Jacobite Syrian Christian ChurchThe Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church, an Orthodox church in Malankara (Kerala, India) is an integral part of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church with the Patriarch of Antioch, His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas as its supreme head. The local head of the church in Malankara is the Catholicose of India, His Beatitude Aboon Mor Baselios Thomas I, ordained by and accountable to the Patriarch of Antioch.
The Syriac Orthodox Church dates back to the very dawn of Christianity. In Syriac, the proper name of the Church is 'idto suryoyto treeysath shubho. In the past, the name of the Church had been translated to English as "Syrian Orthodox Church". The Holy Synod of the Church approved the translation "Syriac Orthodox Church" for use in English speaking countries in its session of March 28-April 3, 2000. The Church justifiably prides itself as being one of the earliest established Apostolic Churches. It was in Antioch, that the followers of Jesus were called Christians (Acts 11:26)
The book of Acts in its exposition with regard to the rank accorded to St.Peter. St.Peter took up the leadership of the Church of Jerusalem after Christ’s Crucifixion and resurrection. Even when he was with Jesus as one the twelve disciples, St.Peter acted as the Chief, emissary and spokesperson of the lot. His primacy is underscored biblically which leaves no room to doubt otherwise. By 37 AD Antioch became the capital of the universal Church and St.Peter, its head.
The Patriarch since St. Peter has assumed the leadership of the Church and had make use of Antioch as the capital to lead the Church, those who are ordained as Patriarchs by the church to succeed St.Peter are no doubt the successors and emissaries of St.Peter. The divine grace is handed down from Jesus to St.Peter, St.Peter to his successors the Metropolitans to Priests, and from Priests to the laity. Thus in the Syrian Orthodox Church the Patriarch represents the first and the foremost link in respect of the apostolic succession and divine priesthood. The universal Syrian Orthodox Church perceives its strength and Unity in His Holiness the Patriarch, the supreme head of the Church. As the Sucessor of the St.Peter, His Holiness is the embodiment and symbol of unity of the universal Syrian Orthodox Church. This embodiment signifies two type of representative characters. Firstly, as the successor of St.Peter, the patriarch represent him.
As St.Peter is the chief shepherd and supreme head, the Patriarch by virtue of his position upholds the unity of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church. Since the Patrirach’s ordination and conornation are deemed to be through the grace of the Holy Ghost and by the will of God, the first representative character is bestowed from above and is divine. So the Patriarch as the high priest the Universal Church, represents Jesus Christ when he celebrates the Holy Eucharist. Secondly the Patriarch as the chief Shepherd of the Church, is the emissary of the entire body of believers. The church is not only an invisible spiritual fellowship but is also a historical reality. So, all the attributes of the Church like one, Holy, Chatholic and Apostolic must also become a historical reality. And the Patriarchs who are ordained from time to time and represent the universal Syrian Church as the Supreme heads, make the unity of the Church a reality.
The term ‘Catholicos’ (Katholikos) is derived from the Greek words ‘Kath-Holikos’, meaning ‘General Primate’ or ‘General Vicar’. Even before the primates of the Church adopted this title, it existed in the Roman Empire where its Government representative who was in charge of a large area was called ‘Catholicos’. The Government servant, who was in charge of State treasury, too was known by that name. In due course, the secular administrative heads in Persian Empire also adopted this title.
The Churches (mainly outside the Roman Empire) started to use this term for their Chief Bishops much later, probably by 4th or 5th centuries. Now the primates of the Orthodox Churches in Armenia, Georgia, Iraq and India, use the title ‘Catholicos’.
‘Maphryono’ (Maphrian) is derived from the Syriac word afri, “to make fruitful’, or "one who gives fecundity". This title came to be used exclusively for the head of the Syrian Orthodox Church in the East (Persia) after the prelates who occupied the office of the Catholicate since late 5th century adopted Nestorian Christology and separated from the mother Church. From the mid 13th century onwards, a few occupants of the Maphrianate were referred also as ‘Catholicos’, but the title never came into extensive usage. However in the 20th century when this office of the Maphrianate under the Holy See of Antioch was established in India, the chief of the local church assumed the title ‘Catholicos’. It is this title that is being used in India today, while the title ‘Maphryono’ (Maphrian) is no longer used.
On Friday the 26th July 2002, His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas the Patriarch of Antioch & all the East, consecrated the 73-year old Mor Dionysius Thomas as the CATHOLICOS with the title 'BASELIOS THOMAS I' at a solemn function held at the St. Peter & St. Paul Cathedral in Mor Ephrem Monastery, Ma`arat Sayyidnaya, near Damascus. Thus, fulfilling the wishes of multitude of faithful, the Malankara Church received a Catholicos after a gap of six years (Catholicos Mor Baselios Paulose II died in 1996). In the Syrian Orthodox Church hierarchy, the Catholicos is second in rank to the supreme spiritual head, the Patriarch of Antioch.
