Udupi: Brahmavar Orthodox Syrian Church to Celebrate Catholicate Centenary
Daijiworld Media Network - Udupi (SM)
Udupi, Nov 5: Catholicate Re-establishment Centenary Celebrations of Brahmavar diocese of the Indian (Malankara) Orthodox Syrian Church will be held on Wednesday November 7 at St Mary's Orthodox Syrian Community Hall, Brahmavar.
A press meet in this regard was held by the Orthodox Syrian Church, Brahmavar here on Monday November 5. Fr Lawrence D'Souza, vicar general of St Mary’s Orthodox Syrian Cathedral, David Crasta assistant vicar, Fr Abraham Kuriakose, Fr Noel Lewis, and Fr Paul Jacob were present.
The celebrations will be hosted by Brahmvar Konkani Orthodox Community parishes, and will be celebrated jointly by all the parishes on November 7 at St Mary's Orthodox Syrian Cathedral Community Hall.
At 12 noon, a rally will commence from Karavali junction, Udupi, welcoming the delegation led by Kuriakose Mar Clemis, and people from all the parishes of Brahmavar diocese. The public meeting will begin at 1.30 pm at St Mary's Orthodox Syrian Community Hall, Brahmavar.
Kuriakose Mar Clemis, Thomas Mar Athanasios, Geevarghese Mar Coorilos, Yakob Mar Elias, Kota Srinivas Poojary, Jayaprakash Hegde, K Raghupati Bhat, Pramod Madhwaraj, Fr M O John, church historian, and George Muthoot, chairman of Muthoot Group, and many other dignitaries will grace the event. Pramod Madhwaraj, Fr M O John and George Muthoot will be felicitated on the occasion.
The event is being held as part of Catholicate centenary celebrations that are being held throughout the world, in all the dioceses of Indian (Malankara) Orthodox Syrian Church. The celebrations will conclude on November 25, at Marine Drive, Ernakulam, Kerala, where a mega event is planned. Supreme heads of various Apostolic Churches of the world, other religious supreme heads, international politicians, and world famous personalities are expected for the event.
Need for Celebrations
All the Apostolic Churches are autonomous in nature, with their own regional/country supreme head; except for the Roman Catholic Church. The Indian (Malankara) Orthodox Syrian Church has been in the same tradition since the beginning. It is completely autonomous Indian Church.
It is the church of India's Saint Thomas Christian community, which traces its origins to the evangelical activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century, who extensively worked in Kerala, and had even established seven churches. Thus being itself established in 52 AD, this church is the most ancient and the oldest church in India, with 1960 years of existence (in India). Moreover, the Church is locally headed by the autonomous Catholicos and its present primate is Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II, Catholicos of the East and the Malankara Metropolitan. Thus, it is the only Church with Indian roots and fully Indian administration.
Historically, the Saint Thomas Christians had connections with the Church of the East centered in Persia. The local church maintained its autonomous character under its local leader.
When the Portuguese established themselves in India in the 16th century, they found the Church in Kerala as an administratively independent community. Following the arrival of Vasco de Gama in 1498, the Portuguese came to South India and established their political power there. They brought missionaries to carry out evangelistic work in order to establish churches in communion with Rome under the Portuguese patronage.
These missionaries were eager to bring the Indian Church under the Pope's (Roman Catholic) control. They succeeded in their efforts in 1599 with the infamous Synod of Diamper. The representatives of various parishes who attended the assembly were made to accept the Papal authority, forcefully and illegally.
Following the synod, the Indian Church was governed by Portuguese prelates. They were generally unwilling to respect the integrity of the local church. This resulted in disaffection which led to a general revolt in 1653 known as the Coonan Cross Oath. Under the leadership of their elder Thomas, Nazranis around Cochin gathered at Mattancherry church on Friday January 24, 1653 and made an oath that is known as the Coonen Cross Oath. This was the first freedom struggle for Indianness.
Meanwhile relations with Syrian Orthodox Church began to start with the arrival of the Bishop Gregorios Abdul Jaleel of Jerusalem. Archdeacon Thomas forged a relationship with the Syriac Orthodox Church and gradually adopted West Syrian liturgy and practices. Over time, however, relations soured between the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchs and the local hierarchy, particularly after Patriarch Ignatius Peter IV (reigned 1872--1894) began demanding registered deeds for the transfer of properties. The Syrian church also sought, like the Roman Catholic Church, to subdue the Indian church and to profit from it.
In 1912, a synod led by the Patriarch Ignatius Abdul Masih II, the then Patrirarch of Syrian Orthodox Church consecrated Evanios as Catholicos of the East, under the name Baselios Paulose I. Thus it paved the way for the freedom of the Indian (Malankara) Orthodox Syrian Church and started to work autonomously once again. Hence, this episode came to be known as re-establishment of Catholicate of the Indian Church.
