Sunday 5 June 2011




Syro-Malabar Church is an Eastern Catholic Church in communion with the Pope of Rome. It is an Apostolic Church founded by Saint Thomas, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. Syro Malabar Church is the largest group of Saint Thomas Christians. The term Syro Malabar was coined by the Western Missionaries to denote 'the Syrian Church of Malabar'- those Catholics that follow the Syro Chaldean rite.
Sui iuris Churches. (1)

These are the Eastern Rite Churches that are in communion with the Roman Pontiff, the Pope. They are Churches of their own particular law. Syro Malabar Church is one among the 21 sui iuris Churches in the Universal Catholic Church. They consists of 6 Patriarchal Churches, 4 Major Archi Episcopal Churches, 3 Metropolitan Churches and 9 other sui iuris churches.

Patriarchal Churches are the fully developed particular churches with a Patriarch as the head with its own synod and territory. The synod elects the Patriarch and inform the Universal Pontiff, the Pope of Rome. Major Archi Episcopal Churches have a Major Arch Bishop as the head, slightly inferior to the status of a Patriarch. The synod elects the Major Arch Bishop, but needs confirmation by the Pope. Pope can reject the election.

Patriarchal Churches in Catholic communion.

1. Coptic Catholic Church based in Cairo
2. Maronite Church of Lebanon
3. Syriac Catholic Church of Beirut
4. Armenian Catholic Church
5. Chaldean catholic Church
6. Melkite Greek catholic Church

Major Archiepiscopal Churches of Catholic Communion.

1. Syro Malabar Church
2. Syro Malanakra Church
3. Romanian Church
4. Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

Metropolitan Churches in Catholic Communion

1. Ethiopian Catholic Church,
2. Ruthenian Catholic Church and
3. Slovac Greek Catholic Church

Other sui iuris Churches in Catholic Communion

1. Albanian Greek Catholic Church,
2. Belarusian Greek Catholic Church,
3. Bulgarian Greek Catholic Church,
4. Byzantine Church of the Eparchy of Krizevci,
5. Greek Byzantine Catholic Church,
6. Hungarian Greek Catholic Church,
7. Italo Albanian Catholic Church,
8. Macedonian Greek catholic Church and
9. Russian Catholic Church.


Thomas Christians were part of East Syrian Church. They came into direct communion with the Church of Rome through the Chaldean Patriarchate with the arrival of Mar Joseph Sulaqa and Mar Elias in AD 1554. Historically, the title of the head of the Church of Saint Thomas was the 'Metropolitan and the Gate of India'. Ancient documents vouches this.(2)

After the infamous Synod of Diamper in 1599, the Church of Saint Thomas Christians became subjected to Latin rite Bishops. The Latin Missionaries broke the historic connection of Thomas Christians with the Patriarchate of Chaldeans and downgraded the ancient Church of Christians of Saint Thomas into a mere suffragan of the Arch diocese of Goa of Latin rite. Later, the Metropolitanate was reinstated and Arch Diocese of Kodungalloor was created with Western Prelates.(3) Even though the Thomas Christians were subjected to Latin rite prelates in Latin Rite hierarchy, the community consolidated under the leadership of the Arch Deacons as a separate rite with its own liturgy and traditions. The Missionaries began to impose Latinisations in their rite of worship and tried to eliminate the authority and status of the Arch Deaconate and thereby dishonour the status of their ancient Church of Malabar. The community secretly tried to get Prelates from the Patriarchate of Chaldeans and other Eastern Churches. The missionaries used their political power to prevent Thomas Christians from contacting with any Oriental Churches and they even arrested and deported Mar Ahatalla, a Bishop of Syriac Rite arrived in Mailappore.(4)

Thomas Christians rose up and revolted against the Portuguese in AD 1653 and consecrated the Arch Deacon Palliveettil Thomas as the Bishop of Thomas Christians. This revolt was nearly complete and that changed the politics.(5) Rome intervened and Carmelite Missionaries were sent to win the Thomas Christians back. Carmelites could convince the majority that the local church needs Bishops and the consecration of the Arch Deacon Thomas was invalid as the consecration was conducted not by any Bishops, but by twelve priests only. Many leaders of the community rejoined the missionaries and later, due to political reasons, Portuguese Missionaries had to leave the country and they consecrated Palliveettil Chandy Cathanaar as the Bishop for the Catholic Thomas Christians in 1663.(6) Thus, the majority of Thomas Christians consolidated under the native Bishop Palliveettil Chandy, keeping their Syro Chaldean rite of worship. It is reported that Bishop Palliveettil Chandy applied the historic title 'The Metropolitan and the Gate of all India'. This title denotes a Quasi Patriarchal status with all India jurisdiction.(7)

