Syro-Malabar Catholic Church

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Syro-Malabar Church
Latin: Ecclesiae Syrorum-Malabarensium
Mar Thoma Sliva.jpg
The Mar Thoma Sliva or Saint Thomas Cross, the symbol of the Syro-Malabar Church. Sliva also means the resurrected Jesus or the risen Lord. [1]
Type Particular church ( sui iuris )
Classification Eastern Catholic
Orientation Eastern Christianity
(Syriac Christianity)
Theology Catholic theology and
East Syriac theology [3]
Polity Episcopal polity
Pope Francis
Major Archbishop George Alencherry
AdministrationMajor Archiepiscopal Curia [4]
Parishes 3,224
Region India and Nasrani Malayali diaspora [5]
Language Liturgical Syriac, Malayalam, English, Tamil, Hindi
Liturgy East Syriac Rite
(Liturgy of Addai and Mari)
Headquarters St. Mary's Cathedral,
Ernakulam, Kerala, India
Founder Saint Thomas the Apostle
OriginAD 52 (first century)
Malabar Coast, Chola Empire
Separated from Catholicos-Patriarch of the East
of the Church of the East [6]
Branched from Saint Thomas Christians [lower-alpha 1]
Merger of Catholic Church (16th century)
Synod of Diamper [10]
Absorbed Province of India
of the Church of the East

(16th century) [11]
Separations Chaldean Syrian Church (1870s)
Members4.25 million [12]
Other name(s)Marthoma Nasrani Catholic Church
Malabar Chaldean Syriac Church (former name)
Syrian Catholic (SC)
(colloquial name for members)
Official website Syro-Malabar Church

The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, or Church of Malabar Syrian Catholics (Classical Syriac : ܥܸܕܬܵܐ ܩܵܬܘܿܠܝܼܩܝܼ ܕܡܲܠܲܒܵܪ ܣܘܼܪܝܵܝܵܐEdta Qatholiqi D'Malabar Suryaya;[ citation needed ] Latin : Ecclesiae Syrorum-Malabarensium, lit. "Church of the Malabar Syrians"), [13] is an Eastern Catholic Major Archiepiscopal Church based in Kerala, India. It is an autonomous (in Latin, sui iuris ) particular church in full communion with the pope and the worldwide Catholic Church, with self-governance under the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (CCEO). The Church is headed by the Metropolitan and Gate of all India Major Archbishop George Cardinal Alencherry. Officially known as the Syro-Malabar Church, [14] Syro-Malabar is a prefix coined from the words Syriac as the church employs the East Syriac Rite liturgy, and Malabar which is the historical name for modern Kerala. The name has been in usage in official Vatican documents since the nineteenth century. [15]


The Syro-Malabar Church is the largest of the Thomas Christians denominations with over 4 million believers [12] and traces its origins to the evangelistic activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century. [16] [17] [18] [19] The earliest organised Christian presence in India dates to the 4th century, when Persian missionaries of the East Syriac Rite tradition, members of what later became the Church of the East, established themselves in modern-day Kerala and Sri Lanka. [20] [21] [22] [23] The Church of the East shared communion with the Great Church (Catholicism and Orthodoxy) until the Council of Ephesus in the 5th century, separating primarily over differences in Christology. The Syro-Malabar Church employs an Indianised variant of the Liturgy of Saints Addai and Mari belonging to the East Syriac Rite of the historic Church of the East, which dates back to 3rd century Edessa, Upper Mesopotamia. [24] As such it is a part of Syriac Christianity by liturgy and heritage. [25] After the schism of 1552, a faction of the Church of the East came in communion with the Holy See of Rome and the Church of the East collapsed due to internal struggles. Through the Synod of Diamper of 1599, the Malabar Church was subjected directly under the authority of the Latin Catholic Padroado Archbishopric of Goa and the Jesuits. After a half-century administration under the Goa Archdiocese, dissidents held the Coonan Cross Oath in 1653 as a protest. In response, Pope Alexander VII, with the help of Discalced Carmelite friars, by 1662, was able to reunite the majority of the dissidents with the Catholic Church. The Syro-Malabar Church descends from this East Syriac Rite hierarchy that reunited with the Holy See. [26] As per Paremmakkal Thoma Kathanar's travelogue Varthamanappusthakam (dated to 1790), the Church was known then as the Malankara Chaldean Syriac Church (Malankare Kaldaya Suriyani Sabha). [27]

