (surnamed the Indian) — an Arian, sent by Emperor Constantius on a mission to Arabia Felix and Abyssinia finds Christians in the Coast of Malabara as recorded by Philostorgius, an Arian Greek Church historian.
363
St. Ephrem (306–378) at Edessa, writes about St. Thomas as the Apostle of India.
380
St. Gregory Nazianzen (324–390) writes about St. Thomas as the Apostle of India.
390
St. Ambrose of Milan (333–397) writes about St. Thomas as the Apostle of India.
400
St. Jerome (342–420) writes about St. Thomas as the Apostle of India.
522
Cosmas Indicopleustes, a Byzantine monk visits Malabar Coast and writes of a Syrian Christian Community in his book Christian Topography.
638
St. Isidore of Seville writes about St. Thomas as the Apostle of India.
649-59
Catholicos-Patriarch Isho'Yahb III complaints about shortcomings by Metropolitan Shemon (Simon) of Fars [Beth Parsaye] in his handling of Indian bishoprics.The Patriarch raises India [Beth Hindaye] to a Metropolitan Province.
829
Church of the East Patriarch, Timeotheus I sends Bishops Mar Sapore (Kollam) and Mar Proth (Kodungalloor). Arrival of the Church Builders - Mar Sabor and Mar Afroth in Quilon (Kollam), on the Malabar Coast. The duo is locally known as Kantheesangal (from the Syriac word for Saints - Khadishe). These bishops are accompanied from Persia by Christian immigrants and traders, probably fleeing persecution. The immigrants mix with the native Christians. The Malayalam Era (Calendar) begins with their arrival.
849
Ayyanadikal Kurakoni(Iyenadikal Thiruvadikal), King of Venad, grants special previlages to Christians of Kollam.
883
King Alfred's mission
892
Tharisapalli plates.
905
Metropolitan and Gate of All India,Mar Adanaka (Denha)
988
Metropolitan and Gate of All India, Mar Yohannan
1222
Metropolitan and Gate of All India,Mar Johannan
1231
Metropolitan and Gate of All India Mar Joseph
1285
Metropolitan and Gate of All India, Mar David
1291
John of Montecorvino, a member of Societas Peregrinantium Pro Christo arrives in Kollam.
1292
Venetian traveller Marco Polo arrives in India and later testifies about Christian presence.
1301
Metropolitan and Gate of All India, Mar Jacob: Metropolitan and Gate of All India, Mar Jacob, resident at Kodungalloor (in Malabar), has the titles of Metropolitan and Director of the Holy See of Saint Thomas the Apostle, Director of All the Church of Christian India. The East-Syrian Patriarch in Babylon during this period is Mar Yahb'Allaha III, an ethnic Turkic-Mongol from China.
1323
French Dominican friar Jordanus Catalani de Severac arrives in Kollam (Quilon).
1324
Jordanus Catalani de Severac writes Mirabilia Descripta, a rare work on plants, animals and the people of India and of other countries in Asia.
1329
August 9
Pope John XXII (in captivity in Avignon) erected Quilon as the first Diocese in the whole of Indies as suffragan to the Archdiocese of Sultany in Persia through the decree Romanus Pontifix.
1329
August 21
Pope John XXII by the bull Venerabili Fratri Jordano, appointed the French Dominican friar Jordanus Catalani de Severac as the first Bishop of Quilon.
1346
March 23
John De Marignolli Legate to China arrives in Quilon.
1407
Metropolitan and Gate of All India, Mar Jaballaha

Portuguese Era

1490
Metropolitan and Gate of All India,Mar Yohannan
1498
May 20
Arrival of Vasco da Gama.
1504
Metropolitan and Gate of All India, Mar Yacob (Kodungalloor).
1555
Metropolitan and Gate of All India,Mar Joseph takes charge.
1557
February 4
Pope Paul IV, established, by his famous Bull "Pro Excellento Praeeminentia",Diocese of Cochin.
1564
Metropolitan and Gate of All India,Mar Abraham appointed Archbishop of Angamaly (Pope Pius IV).
1567
August 29
Establishment of Archdiocese of Angamaly as Metropolitan see.
1597
Mar Abraham the last Syrian Bishop died. Buried at the Church of St. Hormice, Angamaly.
1599
June 20-26 
Synod of Diamper.
1599
November 5
Francis Rose S.J. nominated first Latin Bishop of Syrians.
1600
August 4
Extension of the Rule of Padroado on Syrians.
1603
December 7
Angamaly Synod
1609
December 3
Seat of the Archdiocese of Angamaly moved to Kodungalloor.