This community of the Catholics of Syro Chaldean rite became the Syro Malabar Church. After Bishop Palliveettil Chandy, the Catholic Syrians had to continue under Latin Bishops until 1896. But, they continued their struggle for independence, autonomy and to protect their Syro Chaldean Rite. As a result, the Syro Malabar Hierarchy was established in AD 1887 with the erection of Kottayam and Trichur vicariats for the Catholic Thomas Christians, separating them from the Latin rite Catholics. (8) In 1896, native prelates were appointed in Kottayam and Trichur vicariats and also in the newly created Ernakulam vicariat.(9) In 1923, Ernakulam vicariat was elevated as an Arch diocese and the church became a Metropolitan church. (10) In 1992, Syro Malabar Church was elevated to a Major Archiepiscopal Church with Padiyara Mar Anthonius I as the first Major Arch Bishop. (11) The first and second Major Arch Bishops were nominated by the Supreme Pontiff, the Pope of Rome. During the time of the second Major Arch Bishop Vithayathil Mar Giwargis I, the Holy Synod of Syro Malabar Church was given full powers including election of the Father and Head of the Church. This is the first time, the Syro Malabar Church was executing its powers to elect the Father and head of the Church canonically. This event actually denote the recapturing of the old status of 'Metropolitan and the Gate of All India' which was lost due to Latinisations.

The Holy Synod of Syro-Malabar Church that consists of 44 bishops, commenced on 23rd May 2011, has elected Mar George Alencherry, the Bishop of the Eparchy of Thakkala, as the Father and Head of the church, The Major Arch Bishop.

The title Major Arch Bishop in unknown in Thomasine Christian tradition as it is a title of the Latin Church. The Antiochian Rite Syro Malanakara church in Kerala which was also elevated to Sui iuris church by Rome calls their Major Arch Bishop as Catholicose according to their tradition. Many Syro Malabar faithful wish to call him Patriarch as per the eccelsiological and cultural tradition of Thomasine Christianity in India. The Thomas Christians were ecclesiastically and hierarchically part of the Patriarchate of Chaldeans. As the Syro Malabar Church was bifurcated from the Patriarchate of Chaldeans due to political reasons, the church deserves the same title.


Mar Giwargis Alencherry was born in 1945 in Thuruthy in the Arch Diocese of Changanacherry. Two of his brothers are Priests and a sister is a nun. He had his initial education in local schools and joined the seminary in 1961 at Parel, Changanacherry and then at Saint Joseph's Pointifical Seminary Alwaye. He passed his degree in Economics with second rank from Saint Berchman's College, Changanacherry. He was ordained as a Priest in 1972 by the Late Major Arch Bishop Padiyara Mar Antonius I Bava. He then worked as the assistant vicar at the Cathedral church of Changanacherry and Director of the Archdiocesan Faith Formation department. Then he served as the secretary of the Commission for Catechism of the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council . He was sent to Paris for higher studies and obtained his Doctorate in Biblical Theology at Sorbonne University and the Catholic Institute.
From 1986, he served as the Director of the Pastoral Orientation Centre of the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council and as a Professor at Saint Thomas Apostolic Seminary and Oriental Institute, Kottayam. He became the protosyncellus of the Metropolitan of Changanacherry in 1994 and in 1996, he was consecrated as the first Bishop of Thakcalay, a mission diocese of the Syro Malabar Church.

As a Bishop, he served the Church as the secretary of the Syro Malabar synod, Chairman of the Commission for Catechism of the Syro Malabar Church, and Chairman of the CBCI commission for laity. He is an author of several articles and books in various languages. He is proficient in Malayalam, Tamil, English and French.

Mar Giwargis has been described as a simple man who even uses public transport to travel. He is well known for his down-to-earth approach that he has even visited all the houses in his diocese!. He is considered as a person with traditional view of the Church. He wears a Sleeva (traditional cross) on his rudraksha seed garnet that reflects the Indian tradition profoundly.


First in the history- recapturing the Historical autonomy.

This was the first ever election of the Father and Head of Syro Malabar Church after the power of election was given to the synod. All the previous Major Arch Bishops were nominated by the Pope. This is an event marking the full evolution of Syro Malabar Church into sui iuris status claiming its historical autonomy and individuality.
Pontiff who had his formation in Syro Malabar Rite.

This is the very first Major Arch Bishop who had his formation as a Syro Malabar Priest. All the predecessors, even though they were Syro Malabar in origin, were trained and ordained as Latin rite priests and then re-implanted into the Syro Malabar Church. This factor will give a new direction to the church leadership in the light of its history and tradition.

Unity of the Holy Synod.

There were many speculations in the media about the election of the Major Arch Bishop on the grounds of regional and other preferences and it is reported that even one of the Bishops also have responded to these kinds of talks in the printed media and put forward names of a few candidates. (13) A group of clergy also released a press notice before the election raising issues with the background of the differences existed in our Church on the way of celebrating the Holy Qurbana.