After over two centuries under the Latin Church's jurisdiction, in 1887, Pope Leo XIII fully separated the Syro-Malabarians from the Latin Church, by establishing two Apostolic Vicariates, Thrissur and Changanassery, and in 1896, the Vicariate of Ernakulam was erected as well, under the guidance of indigenous Syro-Malabar bishops. [28] The Syro-Malabar Church in effect became an autonomous sui iuris Eastern church within the Catholic communion. [29] Catholicism within the Syro-Malabar Church is unique in that it has inculturated with traditional Hindu customs that form an integral part of traditional Indian culture. Scholar and theologian Placid Podipara describes the Church as "Hindu (Indian) in Culture, Christian (Catholic) in Religion, and Oriental (East Syriac Rite) in Worship." [30] The Church is predominantly of the Malayali ethnic group who speak Malayalam, although there are a minority of Tamils, Telugus, and North Indians from the various eparchies outside Kerala. Following emigration of its members, eparchies have opened in other parts of India and in other countries to serve the Malayali diaspora living in the Western world. There are four eparchies outside of India, concentrated in English-speaking countries such as Australia, Canada, UK, and US. Saint Alphonsa is the Church's first canonized saint, followed by Saint Kuriakose Chavara, Saint Euphrasia, and Saint Mariam Thresia. Although an Eastern Church, the members are often colloquially known as Roman Catholic Syrian Christian (RCSC) in the state of Kerala. It is one of the two Eastern Catholic churches in India, the other one being the Malankara Syrian Catholic Church which represents the faction of the Malankara Church that returned to full communion with the Holy See of Rome in 1930. [31]

Part of a series on
Saint Thomas Christians
Nasrani cross.jpg
Saint Thomas  · Thomas of Cana  · Mar Sabor and Mar Proth  · Tharisapalli plates  · Synod of Diamper  · Coonan Cross Oath
Crosses  · Denominations  · Churches  · Syriac language  · Music
Prominent persons
Abraham Malpan  · Paremmakkal Thoma Kathanar  · Kayamkulam Philipose Ramban  · Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara  · Varghese Payyappilly Palakkappilly  · Mar Thoma I  · Saint Alphonsa  · Sadhu Kochoonju Upadesi  · Kariattil Mar Ousep  · Geevarghese Dionysius of Vattasseril  · Geevarghese Mar Gregorios of Parumala  · Geevarghese Ivanios  · Euphrasia Eluvathingal  · Thoma of Villarvattom
Margamkali  · Parichamuttukali  · Cuisine  · Suriyani Malayalam


Saint Thomas Christians - Divisions- History in a nutshell SaintThomasChristian'sDivisionsHistoryFinal-en.svg
Saint Thomas Christians - Divisions- History in a nutshell

Pre-Coonan Cross Oath

The Persian Church of the East Patriarch Shemon VII Ishoyahb's unpopularity led to the schism of 1552, due to the patriarchal succession being hereditary, normally from uncle to nephew. Opponents appointed the monk Shimun VIII Yohannan Sulaqa as a rival patriarch. Sulaqa's subsequent consecration by Pope Julius III (1550–55) saw a permanent split in the Church of the East; and the reunion with Rome resulted in the formation of the modern-day Chaldean Catholic Church of Iraq. [32] [33] Subsequently, Church of the East Bishop Abraham of Angamaly was appointed by Pope Pius IV (1559–65) as Metropolitan and Gate of all India of the Thomas Christians (Archbishop of Angamaly), with letters to the Archbishop of Goa and the Bishop of Cochin dated to 1565. [6] In 1597, Abraham of Angamaly died. Unfortunately, the Portuguese padroado Archbishop of Goa, Aleixo de Menezes, downgraded the Angamaly diocese and appointed the Jesuit Francisco Ros S.J. as Archbishop of Angamaly. Menezes held the Synod of Diamper in 1599 to bring the Thomas Christians under the complete authority of the Archbishopric of Goa. The oppressive rule of the Portuguese padroado eventually led to a revolt in 1653, known as the Coonan Cross Oath. [34] The Puthenkuttukar, or "New Party" faction, emerged after the Oath, which resisted the authority of the Portuguese padroado, under the leadership of Archdeacon Thoma I, and formed the Malankara Church which entered into a new relationship with the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch. [35] [36] The Pazhayakuttukar or "Old Party" faction that continued with the Catholic communion and employed the East Syriac (Persian) liturgy became the modern day Syro-Malabar Church.

Coonan Cross Oath

A protest took place in 1653 with the Coonan Cross Oath. Under the leadership of Archdeacon Thomas, the Thomas Christians publicly took an oath that they would not obey the Jesuit Bishops or the Pope. [37] Church historian KOOTHUR observes that "the 'Coonan Cross' revolution obviously was the final outbreak of the storm that had been gathering on the horizon of the ecclesial life of the St. Thomas Christians for over a century."