Era of Divisions

1610
December 22
Archbishop Menezes of Goa restricts the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan of St. Thomas Christians from the north of Malabar to the south.
1653
January 3
Coonan Cross Oath at Mattancherry, near Kochi at the time of Garcia S.J.
1647
December
Archbishop Garcia Appoints Fr. Jerome Furtado as Vicar General in place of the traditional Archdeacon.
1653
May 22
Episcopal ordination of Thomas the Archdeacon at Alangad by 12 priests of St. Thomas Christians.
1659
December 3
Vicariate Apostolic of Malabar (Verapoly) erected by Pope Alexander VII.
1659
December 15
Episcopal Ordination of Italian Sebastiani OCD.
1659
December 17
Bishop Sebastiani OCD takes charge as Administrator of Malabar.
1659
December 24
Bishop Sebastiani OCD given power to ordain a Bishop in Malabar by Pope Alexander VII through the Apostolic Letter Pro Commissa Nobis.
1663
The conquest of Portuguese territories in Malabar and especially of Cochin by the Dutch and the all Catholic Missionaries including Bishop Sebastiani OCD were expelled from the territories occupied by the Dutch.
1663
Metropolitan and Gate of All India,Mar Chandy Parambil
1663
February 1
Fr. Alexander Palliveettil (Parambil Chandy, Alexander de Campo) appointed the first Syrian catholic bishop of Malabar by Bishop Sebastiani OCD .
1665-71
Spread of Jacobite Faith by Mar Gregorios in Malabar.
1687
January 2
Bishop Alexander Palliveettil (Parambil Chandy Malpan, Bishop Alexander de Campo) passes away.
1704
June 29
John Ribeiro S. J. appointed Abp. of Kodungalloor (Padroado).
1709
March 13
Suppression of Vicariate Apostolic of Malabar and Vicariate Apostolic of Verapoly erected by Pope Clement XI.
1782
July 16
Mar Joseph Kariyatty appointed Archbishop of Kodungalloor by Padroado.
1782
December 16
Rome approves Mar Joseph Kariyatty as Archbishop of Kodungalloor.
1783
February 17
Episcopal ordination of Mar Joseph Kariyatty at Lisbon, Porgugal.
1786
September 10
Archbishop Kariyatty dies in Goa. Paremmakkal Thoma Kathanar appointed Gubernador (Administrator) of the Archdiocese of Kodungalloor.
1787
February 1
Angamaly Padiyola
1799
March 20
Paremmakkal Thoma Kathanar dies
1805
February 10
Birth of Kuriakose Elias Chavara at Kainakary, Alappuzha
1831
May 11
Foundation of the first indigenous religious congregation (CMI) at Mannanam by Frs. Thomas Palackal, Thomas Porookara and Kuriakose Elias Chavara.
1833
Establishment of the Seminary at Mannanam.
1838
April 24
The Metropolitan See of Kodungalloor (Angamaly)and the See of Cochin were suppressed and territory is added to Vicariate Apostolic of Verapoly by the Brief “Multa Praeclara” of Pope Gregory XVI.
1861
June 8
Fr. Kuriakos Elias Chavara appointed Vicar General for Syrians.
1866
February 13
Foundation of the first indigenous religious congreation for women(CMC) at Koonammavu.
1866
August 13
Establishment of Seminary at Puthenpally.
1866
Purchase of Land in the name of Parayil Varky Tharakan at Mangalappuzha near Aluva.
1871
January 3
Death of Kuriakose Elias Chavara.
1874
August 1
Mar Melus arrives in Kerala.
1874
October 25
Mar Melus excommunicated Origin of Suryis of Thrisur.
1876
April 26
Birth of Sr. Mariam Thressia at Puthenchira, Thrisur.
1877
October 12
Episcopal ordination of Bishop Marcellinus OCD.
1877
October 17
Birth of Sr. Euphrasia (Rose) at Kattur, in the parish Edathuruthy, Thrisur.
1877
November 15
Bishop Marcellinus OCD made ruler of the Syrians.
1878
March 19
Bishop Marcellinus OCD commences his reign.
1886
June 23
See of Cochin was restored by Pope Leo XIII.