Under these circumstances, the election process caught wide attention and many were anxious that these may even put the Church in turmoil. But the Holy Synod completed the election process on the first day itself and the required 2/3 majority was obtained on the second round of voting itself, as reported by the Curia Bishop.(14)

Obedient to the Synodal decisions

The elected person was one among the Bishops who fully obeyed the decision of the Holy Synod about the celebration of Holy Qurbana. When the whole church was divided about the way of celebration of Holy Qurbana ad orientum- facing the altar- versus ad populum- facing the people-, the Holy Synod unanimously decided to follow a compromise formula by celebrating the initial prayers ad populum, the anaphora ad orientum and the final prayers ad populum- the so called 50:50 formula. (15) Mar Giwargis was one among the few Bishops who fully obeyed and implemented the synodal decision.

Divine influence.

This election process clearly shows the explicit involvement of the Ruha D' Kudisha in the Church. The election result was surprising that the incumbent was not a prominent candidate as speculated. The Election process was so quick and smooth and the synod was united in selecting a person without any preferences or prejudice. Divine influence is prominent that the members of the Holy Synod were instrumental in the plans of the Ruha D Qudisha, in having the incumbent one of the Bishops who fully obeyed the decisions of the Holy Synod even sacrificing his own views, one who had his formation of clerical life in the Syro Malabar rite itself and in the unity of the Holy Synod in the background of differences about restoration and reformation.

God has shown us the divine intervention here by selecting a Bishop who obeyed the Synodal decision! God is teaching us the greatest lesson of obedience, as Our Lord Isho Mishiha showed us. The Almighty God is giving us a clear message of obedience.


Thomasine Christianity and East Syrian Church.

Thomas Christians in India were part of the East Syrian Church. East Syrian Church is the communion of churches founded by Apostle Thomas. Apart from Indian Church, the other Thomasine Churches are the Church of Fars, Church of Edessa and the Church of Selucia Ctesiphon. The Assyrian Church was one of the very first churches established in Biblical times. Acts of Apostles mentions about the presence of Assyrians on the day of Pentecost. (Acts 2,9) Very ancient syriac writings such as 'The Doctrine of Addai', 'The Chronicles of Arbela' and 'The teachings of the twleve Apostles' mentions that Saint Thomas sent Thaddeus and Mari to preach Abgar Ukkama the Black, the King of Assyrians at Osrhoene (Edessa).(16) Eusebius, the father of Church history also witnesses in AD 325 that he personally searched the state archives of the Assyrians in the capital city of Edessa and found official records of this Apostolic visit . (17)

It is believed that Apostle Thomas personally founded the Church of Fars and the Church of Malabar and his disciples Mar Addai-Thaddeus and Mar Mari founded the Church of Selucia-Ctesiphon and the Church of Edessa. But Church of Selucia Ctesiphone aquired supremacy as it was the capital of Persian Empire and the Catrholicos Patriarch was based there.
Indian Church was subjected to Church of Fars initially which was a Metropolitan Church. East Syrian Patriarch Isho Yahb III(650-660) elevated the Indian Church also to a Metropolitanate and made equal in status to the Metropolitanate at Fars and thus came directly under the Patriarch.(18) This Metropilitan of India was called Metropolitan and the gate of India.

Metropolitan and Gate of all India ( Metropolitan v-thara d- kollah hendo)-The Throne of Saint Thomas

The Metropolitan of the Church of Saint Thomas was called Metropolitan and gate of All India. The Syriac manuscript written in 1301 in Cranganore- the vatican Syriac codex 22- use the title The Metropolitan of India. ' .....And in the time of the Bishop Mar Jacob, Metropolitan and director of the Holy see of the Apostle Saint Thomas , that is to say, our director and the director of all the holy church of Christian India.....' (19)

Here, the usages- 'the director of all the holy church of Christian India'- and 'Metropolitan and director of the Holy see of the Apostle Saint Thomas' are important, as they denote the concept of the throne of Saint Thomas and a quasi Patriarchal status.

The term Metropolitan and the gate of All India has been reported by many authors including Rev. Paulinus De Bartholomew, Rev Campori S J, and so on. (20)

Metropolitan of Angamali, the 'Rabba d Kolhon Apeskope u Metropolite'- Superior of all the Bishops and Metropolitans.

When the second Chaldean Patriarch Mar Abdisho appointed Mar Abraham as the Metropolitan of Angamali, he conferred the title 'Rabba d Kolhon Apeskope u Metropolite'- Superior of all the Bishops and Metropolitans. (21) Mar Abdisho in his decree nominating Arch Deacon George of Christ as the Bishop of Palayur and Suffragan to Mar Abraham, seems to have authorised Mar Abraham to assemble all the Metropolitans and Bishops and also to elect and consecrate Bishops. (22) By this, the Metropolitan of Angamali was given autonomy and authority over other Prelates.