Rome sent Carmelites in two groups from the Propagation of the Faith to Malabar headed by Fr. Sebastiani and Fr. Hyacinth. Fr. Sebastiani arrived first in 1655 and began to speak directly with the metropolitan, Thoma I. Fr. Sebastiani, with the help of Portuguese, gained the support of many, especially with the support of Palliveettil Chandy, Kadavil Chandy Kathanar and Vengoor Geevarghese Kathanar. These were the three of the four counselors of Thoma I, who had defected with Francisco Garcia Mendes, Archbishop of Cranganore, before the arrival of Sebastaini, according to Jesuit reports. [37]

Between 1661 and 1662, out of the 116 churches, the Carmelites claimed eighty-four churches, leaving the native metropolitan Thoma I with thirty-two churches. The eighty-four churches and their congregations were the body from which the Syro Malabar Catholic Church has descended. The other thirty-two churches and their congregations represented the nucleus from which the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, the Thozhiyur Church, Thoma Syrian (Reformed Syrians), and Syro-Malankara Catholic Church have originated. [38]

In 1665 Gregorios, a Bishop sent by the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, arrived in India. The independent group under the leadership of the Archdeacon welcomed him. [39] Though most of the St. Thomas Christians gradually relented in their strong opposition to the Western control, the arrival of Bishop Gregorios of the Syriac Orthodox Church in 1665 marked the beginning of a formal schism among the St. Thomas Christians. Those who accepted the West Syriac liturgical tradition of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch of Gregorios became known as the Puthenkoor; they also continued to use the name "Malankara", the real name of the St. Thomas Christian community for the church. Those who joined the communion of Rome after the Synod of Daimper and remained in the communion even after the oath of bent cross, and those who joined the Catholic communion from the Puhenkoor Malankara church during the Carmelite period, came to be known as the Syro Malabar Church from the last decade of the Nineteenth century onwards. [39] Some of the churches not joined in the Angamaly Padiyola (1787) later became Latin churches, e.g. Mathilakom (Pappinivattom), Maliankara, Thuruthipuram, etc. One branch of the Syro Malabar Catholic church later left to form the Assyrian Church of the East aligned with Chaldean Syrian Church when an Eastern Syriac rite bishop, Gabriel, came to evangelize them in 1701. Kottayam Cheriapally was the headquarters of Gabriel.

Post-Coonan Cross Oath

The Syro-Malabar Church descends from the part of the community known as Pazhayakuttukar, or "Old Party", that after the Coonan Cross Oath in 1653 under the leadership of Palliveettil Chandy entered in formal communion with the Holy See of Rome again (which first happened after the Synod of Diamper) due to the reconciliation efforts of Discalced Carmelite (O.C.D.) missionaries sent by Pope Alexander VII (1665–67). Latin Catholic Carmelite clergy from Europe served as bishops, and the Church along with the Latin Catholics was under the Apostolic Vicariate of Malabar (modern-day Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Verapoly). As per Paremmakkal Thoma Kathanar's travelogue Varthamanappusthakam (dated to 1790), the Church was known then as the Malankare Kaldaya Suriyani Sabha ("Malankara Chaldean Syriac Church"). In 1887, the Holy See established two Apostolic Vicariates, Thrissur and Kottayam (later Changanassery) under the guidance of indigenous Syro-Malabar bishops, and named the Church as "The Syro-Malabar Church" to distinguish them from the Latins. [29] The Holy See re-organized the Apostolic Vicariates in 1896 into three Apostolic Vicariates (Thrissur, Ernakulam, and Changanassery). A fourth Apostolic Vicariate (Kottayam) was established in 1911 for Knanaya Catholics. In 1923, Pope Pius XI (1922–39) set up a full-fledged Syro-Malabar hierarchy with Ernakulam-Angamaly as the Metropolitan See and Augustine Kandathil as the first Head and Archbishop of the Church. In 1992, Pope John Paul II (1978–05) raised the Syro-Malabar Church to Major Archepiscopal rank and appointed Cardinal Antony Padiyara of Ernakulam as the first Major Archbishop. [40] The Syro-Malabar Church shares the same liturgy with the Chaldean Catholic Church based in Iraq and the independent Assyrian Church of the East based in Iraq (including its archdiocese the Chaldean Syrian Church of India). The Syro-Malabar Church is the third-largest particular church (sui juris) in the Catholic Church (after the Latin Church and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church). [12] [41]

Restoration of the Syro-Malabar hierarchy

After the split in the church community, the Catholics of the Malabar coast faced an identity crisis and thus some priests and laymen attempted to persuade the hierarchy to improve the identity of the local church, and for the appointment of bishops from local priests. To represent their position, Kerala's Syrian Catholics Joseph Kariattil and Paremmakkal Thomma Kathanar went to Rome in 1778. While they were in Europe, Kariatty Joseph Kathanar was installed in Portugal as the Archbishop of Kodungalloor Archdiocese.[ citation needed ] While journeying home, they stayed in Goa where Kariattil died before he could formally take charge. Before he died, Kariattil appointed Kathanar as the Administrator of Kodungalloor Archdiocese after him. The new administrator ran the affairs of the church, establishing his headquarters at Angamaly. In 1790, the headquarters of the Archdiocese was shifted to Vadayar, dodging the invasion of Tippu Sultan. In the last four years of his life, Thomma Kathanar managed church administration from his own parish, Ramapuram.[ citation needed ]

