Syro-Malabar Catholic Church

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Syro-Malabar Catholic Church
Mar Thoma Sliva.jpg
The Mar Thoma Sliva or Saint Thomas Cross, the symbol of the Syro-Malabar Church
Type Particular church ( sui iuris )
Classification Eastern Catholic
Orientation Eastern Christianity
Theology Catholic Theology
Pope Francis
Metropolitan George Alencherry
ArchdeaconThadathil Joseph
Region India, United States, Australia, U.K., Canada [1]
Language Liturgical Syriac, Suriyani Malayalam, Malayalam, English
Liturgy East Syriac Rite
(Liturgy of Addai and Mari)
Headquarters Cathedral of Saint Mary, Ernakulam, Kerala, India
Founder Thomas the Apostle
OriginAD 52 [2] [3]
Members4.25 million [4]
Official website Official site

The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church (Classical Syriac : ܥܸܕܬܵܐ ܩܵܬܘܿܠܝܼܩܝܼ ܕܡܲܠܲܒܵܪ ܣܘܼܪܝܵܝܵܐEdta Qatholiqi D'Malabar Suryaya; Malayalam : മലബാറിലെ സുറിയാനി കത്തോലിക്ക സഭMalabarile Suriyani catholika Sabha; Latin : Ecclesia Syrorum Malabarensium, lit. "Church of the Malabar Syrians") or Church of Malabar Syrian Catholics is an Eastern Catholic Major Archiepiscopal Church based in Kerala, India. It is a 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.

Kerala State in southern India

Kerala is a state on the southwestern Malabar Coast of India. It was formed on 1 November 1956, following passage of the States Reorganisation Act, by combining Malayalam-speaking regions. Spread over 38,863 km2 (15,005 sq mi), Kerala is the twenty-second largest Indian state by area. It is bordered by Karnataka to the north and northeast, Tamil Nadu to the east and south, and the Lakshadweep Sea to the west. With 33,387,677 inhabitants as per the 2011 Census, Kerala is the thirteenth-largest Indian state by population. It is divided into 14 districts with the capital being Thiruvananthapuram. Malayalam is the most widely spoken language and is also the official language of the state.

India Country in South Asia

India is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by area, the second-most populous country, and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the southwest, and the Bay of Bengal on the southeast, it shares land borders with Pakistan to the west; China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the north; and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka and the Maldives; its Andaman and Nicobar Islands share a maritime border with Thailand and Indonesia.

Sui iuris, also spelled as sui juris, is a Latin phrase that literally means "of one's own right". It is used in both civil law and canon law by the Catholic Church. The term church sui iuris is used in the Catholic Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (CCEO) to denote the autonomous churches in Catholic communion:

A church sui iuris is "a community of the Christian faithful, which is joined together by a hierarchy according to the norm of law and which is expressly or tacitly recognized as sui iuris by the supreme authority of the Church" (CCEO.27). The term sui iuris is an innovation of the CCEO, and it denotes the relative autonomy of the oriental Catholic Churches. This canonical term, pregnant with many juridical nuances, indicates the God-given mission of the Oriental Catholic Churches to keep up their patrimonial autonomous nature. And the autonomy of these churches is relative in the sense that it is under the supreme authority of the Roman Pontiff.


The Syro-Malabar Church is headed by the Metropolitan and Gate of all India Mar Cardinal George Alencherry of the Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly in Kerala. The Church uses the Divine Liturgy of Saints Mar Addai and Mar Mari belonging to the East Syriac Rite, which dates back to 3rd century Edessa, [5] as such it is a part of Syriac Christianity by liturgy and heritage. The name Syro-Malabar is coined from the words Syriac (referring to the East Syriac liturgy) and Malabar (the historical name for Kerala). The name has been in usage in official Vatican documents since the nineteenth century. [6] As per Mar Paremmakkal Thoma Kathanar's travelogue Varthamanappusthakam (dated to 1790), the Church was known then as the Malankare Kaldaya Suriyani Sabha (Malankara Chaldean Syriac Church). The Church shares the same liturgy with the Chaldean Catholic Church based in Iraq and the Nestorian Chaldean Syrian Church based in Thrissur, Kerala, which is an archbishopric of the Assyrian Church of the East based in Iraq. The Syro-Malabar Church is the third-largest particular church (sui juris) in the Catholic Church (after the Latin or Roman Church and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church). [7]

Mor or Mar is a title of respect in Syriac, literally meaning 'my lord'. It is given to all saints and is also used before Christian name of bishops. The corresponding feminine form given to women saints is Mart or Mort. The title is placed before the Christian name, as in Mar Aprem/Mor Afrem and Mart/Mort Maryam.