Patriarch of India- the testimony of Joseph, the Indian

Joseph , the Indian Cathanar's narrations in AD 1501 before the signoria of venice describe about the Patriarch of India. Joseph was interviewed by the House of Lords of Venice where he explained the hierarchical structure of the Church of Malabar.'They have a Supreme Pontiff called Catholoica, twelve Cardinals, two Patriarchs, Bishops and Arch bishop's. Joseph also mentioned that he was ordained as a Priest by this Catholica. (23)

We can see from the History that Joseph was ordained by Catholicos Simon, the Patriarch of the East, in AD 1490.The famous syriac letter of the three Bishops Mar Yohannan, Mar Yakkob and Mar Denha in AD 1504 to the Patriarch of Babylon testifies this fact. (24) Joseph clearly confirms that this Pontiff is called Catholica. The Catholca appoints Patriarchs, one for India and one for China.(25)

Here, Joseph is clearly stating the hierarchical relations and structure of the Saint Thomas Christians. Their Supreme Pontiff is the Catholicose at Babylon. Under him twelve cardinals. It is unclear, if this position is called Cardinal exactly, as Cardinal is a title in the Roman Church. We can assume that there was a twelve member council immediately under the Catholoicos. This reminds us about the 12 canonists under Paremmakkal Thomman Cathanaar, the Governor of the Catholic Syrians. (26) Joseph is clear about Patriarchs of India and China under the Catholicos.

Special Privileges to the Metropolitan of India, Quasi- Patriarchal status ?

We have to remember that The Metropolitan of India was given special privileges due to the fact that they are far away from the Patriarchate. Patriarch Theodosius (852-859) stipulated that the Metropolitans of India and China need report to the Patriarch only once in six years rather than every year for the other Metropolitans. (27)
From this , we can assume that the Metropolitan of India had a certain autonomy and it seems that the Patriarchate considered the Indian Church as a Particular church. Could this special privilege made the Metropolitanate as a Quasy Patriarch ?
If we follow the subsequent history, we can see Mar Ahathalla arrives to Mailappore claiming that he was the Patriarch of India appointed by the Pope.(28) Also, Mar Andrews- Kallada Mooppan arrives in AD 1676 claiming that he was the Patriarch appointed by the Pope.(29) If Patriarch was not a familiar title, they would not have made such claims as a Patriarch and the faithful would not have accepted them.


The Syro Malabar Church is a Major Archi Episcopal Church. It is unlikely that Patriarchal status will be conferred to Syro Malabar Church in the present circumstances. We have seen that the Syro Malabar Metropolitan had the title of The Metropolitan and the gate of India and the Director of the See of Saint Thomas, which are quasi patriarchal titles with All India jurisdiction. Historically, we can see the Patriarchate of Babylon giving special status to the hierarch of Indian Church to report only once in 6 years, conferring a special privilege and the status of a particular Church. Overall, as Rome has bifurcated the Indian Church from the Patriarchate of Chaldean on political grounds, the hierarch of the Christians of Saint Thomas should also have the same title. On these grounds, we have all the rights to call our Father, the Major Arch Bishop Alencherril Mar Giwargis II Bava , as the Patriarch of Syro Malabar Church on a wider sense.

Picture from
Thanks for Dr Joseph Alumkal and Mr mathew Mailapparampil for their valuable suggestions


1., also, accessed on 18/06/2011
2 .Placid Podipara, The Hierarchy of Syro Malabar Church, Ch IV in Collected works of Rev Dr Placid Podipara, vol I San Jose Publications, Mannanam, pp 666-667
3. Joseph Thekkedathu, History of Christianity in India, Vol II p75
4. Joseph Thekkedathu, opus cit pp94-95
5. Joseph Thekkedathu, opus cit pp 91-94
6. Joseph Thekkedathu, pous cit pp96-100
7. Rev Dr Placid Podipara, The Hierarchy of Syro Malabar Church, in Collected works of Rev Dr Placid Podipara CMI, Vol I p 719
8. Leo XIII Quod jam Pridem, 20 May 1887, cited in Marthomma Christianikalude Sabha Noottandukaliloode, (Mal), Rev. Dr Kurian Mathothu, Rev Fr Sebastain Nadackal, Palai, p111
9. Pope Leo XIII, Quale Rei Sacrae, 11 August 1896, cited in Marthomma Christianikalude Sabha Noottandukaliloode, (Mal), Rev. Dr Kurian Mathothu, Rev Fr Sebastain Nadackal, Palai, p114
10. Pope Pius IX, Romanae Pontifices, cited in Marthomma Christianikalude Sabha Noottandukaliloode, (Mal), Rev. Dr Kurian Mathothu, Rev Fr Sebastain Nadackal, Palai, p115
11. Pope JohnPaul II, Quae majoris christi Fidelium, 16 December 1992, cited in Marthomma Christianikalude Sabha Noottandukaliloode, (Mal), Rev. Dr Kurian Mathothu, Rev Fr Sebastain Nadackal, Palai, p126


14.; Mar Bosco Puthur, Curia Bishop and administrator of Syro Malabar Church, Mar George Alencherry, the new Syro Malabar Major Arch Bishop, Circular about the election of the Major Arch Bishop.