After earlier being under the Babylonian Assyrian Church of the East (with the Catholic faction known as Chaldean Catholic Church from 1681), and under Latin Catholic bishops from 1599, Catholics of St. Thomas Christians obtained their own bishops from 1896. They were known as Catholic Chaldean Syrians during the period from around 1787 (Angamaly Padiyola) to around 1911. They were known as the Catholic Syrians or Romo-Syrians to differentiate them from the Orthodox Syrians and Latin Church Catholics in Kerala. They came to be known as the Syro Malabar Catholics from 1932 onwards to differentiate them from the Syro-Malankara Catholics in Kerala. The Indian East Syriac Catholic hierarchy was restored on 21 December 1923 with Augustine Kandathil as the first Metropolitan and Head of the Church with the name Syro-Malabar. [42]

Time line of events

Time line of events

Syro-Malabar identity

Syro-Malabar historian and theologian Fr. Placid Podipara describes it as "Christian by faith, Indian by culture, and East Syrian/Syriac/Oriental in liturgy."[ citation needed ] Today, the Syro-Malabar Church finds herself as the second-largest Eastern Catholic Church in the world with over 5.1 million members worldwide.

Faith and communion of Syro-Malabarians

The St. Thomas Christians got their bishops from the Assyrian Church of the East/Chaldean Church from ca. 300 AD till the end of the sixteenth century, until it was stopped by the Portuguese Roman Rite Catholics in 1597, after the death of Abraham.


As per the East Syriac tradition, liturgical day of the Syro-Malabar Church starts at sunset (6 pm). Also the worshiper has to face the East while worshiping. This is not followed after Latinization. [43]

According to the East Syriac Orthodox tradition which was prevalent before the introduction of Catholicism,[ citation needed ] the following are the seven times of prayer:

The Holy Mass, which is called Holy Qurbana in East Syriac Aramaic and means "Eucharist", is celebrated in its solemn form on Sundays and special occasions. During the celebration of the Qurbana, priests and deacons put on elaborate vestments which are unique to the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church.

Restoration of East Syriac liturgy

Metropolitan and Gate of all India Geevarghese metropolitan, Successor of Marthoma Sleeha (St. Thomas Apostle). Mar George Cardinal Alencherry.jpg
Metropolitan and Gate of all India Geevarghese metropolitan, Successor of Marthoma Sleeha (St. Thomas Apostle).
Crowning Ceremony during a Syro-Malabar wedding Crowning in Syro-Malabar Nasrani Wedding by Mar Gregory Karotemprel.jpg
Crowning Ceremony during a Syro-Malabar wedding

East Syriac liturgy has three anaphorae: those of the Holy Apostles (Saints Addai and Mari), Nestorius, and Theodore the Interpreter. The first is the most popularly and extensively used. The second was traditionally used on the Epiphany and the feasts of St. John the Baptist and of the Greek Doctors, both of which occur in Epiphany-tide on the Wednesday of the Rogation of the Ninevites, and on Maundy Thursday. The third is used (except when the second is ordered) from Advent to Palm Sunday. The same pro-anaphoral part (Liturgy of the Word) serves for all three.

In the second half of the 20th century, there was a movement for better understanding of the liturgical rites. A restored Eucharistic liturgy, drawing on the original East Syriac sources, was approved by Pope Pius XII in 1957, and for the first time on the feast of St. Thomas on 3 July 1962 the vernacular, Malayalam, was introduced for the celebration of the Syro-Malabar Qurbana. [44] Currently they celebrate the Divine Liturgy of Addai and Mari and the Anaphora of Theodre in mostly Malayalam, with Syriac and English influences.

Besides the Anaphora of Addai and Mari being used currently in Syro-Malabar liturgy, there are two more anaphorae known as Anaphora of Theodore and Anaphora of Nestorius. That the Anaphora of Theodore which was withdrawn from use after the Synod of Diamper (a large number of churches used it up to 1896) is being used again in the Syro-Malabar Church after 415 years is indeed an important historical reality. In a way the Syro-Malabar church rejected the Synod of Diamper. Pope Pius XII during the process of restoration of the Syro-Malabar Qurbana in 1957 had requested the restoration of the Anaphorae of Theodore and Nestorius. The draft of the Anaphora of Theodore was restored after meticulous study by the Central Liturgical Committee, Liturgical Research Centre, various sub-committees, and the eparchial liturgical commissions. Many changes befitting to the times have been made in the prayers, maintaining maximum fidelity to the original text of the Second Anaphora. It was this text so prepared that was sent to Rome for the recognition of the Apostolic See in accordance with the decision of the Syro-Malabar Synod. The Congregation for the Eastern Churches gave its approval for using this anaphora on an experimental basis for three years on 15 December 2012. [45]

After almost 420 years, the Anaphora of Nestorius is restored in the Syro-Malabar Church. [46] The aftermath of the so-called Synod of Diamper was that any texts related to Nestorius were systematically burnt by the Jesuits, who represented and ruled the Latin Church of India in 1599. In a way, the SyroMalabar church rejected the Synod of Diamber (Udayamperoor) by restoring the Anaphora of Theodore and Anaphora of Nestorius.