Syro-Malabar Catholic Major Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese

Major Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly is an archeparchy and the See of the Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. Mar George Alencherry is the present Major Archbishop; Mar Jacob Manathodath the former apostolic administrator sede plena; Mar Sebastian Adayantharath and Mar Jose Puthenveetil areauxiliary bishops. Blessed Rani Maria, Venerable Payyappilly Varghese Kathanar and Servant of God Mary Celine Payyappilly are the saints from the archeparchy. Kothamangalam and Idukki are the two suffragan eparchies of the archeparchy.

Liturgy of Addai and Mari

The Liturgy of Addai and Mari is the Divine Liturgy belonging to the East Syriac Rite and was historically used in the Church of the East. This liturgy is traditionally attributed to Saint Addai and Saint Mari. It is currently in regular use, even if in different versions, in the Assyrian Church of the East, the Ancient Church of the East, the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, and the Chaldean Catholic Church. The latter two are Eastern Catholic churches in full communion with the Holy See of Rome.

The Syro-Malabar Church is the largest of the "Nasrani" (St. Thomas Christians) denominations with over 4 million believers [4] and traces its origins to the evangelistic activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century. [8] [9] [10] [11] Syro-Malabar scholar and theologian Mar Placid Podipara describes the Church as "Catholic by faith, Indian by culture, and East Syriac/Oriental in liturgy."[ citation needed ] The Syro-Malabar Church members are predominantly of the Malayali ethnic group and speak Malayalam. Following emigration of its members, eparchies have opened up in other parts of India and other countries due to facilitating the Malayali diaspora living in North America, Australia and the United Kingdom. Saint Alphonsa is the Church's first canonized saint, followed by Saint Kuriakose Chavara and Saint Euphrasia. It is one of the two Eastern Catholic churches in India, the other one being the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church which uses the West Syriac Rite.

Thomas the Apostle Early Christian, one of the twelve apostles and a saint

Thomas the Apostle, also called Didymus ("twin"), was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus according to the New Testament.

Placid J. Podipara Indian priest

Mar Podipara Ouseph Placid Malpan also known as Vishuda Placidachan was an Indian Catholic priest and scholar of the St. Thomas Christian community. He was a scholar in East Syriac language and liturgy. A book published on the tenth anniversary of his death calls him one of the greatest ecclesiastical luminaries of the 20th century in India. He was a member of the Syro Malabar Church and was ordained a priest from the Eastern Catholic religious institute of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (C.M.I.). He was also a theologian, liturgist, orator, professor, ecumenist, and author.

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.png
Saint Thomas Christians - Divisions- History in a nutshell

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. [12] 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”

Coonan Cross Oath

The Coonan Cross Oath, taken on 3 January 1653, was a public avowal by members of the Saint Thomas Christian community of Kerala, India that they would not submit to Latin Catholic dominance in ecclesiastical and secular life. The swearing of the oath at Mattancherry was a major event in the history of the Saint Thomas Christian community and marked a major turning point in its relations with the Latin Catholics. The oath resulted in the breaking up of 54 years of Latin Catholic Padroado (Patronage) Jurisdiction over the St Thomas Christians, started with the synod of Diamper in the year 1599 A.D. convoked by the Latin Catholic Archbishop Dom Alexio De Menezes.

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. He began to directly with the Archdeacon, Mar Thoma I. Fr. Sebastiani, with the help of Portuguese, gained the support of many, especially with the support of Palliveettil Mar Chandy, Kadavil Chandy Kathanar and Vengoor Geevarghese Kathanar . These were the three of the four counselors of Mar Thoma I, who had been defected with Francisco Garcia Mendes, SJ, Archbishop of Cranganore, before the arrival of Sebastaini, according to Jesuit reports. [12]

The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in Rome is the congregation of the Roman Curia responsible for missionary work and related activities. It is perhaps better known by its former title, the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, or simply the Propaganda Fide.