15. Synodal News Vol 7, nos 1&2 1999, 61, cited by Dr M Kochupurackal, Liturgical development in the syro malabar church, Syro malabar Church since the eastern code, Ed F Elavuthinkal, Mary Matha Publication, Trichur 2003, pp148

16. Stephen Andrew Missick, Mar Thoma, the Apostolic Foundation of the Assyrian Church and the Christians of Saint Thomas in India, Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies, vol XIVNo 2, 2000, pp35-36 citing Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, Eds. The Writings of the Fathers down to AD 325: Ante Nicene Fathers vol 8 Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publications 1994, p657-672.

17. Stephen Andrew Missick, Mar Thoma, the Apostolic Foundation of the Assyrian Church and the Christians of saint Thomas in India, Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies, vol XIVNo 2, 2000, pp35-36
18. A Mingana, The Early spread of Christianity in India, The Bulletin of John Rylands University Library,Vol 10,p 496
19.A Mingana, Early Sperad of Christianity in India,The Bulletin of John Rylands University Library, Vol 10 p 501
20. Placid Podipara, The Hierarchy of Syro Malabar Church, CH IV, in Collected Works of Rev Dr Placid Podipara, vol I p667 -668 citing Archives Roman of the Society of Jesus., GOA, 65 f 4
21. Mar Abdisho's letter to the Arch Bishop of Goa on 24/08/1567. The original in syriac is preserved in ARSI Gallia 95-1, f 197.See fascimile in Documenta Indica vol II p 41. Italian translation in A Rabbath, Documents inedits pour servir a l'histoire du Christianisme en Orient II Paris, Leipzig 1910, pp432-434 cited by Jacob Kollamparampil, Sources on the Hierarchical structure of the Saint Thomas Christian church in the pre diamper period, p 171, in The life and nature of Saint Thomas Christian church in the pre diamper period, ed B Puthur, LRC Kochi, 2000
22. Mar Abdisho's decree dated 25/08/1567. Portuguese translation in ARSI Goa, 1011, f 463, J Wicki, Documenta Indica VII,pp703-705 cited by Jacob Kollamparampil, , Sources on the Hierarchical structure of the Saint Thomas Christian church in the pre diamper period, p 171, in 'The life and nature of Saint Thomas Christian church in the pre diamper peroiod', ed B Puthur, LRC Kochi, 2000
23. Narrations of Joseph, the Indian, Ch 5 Italian, latin and Dutch texts, Antony Vallavanthara, India in 1500 AD pp168-9,231.
24. Alphonse Mingana, Early Spread of Christianity in India, The Bulletin of John Rylands University Library, vol 10 p468, H Hosten, The saint Thomas Christians of Malabar AD 1490-1504, Kerala Society Papers series 5 Ed T K Joseph,pp225-226
25. Narrations of Joseph, the Indian, Ch 5 Italian, latin and Dutch texts, Antony Vallavanthara, India in 1500 AD pp168-9,231.
26. Antony Vallavanthara, India in 1500 AD, foot note 72, p274
27. T P Elias, East Syrian Missions to Asia with special reference to Malabar coast from Sixth century to Sixteenth century AD and its influence on Indian Religions Society and Culture, Doctoral Thesis of mahatma Gandhi university, Kerala, India, p 292
28. Joseph Thekkedathu, The troubled days of Francis gaecia, pp 51-52
29. Thomas Whitehouse, Lingerings of Light in the dark land, being researches into the past history and the present condition of the Syrian Church of Malabar, Thomas Whitehouse, p 199