Era of self-governance

1887
May 20
Two independent Vicariates of Kottayam(present Changanaseri1) and Thrisur2 for Syrians; Charles Lavigne and Adolf Medlycott were made Vicar Apostolic respectively (Quod Jampridem, Pope Leo XIII).
1888
December 14
Foundation of Franciscan Clarist Congregation (FCC) at Changanaseri.
1890
September 16
Seat of Kottayam Vicariate moved to Changanaseri.
1891
April 1
Birth of Augustine Thevarparampil (Kunjachan) at Ramapuram, Kottayam.
1892
June 24
Foundation of Sisters of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (SVM) at Kaipuzha, Kottayam.
1896
July 28
Vicariate of Ernakulam3 created, with territories from both Vicariates of Changanaseri and Thrissur and Mar Aloysius Pazheparambil, Mar Mathew Makkil, and Mar John Menachery were made the bishops respectively (Quae Rei Sacrae, Pope Leo XIII).
1908
December 8
Foundation of Sisters of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament (SABS) at Champakulam, Changanaseri 1 January 1911 Foundation of Sacred Heart Congregation for Women (Kerala) (SH) at Palai.
1911
August 29
Establishment of Kottayam4 Vicariate for the Knanaya (Suddists) Community of the Syrians.
1914
May 14
Foundation of the Congregation of Holy Family (CHF) at Puthenchira, Thrisur by Mariam Thressia.
1921
January 29
Foundation of Eparchial Society of the Oblates of the Sacred Heart (OSH).
1923
December 21
Establishment of the Syro-Malabar Hierarchy with Ernakulam as the Metropolitan See and Mar Augustine Kandathil as the first Head and Archbishop of the Church (Romani Pontifices, Pope Pius XI).
1924
November 16
Mar Augustine Kandathil installed Archbishop.
1926
June 8
Death of Mariam Thressia.
1927
March 19
Foundation of the Sisters of the Destitute (SD) at Chunungumvely, Ernakulam by Fr.Varghese Payapilly Palakkappilly.
1927
July 19
Foundation of the Vincentian Congregation (VC).
1928
July 3
Foundation of Sisters of St Joseph Congregation (SJC) at Kottayam.
1929
October 5
Death of Varghese Payapilly Palakkappilly.
1931
March 19
Foundation of the Congregation of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (CST) by Mar Augustine Kandathil as a religious brothers congregation, the first such in India.
1932
June 1
Establishment of Mangalapuzha Seminary.
1933
May 7
Foundation of the Missionary Congregation for the Blessed Sacrament (MCBS).
1944
January 1
Foundation of Congregation of Sisters of Charity (CSC) at Chollannoor, Thrisur.
1944
October 31
Foundation of Medical Sisters of St Joseph (MSJ) at Kothamangalam.
1945
December 27
Mar Augustine Kandathil founds the priestly wing of the Congregation of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (CST) to better realise its aims.
1948
March 19
Foundation of Congregation of the Sisters of Nazareth (CSN) at Edakkunnu, Ernakulam.
1948
April 20
Foundation of Congregation of the Sisters of St. Martha (CSM) at Ponnookara, Thrisur.
1949
April 2
Foundation of Assisi Sisters of Mary Immaculate (ASMI) at Cherthala, Alappuzha by Mgr. Joseph K. W. Thomas
1950
July 25
Eparchy of Palai.
1952
August 29
Death of Sr. Euphrasia CMC.
1953
December 1
Official Visitation of Cardinal Tisserant of the Oriental Churches in India.
1953
December 31
Eparchy of Thalaseri.
1956
January 10
Death of Archbishop Mar Augustine Kandathil.
1956
July 26
Changanaseri made Archiparchy.
1957
January 10
Eparchy of Kothamangalam.
1957
June 1
Establishment of Dharmaram College, a major seminary by the CMIs in Bangalore.
1958
January 1
Fr. Placid Podipara made Rector of Malabar College in Rome.
1961
January 25
Foundation of Congregation of Samaritan Sisters (CSS) at Thrisur.
1962
March 31
Eparchy of Chanda,8 Maharashtra (CMI).
1962
July 3
Establishment of St. Thomas Apostolic Seminary, Vadavathoor, Kottayam.
1968
February 22
Foundation of Missionary Society of St Thomas the Apostle (MST).
1968
May 16
Foundation of Malabar Missionary Brothers (MMB).
1968
July 29
Eparchy of Sagar,9 Madhya Pradesh (CMI).
1968
July 29
Eparchy of Satna,10 Madhya Pradesh (VC).
1968
July 29
Eparchy of Ujjain,11 Madhya Pradesh (MST).
1969
July 3
Foundation of Missionary Congregation of the Daughters of St. Thomas (DST) at Aruvithura, Kottayam.
1972
March 23
Eparchy of Bijnor,12 Uttarakhand (CMI).
1972
March 23
Eparchy of Jagdalpur,13 Chattisgargh (CMI).
1973
March 1
Eparchy of Mananthavady.
1973
October 16
Death of Fr. Augustine Thevarparampil (Kunjachan).
1974
June 20
Eparchy of Palakkad.
1977
February 25
Eparchy of Rajkot16 (CMI).
1977
February 26
Eparchy of Kanjirappally.
1977
May 19
Foundation of Society of Kristu Dasis (SKD) at Mananthavady by Bishop Jacob Thoomkuzhy.q
1978
June 22
Eparchy of Irinjalakkuda.
1978
August 26
Cardinal Joseph Parekkattil attends Conclave – first of its kind from Syro-Malabar Rite.
1978
September 8
Mar Antony Padiyara appointed Apostolic Visitor of Non-resident Keralite Syro-Malarians by Pope John Paul I.
1984
June 19
Eparchy of Gorakhpur,19 Uttar Pradesh (CST).
1985
April 27
Death of Father Placid J Podipara.
1985
December 19
Approval of the Text of the Order of Syro-Malabar Qurbana by the Sacred Congregation for Oriental Churches.
1986
February
Pope John Paul II visits Kerala
1986
February 8
Inauguration of the Order of Syro-Malabar Qurbana by Pope John Paul II at Kottayam.
1986
February 8
Beatification of Fr. Kuriakose Elias Chavara CMI and Sr. Alphonsa Muttathupadathu FCC at Kottayam by Pope John Paul II. – first man and woman from India to the Altar.
1986
April 28
Eparchy of Thamaraseri.
1988
April 30
Eparchy of Kalyan,21 Maharashtra.
1989
July 3
Establishment of the Renovated Syro-Malabar Qurbana by the Sacred Congregation for Oriental Churches.
1989
July 3
Foundation of Sisters of St. Thomas (SST) at Managanam, Kottayam.