The Latinization of the Syro-Malabar rite churches was brought to a head when in 1896 Ladislaus Zaleski, the Apostolic Delegate to India, requested permission to translate the Roman Pontifical into Syriac. This was the choice of some Malabar prelates, who chose it over the East Syriac Rite and West Syriac Rite pontificals. A large number of Syro-Malabarians were Assyrian schismatics at that time and various problems and concerns delayed the approval of this translation, until in 1934 Pope Pius XI stated that Latinization was no longer to be encouraged among Eastern Rite Catholics. [47] He initiated a process of liturgical reform that sought to restore the oriental nature of the Latinized Syro-Malabar rite. [48] A restored Eucharistic liturgy, drawing on the original East Syriac sources, was approved by Pius XII in 1957 and introduced in 1962.

The church uses one of several Bible translations into Malayalam.

Liturgical calendar

Syro-Malabar liturgical calendar Syro-Malabar Liturgical Calendar-2008.jpg
Syro-Malabar liturgical calendar

Syro Malabar Church has its own liturgical year. It is ordered according to the flow of salvation history, and focuses on the historical life of Jesus. [49] There are nine seasons for the liturgical year. They are:

  1. Annunciation (Suvara)
  2. Epiphany (Denha)
  3. Great Fast (Sawma Rabba)
  4. Resurrection (Qyamta)
  5. Apostles (Slihe)
  6. Summer (Qaita)
  7. Elijah-Cross-Moses (Elijah-Sliba-Muse)
  8. Dedication of the Church (Qudas-Edta)

Major feasts

Kozhukkatta is prepared by Syro-Malabar families on the Saturday prior to Oshana Sunday and the day is hence called Kozhukatta Saturday. Kozhukatta Nasrani food.jpg
Kozhukkatta is prepared by Syro-Malabar families on the Saturday prior to Oshana Sunday and the day is hence called Kozhukatta Saturday.

Major feasts of the Church are: [50]

Syro-Malabar hierarchy

List of Major Archbishops

Also known as Metropolitan and Gate of all India, the Major Archbishops of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church are:

Syro-Malabar major archiepiscopal curia

Syriac inscription at Syro-Malabar Catholic Major Archbishop's House, Ernakulam. Syriac inscription at Syro-Malabar Catholic Major Archbishop's House Ernakulam.jpg
Syriac inscription at Syro-Malabar Catholic Major Archbishop's House, Ernakulam.

The curia [51] of the Syro-Malabar Church began to function in March 1993 at the archbishop's house of Ernakulam-Angamaly. Later, on 27 May 1995, it was shifted to new premises at Mount St. Thomas near Kakkanad, Kochi. The newly-constructed curial building was opened on 3 July 1998.

The administration of the Syro-Malabar Church has executive and judicial roles. The major archbishop, officials, various commissions, committees, and the permanent synod form the executive part. The permanent synod and other offices are formed in accordance with the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (CCEO). The officials include the chancellor, vice-chancellor, and other officers. Various commissions are appointed by the major archbishop: Liturgy, Pastoral Care of the Migrant and Evangelisation, Particular Law, Catechism, Ecumenism, Catholic Doctrine, Clergy and Institutes of Consecrated Life, and Societies of Apostolic Life. The members of the commissions are ordinarily bishops, but include priests. For judicial activities there is the major archiepiscopal ordinary tribunal formed in accordance with CCEO which has a statutes and sufficient personnel, with a president as its head. At present, Rev. Dr. Jose Chiramel is the president. The Major archiepiscopal curia functions in the curial building in Kerala, India. They have prepared the particular law for their Church and promulgated it part by part in Synodal News, the official Bulletin of this Church. There are statutes for the permanent synod and for the superior and ordinary tribunals. CCEO c. 122 § 2 is specific in the particular law, that the term of the office shall be five years and the same person shall not be appointed for more than two terms consecutively. [52]

Provinces, (Arch)Eparchies and other jurisdictions

Syro-Malabar bishops at the Generalate of Sisters of the Destitute Syro Malabar Bishops at Mar Varghese Payyappilly Palakkappilly S D Convent.jpg
Syro-Malabar bishops at the Generalate of Sisters of the Destitute

There are 35 eparchies (dioceses). Five of them are Archeparchies (of major archbishop) at present, all in southern India: Ernakulam-Angamaly, Changanacherry, Trichur, Tellicherry, and Kottayam.