Palliveettil Mar Chandy bishop

Parampil Chandy is the first known person to be appointed in India as a Metropolitan from among the native Saint Thomas Christians of Kerala by the Roman Catholic Church. He was appointed as a rebel bishop against the Mar Thoma I, who was the then head of Malankara Nasranis..

Kodungallur Municipal town in Kerala, India

Kodungallur also formerly known as Muziris, Muyirikkode and Mahodayapuram, is a municipality on the estuary of river Periyar on the Malabar Coast in Thrissur district of Kerala, India. It is situated 29 kilometres (18 mi) north of Kochi (Cochin) by National Highway 66. Kodungallur, being a port city at the northern end of the Kerala lagoons, was a strategic entry point for the naval fleets to the extensive Kerala backwaters.

Between 1661 and 1662, out of the 116 churches, the Carmelites claimed eighty-four churches, leaving the native metropolitan Mar 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, Mar Thoma Syrian (Reformed Syrians), Syro-Malankara Catholic Church have originated. [13]

In 1665 Mar 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. [14] Though most of the St. Thomas Christians gradually relented in their strong opposition to the Western control, the arrival of the Bishop Mar 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 Mar 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. [14] 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 Chaldean Syrian Church when an Eastern Syriac rite bishop, Mar Gabriel, came to evangelize them in 1701. Kottayam cheriapalli was the headquarters of Mar Gabriel.

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 being under Babylonian Assyrian Church of the East (Catholic faction of this church is known as Chaldean Catholic Church from 1681) bishops earlier and under Latin Church Roman 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 Mar Augustine Kandathil as the first Metropolitan and Head of the Church with the name Syro-Malabar. [15]

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 & 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 Mar Abraham.


As per the East Syriac tradition, liturgical day of the Syro-Malabar Church starts at sunset (6 p. m.). Also the worshiper has to face the east while worshiping. This is not followed after Latinization. [16]

According to the East Syriac Orthodox tradition which was prevalent before the induction 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 Mar Geevarghese metropolitan, Successor of Marthoma Sleeha (St. Thomas Apostle). Mar George Cardinal Alencherry.jpg
Metropolitan and Gate of all India Mar 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), Mar Nestorius, and Mar 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 serves for all three.

In the second half of 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 July 3, 1962, the vernacular, Malayalam, was introduced for the celebration of the Syro-Malabar Qurbana. [17] Currently they celebrate the Divine Liturgy of Addai and Mari and the Anaphora of Mar Theodre in mostly Malayalam, with Syriac and English influences.

Besides the Anaphora of Mar Addai and Mari being used currently in Syro-Malabar liturgy, there are two more anaphorae known as Anaphora of Mar Theodore and Anaphora of Mar Nestorius. That the Anaphora of Mar 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 Syro-Malabar Church after 415 years is indeed an important historical reality.In a way SyroMalabar church rejected 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 Mar Theodore and Mar Nestorius. The draft of the Anaphora of Mar 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. [18]

After almost 420 years, the Anaphora of Mar Nestorius is restored in SyroMalabar church "".Aftermath the so-called Synod of Diamper, any text related to Mar Nestorius were systematically burnt by the Jesuits, who represented and ruled Latin Church of India in 1599.In a way SyroMalabar church rejected Synod of Diamber (Udayamperoor) by restoring the Anaphora of Mar Theodore and Anaphora of Mar 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. [19] He initiated a process of liturgical reform that sought to restore the oriental nature of the Latinized Syro-Malabar rite. [20] 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. It focuses on the historical life of Jesus. [21] There are nine seasons for the liturgical year. They are:

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

Major feasts

Major feasts of the Church are, [22]

Syro-Malabar hierarchy

List of Major Archbishops

Also known as Metropolitan and Gate of all India, the Major Archibishops of the Syr-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 [23] 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 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 there are also priests in different commissions. For judicial activities there is the major archiepiscopal ordinary tribunal formed in accordance with CCEO and it 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 part by part in Synodal News, the official Bulletin of this Church. There are statutes for the permanent synod, for the superior and ordinary tribunals. Regarding economo, 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. [24]