Major-Archiepiscopal Church

1992
December 16
Establishment of Major Archiepiscopal see of Ernakulam-Angamaly
1993
January 29
Cardinal Antony Padiyara, the first Major Archbishop (Quae Majori Christifidelium, Pope John Paul II), and Mar Abraham Kattumana, made Pontifical Delegate.
1993
May 20
Cardinal Padiyara takes charge. First Synod of the Church.
1995
May 18
Archieparchy of Thrisur
1995
May 18
Archieparchy of Thalaseri
1996
December 18
Cardinal Padiyara's resignation accepted.
1996
December 18
Archbishop Mar Varkey Vithayathil CSSR, Apostolic Administrator of Ernakulam–Angamaly.
1996
November 11
Eparchy of Thuckalay,22 Tamil Nadu
1997
October 28
Foundation of Mar Thoma Sliha Monastery (MTSM) at Nallathanni, Kottayam.
1998
February 3
Major Archiepiscopal Headquarters at Mount St. Thomas, Kakkanad.
1998
November 9
First Major Archiepiscopal Assembly
1999
April 24
Eparchy of Belthangady,23 Karnataka
1999
July 23
Eparchy of Adilabad,24 Andhra Pradesh (CMI)
1999
December 23
Pope John Paul II appointed Mar Varkey Vithayathil as the Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly and Head of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church
2000
April 9
Beatification of Sr. Mariam Thressia CHF in Vatican by Pope John Paul II.
2001
February 21
Pope John Paul II raised Mar Varkey Vithayathil a member of the Sacred College of Cardinals 
2001
July 6
Eparchy of St. Thomas of Chicago,25 USA.
2002
December 19
Eparchy of Idukki26
2005
May 9
Eparchy of Kottayam made Archieparchy.
2006
April 30
Beatification of Fr. Augustine Theavarparampil (Kunjachan) at Ramapuram, Palai by Major Archbishop His Beatitude Varkey Vithayathil.
2006
December 3
Beatification of Sr. Euphrasia CMC at Ollur, Thrisur by Major Archbishop His Beatitude Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil.
2007
August 21
Eparchy of Bhadravathi,27 Karnataka (MCBS)
2008
July 22
Christ University – the first University by the Catholic Church in India, established by the CMIs in Bangalore.
2008
October 12
Canonization of Sr. Alphonsa (Anna) Muttathupadath FCC in Vatican by Pope Benedict XVI – the first woman Saint from India.
2008
November 6
Visit of Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. He visited many eparchies in Kerala and paid respects to St. Alphonsa at her tomb at Bharananganam.
2009
June 24
Pope Benedict XVI declares the St. George Church at Angamaly a minor Basilica.
2009
August 6
Major Archbishop promulgates the Order of Celebrations on Nativity of Our Lord, Ash Day, Osana Sunday, Thursday of Pesha, Friday of Passion, Great Saturday and Great Sunday of Resurrection
2009
August 14
Fr. John Vadakkel CMI, appointed bishop of the Eparchy of Bijnor.
2009
August 23
Union Government of India issued coins in honour of St. Alphonsa
2009
September 6
Varghese Payapilly Palakkappilly declared Servant of God.
2010
January 18
Eparchy of Mandya,28 Karnataka
2010
January 18
Eparchy of  Ramanathapuram,29 Tamil Nadu.
2011
April 1
His Beatitude Mar Varkey Vithayathil, head and father of the Church passes away
2011
April 10
Funeral of his Beatitude Mar Varkey Vithayathil at St. Mary's Cathedral Basilica, Ernakulam
2011
May 24
Mar George Alencherry is elected as the third Major Archbishop
2012
February 18
Mar George Alencherry is made Cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI

ANCIENT CHURCHES OF SAINT THOMAS CHRISTIANS IN KERALA

CHURCHES FOUNDED BY ST. THOMAS, THE APOSTLE

The catechetical system of the Syro-Malabar Church is organized in four levels: Synodal, Eparchial, Forane / regional, and Parochial.

  Year
Saint Thomas at the palace of King Gondaphares in North India c. 40 AD
Saint Thomas lands at Cranganore c. 52 AD
Palayoor
Kodungaloor
Parur
Kokamangalam
Niranam
Nilackal / Chayal Kollam
c. 52-72 AD
Martyrdom of Saint Thomas at Mylapore, India July 3rd. 72 AD

All these communities were in the coastal region. Around the third century St. Thomas Christians began to move east as part of their agrarian activities to bring more forest under cultivation. This resulted in erection of several churches at inland parts. In the succeeding centuries migrating Persian Christians and some local Christians concentrated more of their activities on the coast, while native St. Thomas Christians penetrated more and more to the inland parts. Until the last century, vast majority of Syro-Malabar Catholics lived in erstwhile Cochin and Travancore states, with Meenachil Taluk having the largest proportion.


ANCIENT CHURCHES/PARISHES OF THE THOMAS CHRISTIANS

Church Year of foundation
Kuravilangadu  Church c. 105 AD
Pallipuram Church c. 290 AD
Ambazhakad Church c. 300 AD
Aruvithara Church c. 301 AD
North Pudukad Church c. 400 AD
Puthenchira Church c. 400 AD
Chambakulam Church c. 427 AD
Akaparambu Church 450 AD
Angamali Church 450 AD
Mattam Church c. 480 AD
Muttuchira Church c. 510 AD
Kaduthuruthy Church c. 510 AD
Enammavu Church c. 510 AD
Udayamperoor Church c. 510 AD
Edapally Church c. 593 AD
Chalakudy Church c. 600 AD
Mylakombu Church c. 600 AD
Kolenchery Church c. 650 AD
Moozhikulam Church c. 650 AD
Kayamkulam Church c. 824 AD
Kothanalloor Church c.826  AD
Athirampuzha Church c.835 AD
Kottayam Church 890 AD
Nagapuzha Church 900 AD
Mapranam Church 928 AD
Manjapra Church 943 AD
Mavelikara Church 943 AD
Kadamattom Church 950 AD
Pazhuvil Church 960 AD
Arakuzha Church 999 AD
Nediasala Church 999 AD
Kottekad Church 999 AD
Kunnamkulam Church 999 AD
Kadaplamattom Church 10th century
Kanjur Church 1001 AD
Kaduthuruthy Cheriapally c. 1001 AD
Pala Church 1002 AD
Muttam Church 1023 AD
Cherpunkal Church 1111 AD
Vadakara Church 1096 AD
Bharananganam Church 1100 AD
Changanacherry Church 1117 AD
Thripunithara Church 1175 AD
Cheppadu Church c. 1175 AD
Chengannoor Church c. 1175 AD
Kudamaloor Church c. 1175 AD
Ernakulam Church c. 1175 AD
Mulanthuruthy Church 1225 AD
Kothamangalam Valiapally 1240 AD
Karthikapally Church c. 1240 AD
Kuruppumpady Church c. 1240 AD
Alengad Church 1300 AD
Muthalakodam Church 1312 AD
Njarackal Church 1341 AD
Koratty Church 1381 AD
Poonjar Church c. 1381 AD
Alleppey Church 1400 AD
Kanjirappilly Church 1450 AD
Ramapuram Church 1450 AD
Kothamangalam Cheriapally 1455 AD
Kudavechur Church 1463 AD
Elanji Church 1522 AD