These have another 13 suffragan eparchies: Bhadravathi, Belthangady, Irinjalakuda, Kanjirapally, Kothamangalam, Idukki, Mananthavady, Mandya, Palai, Palghat, Ramanathapuram, Thamarassery, and Thuckalay within the canonical territory of the Major Archiepiscopal Church.

There are 13 further eparchies outside the canonical territory of which Adilabad, Bijnor, Chanda, Gorakhpur, Jagdalpur, Kalyan, Rajkot, Sagar, Satna, Faridabad, Hosur, Shamsabad, and Ujjain in India are with exclusive jurisdiction. The St. Thomas Eparchy of Chicago in the United States of America, St. Thomas the Apostle Eparchy of Melbourne in Australia, Eparchy of Great Britain, and Eparchy of Mississauga, Canada enjoy personal jurisdiction. [53]

Proper Ecclesiastical provinces

Most believers of this church are organized under five metropolitan archeparchies (archdioceses), all in Kerala, and their suffragan eparchies.

Late Varkey Vithayathil former Major Archbishop. Mar Varkey Vithayathil.jpg
Late Varkey Vithayathil former Major Archbishop.

Eparchies Outside Kerala

Exempt jurisdictions

Outside India:

Syro-Malabar Religious Congregations

The Religious Congregations 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.

Active are :

Syro-Malabar Major Archiepiscopal Churches


Institutes of consecrated life – men & women53
Major & minor seminary71
Regular, technical & other colleges691
Teachers' training institutes24
Engineering colleges

Higher Secondary & Primary Schools



Non-formal & adult education503
Special schools4,021
Health care institutions700
Nurse's training schools44
Hospitals, dispensaries & health centers

Medical colleges



Specialized health care centers, incurables & leprosy care centers54
Old age homes211
Children's homes185
Rehabilitation centers and other institutions1,616
Religious sisters35,000
Religious brothers6,836
Seminarians 2,907
Diocesan and religious priests9,121
Major archbishop1

According to the Annuario Pontificio (the pontifical yearbook) for 2016 there were about 4,189,349 members in the Syro-Malabar Church. [53]

Within the proper territory

There are sixteen eparchies in the proper territory of the Syro-Malabar Church.

Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly has 510,000 members with 347 parishes, 731 religious/secular priests, 632 male religious and 4935 female religious. Archeparchy of Trichur has 471,328 members with 195 parishes, 418 religious/secular priests, 358 male religious and 3315 female religious. Eparchy of Idukki has 270,000 members with 129 parishes, 119 religious/secular priests, 109 male religious and 1320 female religious.

Archeparchy of Changanacherry has 390,000 members with 266 parishes, 615 religious/secular priests, 534 male religious and 2705 female religious. Eparchy of Palai has 348,128 members with 169 parishes, 502 religious/secular priests, 127 male religious and 3312 female religious. Archeparchy of Tellicherry has 317,782 members with 222 parishes, 293 religious/secular priests, 263 male religious and 1664 female religious. Eparchy of Irinjalakuda has 258,200 members with 128 parishes, 233 religious/secular priests, 132 male religious and 2350 female religious.

Eparchy of Kothamangalam has 217,420 members with 115 parishes, 242 religious/secular priests, 163 male religious and 2210 female religious. Eparchy of Kanjirapally has 192,000 members with 136 parishes, 314 religious/secular priests, 210 male religious and 1840 female religious. Archeparchy of Kottayam has 175,300 members with 149 parishes, 161 religious/secular priests, 107 male religious and 1233 female religious. Eparchy of Mananthavady has 170,100 members with 140 parishes, 413 religious/secular priests, 358 male religious and 1546 female religious. Eparchy of Thamarasserry has 129,600 members with 128 parishes, 247 religious/secular priests, 257 male religious and 1321 female religious. Eparchy of Palghat has 68,004 members with 106 parishes, 167 religious/secular priests, 82 male religious and 1360 female religious. [53]

According to a study, in Kerala about 30 percent of the Syro Malabar Church members lived in the erstwhile Cochin State. The remaining 70 percent lived in Travancore state.[ citation needed ] In the Travancore state, Meenachil Taluk had the largest proportion, followed by Changanaserry Taluk.

Erstwhile Cochin State, Meenachil (Palai) and Changanaserry together had 56 percent of the total Syro Malabar population. Kottayam, Pala, Muvattupuzha, Kanjirappally, Thodupuzha, Kothamangalam, Cherthala, Mukundapuram (irinjalakkuda-chalakkudy), Wadakkancherry, Thrissur, North Parur, Alwaye, Kunnathunadu, Ambalapuzha, Kuttanad, Peerumedu, Nedumkandam and Devikulam etc. are the prominent taluks. [53]

Outside the proper territory

There are eleven eparchies outside the proper territory of the Syro Malabar Church.