Indian church was submitted to the Church of Fars- South Persia- as the Metropolitan was in Fars and the Bishops of India were suffragans. It was the Metropolitan of Fars-Rewardushir who was to consecrate Bishops for India. We can see in the history that the Metropolitan of Fars sending liturgical texts India.
It seems that at some point, the Metropolitan of Fars refused to consecrate Bishops for India. Therefore, Church of India was without any Bishops. This led to elevation of the Church of India to a Metropolitanate so that he can consecrate Bishops for India and he will be directly under the Patriarchate in Ctesiphon and not under the Metropolitan of the Church of Fars.
The following quote seems to show that the reason for this refusal to consecrate Bishops for India was simony.
Patriarch Isho Yahb III (650-660) writes to Simon, the Metropolitan of Riwardashir-’ Remember with these, O our God loving brother , that as you closed the door of the episcopal ordination in the face of the many peoples of India, and you impeded the gift of God for the sake of perishable gains which kindle the passions of the body’…… ‘ as far as your district is concerned, from the time you showed recalcitrance against ecclesiastical canons, the episcopal succession has been interrupted in India, and this country has since sat in darkness, far from the light of divine teaching by means of rightful bishops: not only India that extends from the borders of the Persian empire, to the country which is called Kalah, which is a distance of one thousand and two hundread parasangs, but even your own Fars’(Mingana, early spread of Christianity in India, citing Assemani and Liber Epistularum).
There was indeed a kind of dispute between Church of Ctesiphon and the Church of Fars. The reasons for this could be,
1 Church of Fars, as well as Church of India, was founded by Saint Thomas, the Apostle, while the Church of Ctesiphon was founded by Mar Mari, one of the desciples of Saint Thomas, the Apostle. Bar Hebraeus wrote, ‘They ( Church of Fars) used to say, we have been evangelised by the Apostle Thomas, and we have no share with the See of Mari’ This argument is very important as why should the Christians evangelised by Saint Thomas the Apostle himself, submitted to another See founded only by a disciple ? ( Mingana, Early Spread of Christianity in India). This could be the earliest statement that shows a claim that we are Christians of Saint Thomas.
2 Political. Church of Fars used Pahlavi as the liturgical language while Church of Ctesiphon used Syriac as liturgical language. This could be due to political reasons. The Church of Fars might have adopted to the political requirements of the Sassanian Empire for survival.Thus, Church of Fars developed into a parallel ecclesiastical centre and controlled the Churches of Bahrain, Oman, Socotora and India, while the seat of the Patriarchate was at Ctesiphone.
It seems that during this dispute/schism,the Metropolitan of Rewardushir consecrated Bishops without the confirmation of the Patriarch and denied Bishops for India. Hence, Patriarch Isho Yahb III wrote five letters to the Bishops,Monks and the faithful, ordering them to reject the Bishops uncanonically ordained and reiterating the superiority of the Patriarchal See.( Mingana, Early Spread of Christianity In India)
Patriarch Isho Yahb III (650-660) and Patriarch Timothy I (779-823) tried to unify the Church of Fars back to the Patriarchate and prevented a schism. As mentioned before, Patriarch Isho Yahb III elevated Church of India to a Metropolitanate and thus the Indian Church became directly under the Patriarchate. Patriarch Timothy also reconciled with the Church of Fars by allowing the Metropolitan of Rewardushir to consecrate suffragan Bishops without the confirmation by the Patriarch. ( Mingana quoting Bar Hebraeus)


Pahlavi was the liturgical and official language of the Church of Fars for some time. The Chronicles of Seert narrates that in about AD 470, Bishop Mana of Rewardushir wrote religious discourses, canticles and hymns in Pahlavi and translated the theological works of Diodore of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopsuestia from Greek and sent the copies to the islands of the sea and India.( A Mingana, Early Spread of Christianity in India, The bulletin of John Rylands Library,Vol 10 p 460) The findings at Turfan confirms these citations in Chronicles of Seert.
This simply shows the hierarchical relation of the Church of India to the Church of Fars. This hierarchical relation continued until the Indian Church was also elevated to a Metropolitanate by Patriarch Isho- Yahb II (AD 628-643) and came directly under the Catholicose Patriarch- the Metropolitan of India cannot be under another Metropolitan, but to the Patriarch directly. ( A Mingana, Early spread of Christianity in India, Journal of John Rylands University Library, vol 10 p 496-7)
The interpretations of the Pahlavi inscriptions on these crosses have been studied by a number of scholars as I have described in the article, from Burnell in AD 1874 to Gerd Gropp in AD 1970. CPT Winkworth has done extensive comparative study on these inscriptions and reported for the first time in AD 1929 that these are copies and he opined that the Mount cross could be the model for the rest of the copies depending on the epigraphic evidences.
Later, B T Anklesaria, an eminent Pahlavi and Zoroastrian scholar compared all these cross inscriptions including the Alengadu cross which was discovered only in 1931 and published a paper in the Journal of K R Cama Oriental Institute in 1958. He agreed with Winkworth that these are copies and found that the Alengadu cross in the oldest based on epigraphical and orthographical evidences, as one of the words was inscribed perfectly only on Alengadu cross. Note that when Winkworth studied about the inscriptions, Alengadu cross was not discovered yet.
Anklesaria also mentions that the Alengadu Cross is taken from Cranganore which is a revolutionary information to me, as I have been looking for the cross at Cranganore as described by Gouvea in AD 1606 in Jornada. Fr Jacob Kollamparabil reported that the Kottayam Crosses were taken from Cranganore, but it was in AD 1524 when Samoothiry, the King of Calicut conquered Cranganore and burned down all the three churches in there. So, I was sure, the cross described by Gouvea in AD 1606 is not the Kottayam Cross. Unfortunately, Anklesaria does not mention the source of this information.

Obviously, Anklesaria has had the advantage of having opportunity to study all the six crosses of Kerala and the Mount Cross. It seems that these crosses were originally erected on the Malabar coast and then copied to Coromandel coast with local adaptations- the Pallava architectural features of arch, makara torana etc. Among the Crosses in Kerala, the Kadamattom and the larger cross at Kottayam are the only crosses that show similarity to Mount Cross, all the rest are similar to Alengadu Cross.