MAP OF CHRISTIAN PRESENCE IN 1600


CHURCH ARCHITECTURE OF THE ST. THOMAS CHRISTIANS

In 1578, there were about Sixty Churches for Saint Thomas Christians in Kerala. The number of Churches increased during the course of time, and by the year 1644 there were about 94 of them. The Church buildings conformed to the Malabar style of architecture. The ancient Churches externally looked like non- Christian pagodas, the only distinction being the crosses that were put on the roofs and in front in the open air. The Churches also had flag staff. A flag hoisted on such a staff indicates that a feast is being celebrated in the church. The early buildings were built entirely of wood. (They would last 400 years!). Most of the old churches are beautifully decorated with the Virgin and Child, crosses on various floriated designs and angles, images of male and female beings, half man, half fish, holding a ship above their heads. There are also images which has no religious significance such as man shooting a tiger etc.

SYRO MALABAR EPARCHIE



The Syro-Malabar Church has

  • 5 Archeparchies and 26 Eparchies

  • 18 of them (5 Archeparchies and 13 Eparchies) in 'Canonical Territory' (Kerala, and parts of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka) and under the proper jurisdiction of the Major Archbishop

  • 9 Eparchies in various Indian states with exclusive Syro-Malabar jurisdiction.

  • 2 Eparchies - Kalyan and Faridabad in India - where there are multiple jurisdictions.

  • 2 Eparchy for Syro-Malabar faithful in USA and Australia

 

Eparchies in Canonical Territory (18)

Name of the Eparchy Estd. State
Ernakulam-Angamaly Major Archeparchy 1896 Kerala
Kothamangalam Eparchy 1957 Kerala
Idukki Eparchy 2002 Kerala
 
Changanacherry Archeparchy 1887 Kerala
Palai Eparchy 1950 Kerala
Thuckalay Eparchy 1966 Tamil Nadu
Kanjirapally Eparchy 1977 Kerala
 
Trichur Archeparchy 1887 Kerala
Palghat Eparchy 1974 Kerala
Irinjalakuda Eparchy 1978 Kerala
Ramanathaapuram Eparchy 2010 Tamil Nadu
 
Kottayam Archeparchy 1911 Kerala
 
Tellicherry Archeparchy 1953 Kerala
Mananthavady Eparchy 1973 Kerala
Thamarassery Eparchy 1986 Kerala
Belthangady Eparchy 1999 Karnataka
Bhadravathi Eparchy 2007 Karnataka
Mandya Eparchy 2010 Karnataka

 

Eparchies Outside Canonical Territory (12)

Name of the Eparchy Estd. Archdiocese / State
Adilabad 1999 Hyderabad / AP
Bijnor 1972 Agra / Uttarakand
Chanda 1977 Nagpur / Chattisgarh
Chicago St. Thomas Diocese 2001 Chicago / USA
Faridabad 2012 Delhi / Delhi, HP, Haryana, J&K, Punjab, parts of UP
Gorakhpur 1984 Agra / UP
Jagdalpur 1977 Raipur / Chattisgarh
Kalyan 1988 Bombay / Maharashtra
Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle of Melbourne 1988 Melbourne / Australia
Rajkot 1977 Gandhinagar / Gurarat
Sagar 1977 Bhopal / MP
Satna 1977 Bhopal / MP
Ujjain 1977 Bhopal / MP

 

Syro-Malabar Missions

  • Bangalore
  • Chennai
  • Etawah
  • Hyderabad
  • Goa

Jurisdiction

Currently there are 31 Eparchial Sees in the Syro-Malabar Church, of which 5 are Archeparchies and 26 Eparchies. All the 5 Archeparchies as well as 13 eparchies are within the canonical territory which includes the whole of Kerala and some districts of the neighboring states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The 13 eparchies within canonical territory are organized into suffragans of the 4 Metropolitan Sees. The Archeparchy of Kottayam is an Archeparchy without suffragan eparchies. Major Archbishop and the Synod has full authority over these 18 eparchial Sees.


The 13 Syro-Malabar Eparchies outside the canonical territory are directly under the Pope. Although their Bishops are members of the Syro-Malabar Bishop's Synod, the Major Archbishop has only limited authority over them. These eparchies are generally suffragans of the nearby Latin Archdioceses.