The Eparchy of Kalyan has 100,000 members with 106 parishes, 146 religious/secular priests, 105 male religious and 270 female religious. St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago, USA, has 85,000 members with 11 parishes, 45 religious/secular priests, 13 male religious and 16 female religious. The Eparchy of Canada has 14,079 members with 5 parishes, 51 religious/secular priests, 182 male religious and 352 female religious. The Eparchy of Adilabad has 13,273 members with 25 parishes, 50 religious/secular priests, 41 male religious and 143 female religious. The Eparchy of Rajkot has 12,850 members with 12 parishes, 140 religious/secular priests, 142 male religious and 421 female religious. There is a significant diaspora of Syro-Malabar Catholics in countries not under the jurisdiction of any of the existing eparchies. [56]

Saints, Blesseds, Venerables and Servants of God

Funeral of Venerable Varghese Payyappilly Palakkappilly on 6 October 1929. Mar Varghese Payyappilly Palakkappilly Funeral.jpg
Funeral of Venerable Varghese Payyappilly Palakkappilly on 6 October 1929.
St. Joseph's Syro-Malabar Monastery Church, Mannanam, where the mortal remains of Kuriakose Elias Chavara are kept. Mannam Church.jpg
St. Joseph's Syro-Malabar Monastery Church, Mannanam, where the mortal remains of Kuriakose Elias Chavara are kept.


Beatified people


Servants of God

List of prominent Syro-Malabar Catholics in history

Prominent Syro-Malabar Catholics who worked for unity of Nasranis


The Varthamanappusthakam is the first travelogue written in the Malayalam language, written by Paremmakkal Thoma Kathanar. It describes the history of the Nasrani Church between the years 1773 and 1786 with emphasis on the journey of its author and Malpan Ousep (Joseph) Kariattil from Malabar to Rome via Lisbon and back. Despite attempts by European ecclesiastical authorities to destroy it, the major part of this book survived.

Shared history with other Saint Thomas Christians

Abraham of Angamaly

Abraham of Angamaly (Syriac: ܐܒܪܗܡ ܡܛܪܢ, Abraham died c. 1597) was the last in the long line of Mesopotamian Bishops who governed the Church of Saint Thomas Christians. In spite of the express approbation of the pope, he was not welcomed by the Portuguese ecclesiastical authorities.

Abraham died in January 1597 at Angamaly and his body was buried in Hormiz Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Angamaly (old Cathedral church).

See also


Related Research Articles

Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church Orthodox Church in Kerala, India

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Saint Thomas Christians Indian ethnoreligious group

The Saint Thomas Christians, also called Syrian Christians of India, Nasrani or Malabar Nasrani or Malankara Nasrani or Nasrani Mappila, are an ethno-religious community of Indian Christians from the state of Kerala, who employ the East Syriac Rite and West Syriac Rite liturgical rites of Syriac Christianity. They trace their origins to the evangelistic activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century. Nasrani is an Arabic term for "Christian" that emerges from the Greek word Nazōraioi translated in English to Nazarene. The Saint Thomas Christians are now divided into several different Eastern Catholic, Oriental Orthodox, Protestant, and independent bodies, each with their own liturgies and traditions. They are Malayali people and speak the Malayalam language.

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Syriac Christianity Form of Eastern Christianity

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Synod of Diamper synod

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Coonan Cross Oath

The Coonan Cross Oath, taken on 3 January 1653, was a public avowal by members of the Saint Thomas Christians community of modern-day Kerala, India that they would not submit to the Jesuits and Latin Catholic Portuguese Padroado dominance in ecclesiastical and secular life.

Syro-Malabar Catholic Major Archeparchy of Ernakulam–Angamaly archdiocese

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Thoma I Leader of Saint Thomas Christians and first bishop of the Malankara Church

Mar Thoma I, also known as "Valiya Mar Thoma", is the first native democratically elected/selected Metropolitan bishop of the St Thomas Christians or Malankara Church. He was the last Archdeacon of the undivided St. Thomas Christians of Malabar. After the death of Archdeacon George of the Cross on 25 July 1640, Parambil Thoma Kathanar was elected and enthroned as new Archdeacon, when he was less than 30 years old. He led the Church to the Coonan Cross Oath on 3 January 1653 and to the subsequent schism in Saint Thomas Christians Church. After the Coonen Cross Oath, he was elected as a Bishop by Malankara (Yogam) Association and consecrated as a Bishop at St. Mary's Church Alangad, by laying hands of 12 priests on 22 May 1653. Only two Southist churches of Kaduthuruthy and Udayamperoor and a very few people elsewhere refused to recognise him as Bishop. Any how, the archdeacon began to exercise powers of episcopal order, though he openly tried to regularize his episcopal consecration as a Bishop from the Church of Antioch. His episcopal consecration as a Bishop was regularized in the year 1665 by Mar Gregorios Abdal Jaleel the Patriarchal delegate of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch.(The exact date and place of this event is anonymous).