Thus the Catholicate, is the rightful privilege of St Thomas Christians. Before India woke up for freedom from foreign domination, the Indian Orthodox Church had done so. It was not going to compromise. Today, we can lift our heads and proudly say its the only Church with Indian roots and fully Indian administration.
At present the Church has over 2 million faithful with around 30 dioceses and churches all over India as well as in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Western Europe, Africa, Persian Gulf nations, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. Its headquarters is located in Devalokam, Kottayam, Kerala, India.
The church accepts only the first three ecumenical synods like all other oriental orthodox Churches.
The church primarily uses the liturgy of Saint James, as does its sister Church, the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch. The Church in India was connected to the Church of East through the Catholicos of the East, existed in Edessa, Selucia, Tigris and Mosul in various intervals. Today the Church conducts liturgy in West Syriac, Malayalam, Konkani, Hindi, English, Telugu and Tamil. The Church has theological seminaries at Kottayam and Nagpur.
The Catholicate of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church
The word 'Catholicos' means 'the general head' or 'general Bishop'. It can be considered as equivalent to 'universal Bishop'. This title and rank is much more ancient than the title Patriarch in the Church.
In the ministry of the early Church there were only three ranks namely; Episcopos (Bishop), Priest and Deacon. By the end of the third century or by the beginning of the fourth century certain bishops of certain important cities or provincial capitals in the Roman empire gained pre- eminence than other Bishops and they came to be known as metropolitans. The ecumenical councils of the fourth century recognized the authority of these metropolitans.
By the fifth century the Bishops in major cities like Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch etc. gained control over the churches in the surrounding cities. Gradually they became the heads of each independent regional church and were called patriarch which means 'common father'.
The same rank in the Churches outside the Roman Empire was called Catholicos. There were three ancient Catholicates in the Church before the fifth century. They were the Catholicate of the East (Persia), the Catholicate of Armenia and the Catholicate of Georgia. None of these ranks and titles are the monopoly of any Church. Any Apostolic and national Church has the authority to declare and call its head, Catholicose, Pope, or Patriarch.
Even though the title Catholicose had not existed in India before the 20th century, the idea behind the Catholicate or Patriarchate as the head of a national independent Church was there from the early centuries and there was similar native position or authority in the Indian Church. As we say that St Peter was the first Pope of Rome, St Thomas was the first head or the Catholicos of India. As all other Apostles did, he also established Church in India and made a set up to continue its administration in India. That was the Apostolic authority existed in India throughout the centuries.
In India the position and authority of the catholicose is development in the history of the Church throughout the past centuries.
The first stage of the apostolic ministry in the Malankara Church is from the time of St Thomas till the middle of the fourth century when the authority of the Church was vested in the hands of the Archdeacon.
The second stage is the period of the reign of the Arcdeacons which started from the middle of the fourth century and lasted till the sixteenth century.
The third stage started when the archdeacon was elevated to the position of a Bishop by the community with the name Marthoma I in 1653. Since then the head of the community was the Marthoma Metrans and later the position was developed to Malankara Metropolitan with more recognition.
When in a religious turmoil the Patriarch of Antioch interfered and suspended the Malankara Metropolitan demanding complete surrender, in 1912 the Church consecrated the senior Metropolitan as the Catholicose and head of the Church. In 1934, through the meeting of the Malankara Association the authority and powers of the Malankara Metropolitan was entrusted to the Catholicose. Thus both the spiritual and temporal authorities of the Church was vested in one person who is the Catholicose cum Malankara Metropolitan and the development of authority in that direction was completed in the Church.
The Catholicate in India was a growth and development through centuries within the Malankara Church. Of course the developments in other churches like Persia, Antioch Rome and external interferences have influenced the growth in different stages. It should always be considered as a symbol of Apostolic origin, authority and heritage as well as nationality and independence of the Malankara Orthodox Church.
Throughout centuries the Metropolitan heads of the Thomas Christians were known as the apostolic successors of St Thomas, the founder of the Indian church. The Vatican Syriac codex 22 written in 1301 at Kodungalloor refers to the Metropolitan of the church as 'The Metropolitan Bishop of the See of St Thomas, and of the whole church of Christians in India'.
The church always asserted that St Thomas had his apostolic throne in India as St Peter had it in Rome or Antioch. When the Catholicate was established the Catholicose as the head of the Malankara Church, took the title 'The successor of the Apostolic throne of St Thomas'.
The event will be webcast live on daijiworld.com from 1.30 pm on Wednesday November 7.