In the Archeparchies and Eparchies within the canoncial territory and in the Eparchies of Kalyan, Faridabad , St. Thomas Diocese of Chicago and Melbourne, the authority of the respective bishops is over the Syro-Malabar Catholics only. The Syro-Malankara and Latin Catholics of these areas are under the respective Syro-Malankara or Latin bishop. On the other hand, in all other Syro-Malabar dioceses the authority of the Syro-Malabar bishop is exclusive. That is to say all Catholics, whether they are Syro-Malabarian, Syro-Malankarite or Latin living in these areas are under the Syro-Malabar bishop of the place. In a similar pattern all the Syro-Malabarians living in other areas are under the local Latin bishop. For example the Syro-Malabarians in Bangalore or Madras or other Indian or foreign places, even though they have many Syro-Malabar parishes, are under the Latin Bishop of the place.

Syro-Malabar Church is constantly working for All-India jurisdiction and the right for pastoral care of its faithful all over the world.
 

SYRO MALABAR RELIGIOUS CONGREGATIONS


Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in the Catholic Church are popularly known as Religious Congregations. These Institutes are divided in the Eastern Catholic Church Law (Code of Canons of the Oriental Churches - CCEO) as Monasteries, Hermitages, Orders, Congregations, Societies of Common Life in the Manner of Religious, Secular Institutes and Societies of Apostolic Life. The difference between these Institutes and Societies is mainly on the basis of the nature of the vow they profess and the rigorousness of their life-style. The Church Law envisages also the emergence of new forms of consecrated life.

All these Institutes and Societies are further divided into three categories, namely of Pontifical, Patriarchal/Major Archiepiscopal or Eparchial Right. An Institute of consecrated life canonically erected or approved by the Pope is known as Pontifical. Similarly those erected or approved by a patriarch is known as Patriarchal and those by a major archbishop is known as major archiepiscopal. On the other hand Institutes canonically erected or approved by eparchial bishops are known as eparchial Institutes. In an Institute of Pontifical Right normally permissions etc. are to be obtained from the Pope except a few instances where the Patriarch or the Major Archbishop can grant them. In other two cases they are to be obtained from the Patriarch/Major Archbishop or the eparchial bishop as the case may be.

In each of the Churches that make up the Catholic Communion there have come into existence various types and categories of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life according to the needs of time and place. The institutes for men are divided into clerical and non-clerical. Clerical comes from the word clergy. If the members of a given Institute or Society are priests then it is called clerical. In some Institutes where the members are not priests, they are known as brothers. Such institutes are called non-clerical.

There is no clear evidence for the existence of Institutes of Consecrated Life in the Syro-Malabar Church before the arrival of the missionaries from the Latin Church under the Portuguese Padroado regime that was introduced in India in the 16th century. The reason could have been the place given in the Indian tradition for individual ascetical life. There is little evidence for any attempt on the part of the East Syrian Bishops who governed the Indian Church until the end of the 16th century to found any Institute of Consecrated Life here. With the arrival of the Portuguese there were some attempts here and there to begin some form of organized religious life. Finally the first Indian Institute of Consecrate Life for men came into existence under the initiatives of Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Thomas Porukara and Thomas Palackal. The first Institute for women, Congregation of the Mother of Carmel (CMC) was started on 13 February 1866 by Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Fr. Leopold OCD. The first Institute with exclusively non-clerical members, Congregation of St. Therese of Child Jesus (CST) was founded at Mookannur in 1931.

Ever since the first Institute of Consecrated Life was founded by Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara a number of Institutes and Societies both for men and women took origin in the Syro-Malabar Church. There are also some Institutes, though their members imitate the life of Religious, are not canonically erected as a Religious Institute. They are called Societies of Common Life in the Manner of Religious.

At the same time many young men and women from the Syro-Malabar Church joined Institutes of Consecrated Life belonging to the Latin and Malankara Churches as well. In some of them, there is considerable number of Syro-Malabarians. Following the teaching of the Church in the Second Vatican Council some of them started their Syro-Malabar provinces or regions.

About the middle of the 20th century Institutes of Consecrated Life of the Latin Church of mainly European origin began to recruit candidates from India when they had a steep fall in the number of vocations in Europe. Many of these Institutes eventually established in India their own houses, some of them in the Latin Church and some others in the Syro-Malabar Church. In the course of time the foundations of some in the Syro-Malabar Church became Syro-Malabar regions or provinces of those Latin Congregations. Yet some others who do not have the system of provinces started entirely independent branches in the Syro-Malabar Church.