Jacobite Syrian Christian Church Oriental Orthodox Church based in Kerala

The Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Christian Church (JSOCC), also known as the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Christian Church, the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church, or the Syriac Orthodox Church of India, is an autonomous Oriental Orthodox church based in the Indian state of Kerala, and is an integral branch of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch. It recognizes the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, Ignatius Aphrem II is Supreme Head of the church. It functions as a largely autonomous unit within the church, under the authority of the Catholicos of India, Thomas I. Currently, this is the only church in Malankara which has a direct relationship with the Syriac Christians of Antioch, which has continued from after the schism and it continues to employ the West Syriac Rite Liturgy of Saint James.

Saint Thomas Christian cross ancient crosses

Saint Thomas Christian crosses are ancient crosses that belonged to the ancient community of Saint Thomas Christians of India, who trace their origins to the evangelistic activity of St Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century. It is thus one of the oldest Christian communities of the world. Saint Thomas Christian crosses are broadly classified as Mar Thoma Sleeva, Indian Cross, Persian Cross, and Nasrani Sthambam.

Timeline of the Syro-Malabar Church

This is a timeline of the history of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in India.

Malankara Church Orthodox Church

The Malankara Church refers to the collection of Indian apostolic churches, according to tradition, that originated in the missions of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century. The word "Malankara" is a combination of two words, 'Mala' which means mountains and 'Kara' which means land surface; and refers to the state of Kerala in India.

Christianity is the third-most practised religion in Kerala, accounting for 18% of the population according to the Indian census. Although a minority, the Christian population of Kerala is proportionally much larger than that of India as a whole. A significant portion of the Indian Christian population resides in the state.

Palliveettil Chandy Bishop

Palliveettil Mar Chandy became the first Indian-born native Saint Thomas Christian Bishop of the East Syriac Rite (Chaldaean) hierarchy after the Coonan Cross Oath in 1653. This faction became in full communion with the Holy See of Rome, it would later become the modern-day Eastern Catholic Syro-Malabar Catholic Church which is also colloquially known as the Roman Catholic Syrian Church (RCSC). Chandy's tomb is at the Marth Mariam Major Archiepiscopal Church at Kuravilangad.

Saint Thomas Christian denominations

The Saint Thomas Christian denominations are traditional Christian denominations from Kerala, India, who trace their origins to the evangelistic activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century. They are also known as "Nasranis" as well. The Syriac term "Nasrani" is still used by St. Thomas Christians in Kerala.

Malankara–Persia relations

Several historical evidences shed light on a significant Malankara–Persia relationship that spanned centuries. While a fraternal relationship existed between Malankara and Persia in the earlier centuries, closer ecclesiastical ties developed as early as 15th century and endured until the Portuguese colonial invasion of Malabar in 16th century. The Christians who came under the two ancient yet distinct lineages of Malankara (India) and Persia had one factor in common: their Saint Thomas heritage. The Church of the East shared communion with the Great Church until the Council of Ephesus in the 5th century, separating primarily over differences in Christology.

St Marys Church, Angamaly

St Mary's Jacobite Syrian Church, Angamaly is believed to be built in AD 409 and is the first church built in Angamaly. It is an ancient church and one of the most prominent churches in Kerala. It was the seat of the Archdeacon, the local head of the Malankara Church and hence held an important position in Malankara for many centuries.


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  8. Robert Eric Frykenberg (2008). Christianity in India: From Beginnings to the Present. p. 361. ISBN   9780198263777. His followers became known as the 'new party' (Puthankuttukar), as distinct from the 'old party' (Pazhayakuttukar), the name by which the Catholic party became known.
  9. Hillerbrand, Hans J. (2004). Encyclopedia of Protestantism: 4-volume Set. Routledge. ISBN   9781135960285. those who rejected the Latin rite were known as the New Party, which later became the Jacobite Church
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  19. Thomas Puthiakunnel, (1973) "Jewish colonies of India paved the way for St. Thomas", The Saint Thomas Christian Encyclopedia of India, ed. George Menachery, Vol. II., Trichur.
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  30. Wilfred, Felix (2014). The Oxford Handbook of Christianity in Asia. Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN   978-0-19-932906-9.
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  44. The Origin and Progress of the Syro-Malabar Hierarchy By Varkey J. Vithayathil
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References and bibliography

Coordinates: 9°58′56″N76°16′35″E / 9.9823°N 76.2763°E / 9.9823; 76.2763