Provinces, (Arch)Eparchies and other jurisdictions

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

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

Those 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 and the St. Thomas Eparchy of Chicago in the United States of America and St. Thomas the Apostle Eparchy of Melbourne in Australia,Eparchy of Great Britain,Eparchy of Mississauga, Canada enjoy personal jurisdiction. [25]

Proper Ecclesiastical provinces

Most believers of this church are organized under 5 Metropolitan Archeparchies (archdioceses), all in Kerala, and their suffragan eparchies.

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


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. [25]

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. [25]

According to a study conducted, 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. [25]

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. [27]

Saints, Blesseds, Venerables and Servants of God

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

Mar Abraham of Angamaly

Abraham of Angamaly (Syriac: ܐܒܪܗܡ ܡܛܪܢ, Mar Abraham died c. 1597) was the last in the long line of Mesopotamin 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.

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

See also

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Syriac Catholic Church

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Syro-Malankara Catholic Church

The Syro-Malankara Catholic Church also known as the Malankara Syrian Catholic Church is an Eastern Catholic 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. It is part of the Major Archiepiscopal Churches of the Catholic Church that are not distinguished with a patriarchal title. It is headed by Major Archbishop Cardinal Cleemis Maphrian of the Major Archdiocese of Trivandrum based in Kerala, India. The Church follows the West Syriac Rite liturgy of Saint James, which is also used in the Maronite Church, the Syriac Catholic Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church, and the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. The Church traces its origins to the evangelistic activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century. It is one of the two Eastern Catholic Churches from India, the other one being the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church which uses the East Syriac Rite liturgy.

Synod of Diamper synod

The Synod of Diamper, held at Udayamperoor, was a diocesan synod or council that laid down rules and regulations for the ancient Saint Thomas Christians of the Malabar Coast, formally uniting them with the Catholic Church. This led to the creation of the Eastern Catholic Syro-Malabar Church, which follows a Latinized East Syriac Rite liturgy.

Joseph Powathil

Mar Joseph Powathil is an Indian Catholic Archbishop representing the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. He is the Archbishop Emeritus of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Archeparchy of Changanassery.

Chaldean Syrian Church

The Chaldean Syrian Church of India is an Eastern Christian Church based in Thrissur, India. It is an archbishopric of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East and is in full communion with its patriarch, Gewargis III.

Syro-Malabar Catholic Archeparchy of Kottayam archeparchy

The Syro-Malabar Catholic Archeparchy of Kottayam is an eparchy of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in India for Knanaya Catholics. The Knanaya are descendants of Syrian Christians of Jewish origin who reportedly migrated to the Malabar coast during the fourth century under the leadership of Nestorian Thomas of Cana. During the 17th century, they split into Catholic and Malankara Church factions.

Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy of Irinjalakuda

The Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy of Irinjalakuda is a suffragan eparchy in the ecclesiastical province of the Metropolitan Syro-Malabar Catholic Archeparchy of Thrissur in Kerala state's Thrissur District, southern India.It is part of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church (which follows a Chaldean = Syro-Oriental Rite.

Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy of Thamarassery

The Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy of Thamarassery is an Eastern Catholic eparchy in India, under the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. It was created on 28 April 1986. On Monday, 18 January 2010, the Synod of Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church, meeting at Mt. St. Thomas appointed Mar Remigius Inchananiyil, secretary and chancellor of Thamarassery, and judge of the major archiepiscopal tribunal, as the new bishop. Mar Paul Chittilapilly is the bishop emeritus of the diocese. Mar Remigius Inchananiyil was consecrated on 8 April 2010.

Thoma I 17th-century 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(കുരിശിങ്ങൽ ജോർജ്)( Kurisingal being his house name), 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).

Saint Thomas Christian cross

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, Persian Cross, and Nasrani Sthambam.