Synod of Diamper was definitely a forceful illegal invasion of Portuguese Missionaries into the affairs of Saint Thomas Christians. The Arch Bishop of Goa had no jurisdiction over Saint Thomas Christians. Without any special mandate from the Roman Pontiff, he forcefully entered the Arch Diocese of Angamaly and convened the Diocesan Synod of Diamper and proclaimed that he reunited the saint Thomas Christians who were living outside the Roman Communion for thousand years, in a matter of few months by the efforts of the zealous Arch Bishop and his team of missionaries to triumph in Europe. (Jonas Thaliath, The synod of Diamper, Orientalia Christiana Analecta 152 Rome 1958, cited by Rev Dr Paul Pallathu, Was Saith Thomas Christians nestorians ? Ephrem’s theological Journal, vol 5 March 2001, p 36)
It is clear that Saint Thomas Christians were not in explicit communion with the Church of Rome for centuries. But there are certain hints in the history about some loose contacts and communion. Church of the East had several short lived communions and relations with the Church of Rome in the past before the formation of the Chaldean Patriarchate.
Pope Saint Gregory III ( 731-741) was a Chaldean from the province of Syria. ( Guriel Elementa Linguae Chaldaicae, 168 cited by G T Mackenzie in foot note 116 based on the manuscript submitted by Nidheerickal Mani Kathanaar). Mar John, the Arch Bishop of the Syrians and afterwards Patriarch, went with his suffragans to Rome and received the pallium from Pope Callixtus II( AD 1119-1124) in the twelfth century. (Gesta Callixti , Papae. Vetera analecta Mabilloni 468 cited by G T Mackenzie foot note 116 based on the manuscript submitted by Nidheerickal Mani Kathanaar) . In AD 1250, Iso yahb bar Malkon, Metropolitan of Nisbis, sent a profession of Catholic faith to Pope and made some minor changes in the Taksa that he used calling Mary, the ‘Mother of Christ, who is our God’ (History of Chaldean mass, Macomber, JAAS p76). When Pope Julius III, on April 6th, 1553 confirmed John Simon Sulaqa as Patriarch of the Chaldeans, confirmed that the discipline and liturgy of the Chaldeans had already been approved by his predecessors, Nicholas I ( AD 858-867) and Leo X ( AD 1513-1521) and Clement VII, ( AD 1523-1534) This papal letter also mentions the former Patriarch Simon Mamma, of good memory as Patriarch of the Christians of Malabar.( GT MacKenzie, foot note 116)
There are reports in the history about reception of John Marignolli in AD 1346, letter of Pope Eugine IV to the Christian King of Malabar in AD 1439, as examples of contact with the Church of Rome. But after AD 1554, with the arrival of Mar Joseph, The Saint Thomas Christians became in Catholic Communion.
In AD 1551, under the leadership of Patriarch John Simon Sulaqa, a section of the Church of the East entered into full hierarchical communion with the Church of Rome. John Simon Sulaqa was consecrated and confirmed as the Catholic Patriarch of Mossul in Assyria and received pallium from Pope Julius III in AD 1553.In the Papal Bull, the Pope had confirmed his jurisdiction over Malabar Christians also.
. (“..Postmodum vero ecclesia patriarchali de Muzal et insulae Tigris ac caeterarum civitatum et terratum orientalium eidem Patriarchae subjectarum, necnon monasteriorum ejusdem in Sui Massin et et Calicuth ac tota India existentium eidem etiam Patriarchae subditorum dum vivert praesidebat….”S Giamil, Genuinae Relationes… 17-18, Subsidium ad Bullarium Patronatus Portugalliae, 4 cited by Rev Dr Paul pallath, Were Saint Thomas Christians Nestorians ? Ephrem’s Theological Journal, Vol 5 March 2001 No 1 p 42 foot note 24)
The Patriarchate was supported by a Papal Nuncio for the East, Bishop Ambrose Buttigeg, a Maltese Dominican and his companion Fr Antonius Sahara.
Patriarch Sulaqa was murdered in AD 1555 and Mar Abdisho was consecrated as the next Patriarch under the supervision of the Papal Nuncio, Bishop Ambrose Buttigeg. In 1562, Mar Abdisho received pallium from Pope Pius IV. The next Patriarch was Mar Yahballaha ( AD 1567- 1579) and then Mar Simon Denha ( AD 1579- 1600). Mar Simon Denha received pallium from Pope Gregory III (1572-1585). It was this Mar Simon Denha was the head of Saint Thomas Christians who was in explicit ecclesiastical and hierarchical communion with the Church of Rome was condemned by the Synod of Diamper!
Thus, the synod itself become an act of disobedience to the Roman Pontiff.
In AD 1555, Patriarch Mar Abdisho sent two Bishops to Malabar, Mar Joseph Sulaqa, the brother of Patriarch John Simon Sulaqa, as the Bishop for Saint Thomas Christians, Mar Elias, as the representative of the Chaldean Catholic Patriarchate along with the Papal Nuncio for the East Bishop Ambrosius Buttigeg, and his companion Fr Antonius Sahara. This four member team itself proves the authenticity of Mar Joseph and his hierarchical communion with the Roman Pontiff. ( The two Chaldean Bishops were arrested and detained in the Franciscan monastery at Bassein near Bombay and Bishop Abrosius and Fr Sahara were allowed to come to Goa.)
