The term Syro Malabar is a relatively new invention. The Catholic Syriac Christians in Kerala were called Syro Chaldeacs. They were proud of that name. They were very proud to be associated with the Church of the East which was originated in the Biblical times.
Our proud forefathers who did not want to change the rich traditions of their ancestors even against the might of the strong Portuguese colonialists. We can see in the history that Arch Bishop Alexis Dom Menesis could not succeed in Latinising us, but it was our own native leaders who betrayed our forefathers by diluting our apostolic Christianity in our local cultural milieu to please the foreign masters. Even today, we can see many examples.
It is not very clear when the term Malankara was evolved. We cannot see the term Malankara in any of the ancient letters or documents. Patriarch Timothy I uses the term ‘the Archan of the hendo’ not Malankara. The famous letters of the four Bishops in 1504 also does not use the term Malankara.
The Catholic Syrians also used the term Malankra. Even Mar Augustine Kandathil, the first Arch Bishop of Ernaculum (1874- 1956) used the title ‘The Metropolitan of Malankara’.
The term syro Malabar was first used in 1895 period. Our forefathers fought against it. The following is taken from a memorandum submitted by our forefathers to the Pope to this effect in AD 1895.
“ That we who have been known from time immemorial as Malabar Chaldeic Syrians and belonged to the same rite, are now called by the vicar apostolic as Malabar Syrians and an address to this effect has been sent to the Holy See and a reply is said to have been received under the new appellation. This change of our national name is quite contrary to the apostolic letter addressed to us by Your Holiness on the 30th of November 1894 headed ‘The Glory of the Oriental Churches’ which we received with the greatest submission and hold in great veneration and besides such a change is contrary to the missal printed and given to us in 1874 for the use in our churches.
Under the foregoing circumstances and in consequence of the daily increasing schism in Malabar especially in this vicariate we make our last prayer with the deepest sentiments of veneration and filial love that Your Holiness will be graciously pleased, in the plentitude of Your Holiness’s Paternal wisdom and solicitude, to give us a Bishop of our own nationality from the Patriarcate of Babylon, and thus put an effectual end to the strifes and dissensions that have for a long time, been characterising the existence of the Catholic church in this part of Christendom” ( An account of a very important period of the history of the catholic Syrian Christians of Malabar- Rt Rev Mgr. Aloysius Pareparambil, DD, 1920, p 199-200)
It is to be noted that in 1953, when the diocese of Thalassery was established for the Syro Chaldeac migrants to Malabar state, the bull from Vatican uses the term Ecclesia Ritus Chaldaici Malabarensium.
The real sons and daughters of the Catholic Saint Thomas Christians should decide whether they want to keep the name Syro Malabar or not.
Posted as a comment at www.nasrani.net.