Timeline of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church

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

St. Thomas Cathedral, Irinjalakuda Church in Kerala, India

St Thomas Cathedral is the catholic cathedral of the eparchy of Irinjalakuda in India got its present existence under the nomenclature and the Canonical Status as Cathedral in the Wake of the Origin of the New Eparchy. This was effected by the amalgamation of the two independent and important parishes of the locality, namely, St. George’s Forane Church and St. Mary’s church, which amicably situated side by side for about a century.

George Alencherry Catholic cardinal

Maran Mar George Cardinal Alencherry is a Syro Malabar Major Archbishop and cardinal, an Indian prelate of the Catholic Church. He is currently the Metropolitan and Gate of all India and Head of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and Major Metropolitan Archbishop of that Church. He was elected by the Holy Synod of the Syro-Malabar Church in 2011 to succeed Cardinal Maran Mar Varkey Vithayathil. He was created a cardinal of the Catholic Church on 18 February 2012. He was the first bishop of Thuckalay from 1997 to 2011.

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.

Abraham of Angamaly Catholic bishop

Abraham of Angamaly was the last in the long line of Nestorian bishops sent from the Church of the East to Saint Thomas Christians of Kerala. He was sent by the Nestorian Patriarch Shemon VII Ishoyahb. In spite of the express approbation of the Pope, he was not welcomed by the Portuguese ecclesiastical authorities.

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.


  1. "Eparchial Sees in the Syro-Malabar Church".
  2. "The Syro-Malabar Church Today: An Overview::The St. Thomas Christians::East Syrian (Chaldean)::Syro-Malabar Major Archiepiscopal Church".
  3. "Syro Malabar Church Chronology".
  4. 1 2 (PDF) or empty |title= (help)
  5. Addai and Mari, Liturgy of. Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Oxford University Press. 2005
  6. St. Raphael Syro Malabar Catholic Mission of Cleveland (2014)
  7. Annuario Pontificio- The Pontifical year Book for 2008
  8. Official Website
  9. George Menachery (1973) The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopedia of India, Ed. George Menachery, B.N.K. Press, vol. 2, ISBN   81-87132-06-X, Lib. Cong. Cat. Card. No. 73-905568; B.N.K. Press – (has some 70 lengthy articles by different experts on the origins, development, history, culture... of these Christians, with some 300 odd photographs).
  10. Leslie Brown, (1956) The Indian Christians of St. Thomas. An Account of the Ancient Syrian Church of Malabar, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1956, 1982 (repr.)
  11. 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.
  12. 1 2 Eugene Cardinal Tisserant, "Eastern Christianity in India"
  13. Catholic Encyclopedia profile of "St. Thomas Christians" - The Carmelite Period
  14. 1 2 Thekkedath, History of Christianity in India”
  15. Fr. George Thalian: "The Great Archbishop Mar Augustine Kandathil, D. D.: the Outline of a Vocation". Archived from the original on 1 March 2012. Retrieved 27 April 2011.CS1 maint: Unfit url (link), Mar Louis Memorial Press, 1961. (Postscript) (PDF).
  16. Divine Praises in Aramaic Tradition by Pathikulangara Varghese Kathanar
  17. The Origin and Progress of the Syro-Malabar Hierarchy By Varkey J. Vithayathil
  18. Official Website
  19. The Synod of Diamper and the Liturgy Jacob Vellian The Synod of Diamper Revisited, George Nedugatt, ed.
  20. A Study of the Syro-Malabar Liturgy (George Vavanikunnel)
  21. Pathikulangara, Varghese. Mar Thomma Margam (A New Catechism for the St. Thomas Christians of India), Kottayam: Denha Services, 2004
  22. Syro Malabar Church-Major Feasts, The Nazrani. Also major article on the same in The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India Vol. II
  23. Francis Eluvathingal, Patriarchal and Major Archiepiscopal Churches in the Eastern Catholic Legislations based on CCEO Canon 114–125
  24. Francis Eluvathingal, Syro-Malabar Church Since the Eastern Code
  25. 1 2 3 4 , Syro Malabar Church: An Overview.
  26. 1 2 "Provisions for the Syro-Malabar Church, 10.10.2017" (Press release). Holy See Press Office. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  27. "Syro-Malabar Church Dublin Ireland" . Retrieved 27 August 2016.

References and bibliography

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