In 1558, all were allowed to come to Malabar because of the arrival of Mar Abraham, another East Syrian Bishop but not of the Catholic communion. They used Mar Joseph to keep the Malabar Nasranis away from the Non catholic East Syriac Church. Mar Joseph converted Mar Abraham to Catholic communion, but the Portuguese deported him to Babylon. Mar Joseph was arrested again in 1562 and sent to Portugal and Rome where he was cleared from all accusations and was even nominated to be elevated as a Cardinal.
Due to the request of the Malabar Nasranis, the Patriarch Abdisho appointed Mar Abraham as the Bishop of Malabar and sent to Rome where he received pallium from Pope Pius IV in 1565.The Pope Pius IV gave him three letters, one for the Patriarch Abdisho and the others to the Arch Bishop of Goa and the Bishop of Cochin.
In these letters, the Pope confirms the jurisdiction of the Chaldean Patriarch over the Saint Thomas Christians and apologised for the inconveniences caused by the Portuguese Missionaries. The Pope also warns the Arch Bishop of Goa that it would be detrimental to the Pope himself and to the Apostolic See, if he would hinder the jurisdiction of the Patriarch and orders that his jurisdiction must remain untouched and intact. The Pope in his letter to the Patriarch permits to maintain ‘your customs and rites’, recognizing the ancient rite.
Thus, the Arch Bishop of Goa, who had no jurisdiction over the saint Thomas Christians, without any special mandate from the Roman Pontiff, forcefully entered the Arch Diocese of Angamali with the help of the non Christian Kings invalidly convoked the diocesan Synod of Diamper, under the threat of excommunication contrary to the norms of the canon law.( Rev. Dr.Paul Pallathu, The Synod of Diamper valid or invalid, cited in Were Saint Thomas Christians Nestorians ? Ephrem’s Theological Journal, Vol 5 March 2001 No 1,p 54-55) The word excommunication is also to be noted carefully. If saint Thomas Christians were not in communion with the Catholic Church, how can the Arch Bishop Goa excommunicate them? They would not have afraid of excommunication and the threat of excommunication would not have any use.
What was the aim of the synod ?
1 Latinisation.
It was not for correcting the doctrines of saint Thomas Christians. The above mentioned letters categorically confirms that the rite and rituals of Saint Thomas Christians were accepted by the Roman Pontiff. If for argument sake, if we take that there were several books found in the community which contains errors, the synod would have only made actions to correct them. Instead, it was a strategical approach to make changes to the rite and customs to conform the saint Thomas Christians to latin rite to effect suppression of law of Thomas- and to introduce Latin Rite among saint Thomas Christians. See below a few of the synodal decrees which explicitly order conformity to Latin rite.
‘admit and receive all the customs rites and ceremonies recieved and approved in the Roman Church’ Session II decree I.Images painted after ‘our manner’ are to be placed in all churches…session III decree I Ch IX.The Syriac lectionary is to be replaced by The Vulgar latin edition made use by Holy Mother Church-Session III decree II.prohibition of the east Syrian baptismal formula and prescribed that which is followed by the Roman Church- session IV decree I.baptismal water shall be blessed by the Holy chrism according to the Roman ceremonial-session IV decree XIX.separated confirmation from baptism in harmony with the roman tradition- session IV confirmation.Forty changes in the eucharistic liturgy to conform with the latin rite-words of consecration was added to the Liturgy of Addai and mari, creed was modified, introduction of extreme unction, abolished optional celebacy to obligatory celebacy to the priests, latin vestments, the synod being desirous that the church of the serra should in all things be conformable to the latin customs, or Holy Mother Church of Rome….’session VIII decree XXXVII.
From these, we can understand that the real aim was not the correction of errors but to eradicate and exteminate the east Syriac rite and Law of Thomas to replace it with latin Rite.
2 To suppress the Jurisdiction of the Chaldean Patriarch and to bring the Saint Thomas Christians under the Portuguese Padruado and patronage of the King of Portugal to control the Saint Thomas Chriastian community and thereby to control the spice trade.
There are several reports in the history that the Portuguse needed help from Saint Thomas christians to beat the Arab merchants. In 1920s, the Portuguese sought help from Mar Jacob Abuna to persuade Saint Thomas Christians to trade their pepper to them. ( Antionio da silva Rego, Documenta cao para a Historia das Missoes do padruado Portugues do oriente, vol II Lisbon, 1948 p 357 cited by Pius malekkandathil Jornada of Alexis De Menesis:A Portuguese account of the Sixteenth Century Malabar, pXXIX )
Now, it is obvious that it was not to convert the Saint Thomas Christians to Catholicism, but to Latinise them, and to subjugate them under the Portuguese padruado. It was a cultural invasion to change their religious rite and rituals to control the community on the religious perspective and politically also for the colonial interests of the Portuguese.