The Institutes of Consecrated Life that exist in the Syro-Malabar Church currently can be put into one or other of the categories mentioned above


Congregation Name Short Name Generalate
Benedictine (Annunciation) Order OSB
Carmelites of Mary Immaculate CMI Kochi
Eparchial Society of the Oblate of Sacred Heart OSH Kottayam
Little Flower Congregation CST Thrikkakara
Mar Thoma Sliha Monastery MTSM Murinjapuzha
Missionary Congregation for the Blessed Sacrament MCBS Chunangamvely
Missionary Society of Priests MSP Kottayam
Missionary Society of St. Thomas the Apostle MST Melampara
The Society of the Oblates of the Sacred Heart OSH Kottayam
Vallambrosian Benedictine Order OSB S.H.Mount
Vincentian Congregation VC Edappally
Congregation Name Short Name Generalate
Apostolic Sisters of Mary Immaculate ASMI Amboori
Assisi Sisters of Mary Immaculate (Greengarden Sisters) ASMI Cherthala
Congregation of Holy Family CHF Mannuthy
Congregation of Mother of Carmel CMC Aluva
Congregation of Preshitharam Sisters Kalady
Congregation of Samaritan Sisters CSS Mannuthy
Congregation of Sisters of Charity CSC Kolazhy
Congregation of the Sisters of Nazareth CSN Choondy
Congregation of the Sisters of St. Martha CSM Mannampetta
Daivadan Sisters DDS
Deen Bandhu Samaj DBS Perumanoor
Deena Sevana Sabha DSS Pattuvam
Dominican Sisters of the Holy Trinity O.P. Perimbadari
Fervent Daughters of Sacred Heart of Jesus FDSHJ Punnavely
Franciscan Clarist Congregation FCC Aluva
Josephine Sisters JS Arpookara
Little Servants of the Divine Providence LSDP Kunnamthanam
Little Sisters of Christ LSC Manganam
Little Sisters of St Therese of Lisieux LST Hata
Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts LSWSH Panayampala
Medical Sisters of St Joseph MSJ Kozhippilly
Missionary Congregation of the Daughters of St. Thomas DST Bharananganam
Missionary Sisters of Little Flower MLF Changanacherry
Missionary Sisters of Mary Immaculate MSMI Kulathuvayal
Missionary Society of Disciple Sisters of Christ DSC Kalapipal
Sadhu Sevana Sabha SSS Mallussery
Sister Disciples of the Divine Master PDDM Rossetti
Sisters of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament SABS Aluva
Sisters of Charity of St. John of God SCJG Kattappana
Sisters of Jesus SJ Sager Cantt
Sisters of Our Lady Of Providence Njaliyakuzhy
Sisters of Sacred Heart Congregation SH Manganam
Sisters of St Joseph Congregation SJC Kottayam
Sisters of St. Joseph the Worker SSJW Peechi
Sisters of St. Thomas SST Manganam
Sisters of the Charity of St. Vincent De Paul SCV Mananthavady
Sisters of the Destitute SD Thottumugham
Sisters of the Destitute Santhinivas Bikaner
Sisters of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary SVM Kottayam
Snehagiri Missionary Sisters SMS Vellapadu
Society of Deva Priya Sisters DP Rajkot
Society of Kristu Dasis SKD Thonichal
Society of Ladies of Mary Immaculate SLMI Trichur
Society of Nirmala Dasi Sisters SND Mulayam
Society of the Sisters of St. Alphonsa SBA Rajkot
St. Martha's Congregation SMC Vallichira
Women's Initiatives Network of Jeusus (WIN - Centre) Eramalloor
Congregation Name Short Name Generalate
Congregation of St Therese of Lisieux CST Brothe Angamaly South
Malabar Missionary Brothers MMB Thrissur
Congregation Name Short Name Generalate
Caritas Secular Institute (Women) CS
Catholic Congregation of the Blind CCB Muringoor
Mary Immaculate Secular Institute (Women) MISI Pala
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Convent Edakunnu
Servants of our Immaculate Lady (Women) SOIL
Sreeniketan Nanikathechi
St. Pius X Missionary Society (Men) MSP Kottayam
Win Society of Jesus (Women)

Monasteries/Contemplative orders in the Syro-malabar Church

Monasteries/Contemplative orders for Men

Congregation Name Short Name Generalate
Benedictine (Annunciation) Order OSB Kappadu
Divyakarunyamatha Ashram Divyakarunyamatha Ashram Perumthotty
Mar Thoma Sleeha Monastery MTSM Nallathanny

Monasteries/Contemplative orders for Women


Congregation Name Short Name Generalate
Dayara d' mma d' Mshiha (Daivamatha Ashram) DEM Mankadavu
Navajyothi Benedictine Monastery OSB Nallathanny
Order of Discalced Carmelites OCD Malayattoor


                                                                                               © Copyright 1998 Indian Christianity. All rights reserved.