Fourteen Syrian Orthodox Bishops, from India, Syria, Sweden, Netherlands, Germany, Lebanon, Jerusalem, Turkey and Australia attended the enthronement ceremony as the co-celebrants. Thirty five Rambans, many Nuns of the Church and lay people were also present on the occasion to participate in the historical ceremony. Representatives from Government of Syria & India attended the consecration ceremony as special guests. Besides the three Metropolitans who were the co-celebrants, the Church in India was represented by Very Rev Eraalil Geevarghese Ramban (Kerala), Rev. Fr. Prince Mookkanottil (Vicar Mor Ignatius Syrian Orthodox Church Dubai), Rev. Fr. Eldho Valiya Parambil (Vicar-St.George Abu Dhabi), Rev. Fr. Kurian Maliyil (Vicar Sharjah), Rev.Fr. Mathews (Muscat) and Rev. Fr. Varghese Maikkulangara (Kerala). His Beatitude Catholicose Aboon Mor Baselios Thomas 1stThe consecration ceremony started with the celebration of Holy Qurbono at 8 AM by His Holiness the Patriarch, followed by enthronement ceremony, signing of 'SUSTHATHIKON' (Agreement) and 'OKSIOS' (Rising and Declaration). The ceremonial Services ended with the completion of the Holy Qurbono by the newly consecrated Catholicos.
After the enthronement ceremony a reception was given to the Catholicos His Beatitude Mor Baselios Thomas the First. During the speech delivered on the occasion, His Holiness emphasized the commitment of the Holy See to the Church in India. Replying to the congratulatory messages, His Beatitude the Catholicos Aboon Mor Baselios Thomas I reiterated that he like his predecessors, will always take great care in the continuance of the faith and traditions of the Syrian Church.
At the dawn of Christianity in the 1st century, there were two great political powers that stood against each other in the Near and the Middle East; the Roman (Byzantine) Empire and the Empire of the Parthians (or Sassanaid Persians since the early 3rd century), the traditional enmity of which has a determining influence on the history of that area for centuries. The border line between these rival empires divided the landscape of Mesopotamia with the Syriac speaking population on either side. The great city of Antioch where a Christian presence appeared for the first time outside Palestine, was the capital of the Syrian Province, in the Eastern part of the Roman Empire. The bishoprics of the city of Antioch have special importance in the history of Christianity as it was here St. Peter, the chief of the Apostles, established his Apostolic See in AD 37. Antioch and regions east of it were placed under the care of the Bishop/Patriarch of Antioch and all the East. (The Christian church laws that took shape in the early era through regional and ecumenical councils reaffirmed the ecclesiastical jurisdictions of the Patriarchs of Antioch, Alexandria and Rome).
But the political barriers between the Persian and Roman Empires and the bitter rivalry of its rulers made intercommunications between the two regions much more difficult and dangerous. There were instances where clergy from Persia who were ordained by the Patriarch of Antioch were put to death alleging to be spies. It therefore, became necessary for the Patriarch to vest authority in an ecclesiastical dignitary to carry on the administration in the Persian region. Thus evolved the historic office of the Catholicate in Seleucia (Persian capital). The Bishop/Catholicos of Seleucia acted as the deputy of the Patriarch of Antioch, in the Persian Empire, with some exclusive privileges to consecrate bishops on behalf of the Patriarch. Though attempts to bring the Church under this single authority (Seleucian bishop) started in early 4th century itself, it became fruitful only a century later. Initially the other prelates of Persia were opposed to the idea of vesting powers in this Catholicate, but the support from the Antiochean Patriarchate helped to shed all barriers.
It was around the year 300, an attempt was made for the first time to establish the Church in the Persian Empire in an organised form. The initiative for this was taken by Bishop Papa (Baba, AD.267-329) of the Persian royal capital at Seleucia-Ctesiphon with the consent of the Patriarch of Antioch. In AD 315, the Bishop convened a Synod of the Persian prelates at Seleucia in which he tried to organize the local churches, with himself as a head. But the other prelates, especially those of Persia proper resisted and even deposed Bishop Papa. At this crucial juncture, the Bishops of Antioch, Edessa and Nisibis came to his rescue and reinstated him as prelate of the prime city.
It is believed that the title 'CATHOLICOS' was first used by this Bishop Papa. Anyhow, neither this Seleucian bishop nor his successors, until 410, never had any authority over other bishoprics in Persian empire and hence the title Catholicose, if ever used by Bishop Papa, does not mean in the same sense as it was known later.
About a century after, another serious attempt was made to unite all the bishoprics in the Persian Empire. In AD 410, an historic Synod of the churches in Persia was held under the auspices of Bishop Mor Marutha of Muipharqat (delegate of the Antiochean Patriarch), which recognized the primacy of the Metropolitan of Seleucia for the first time. Thus MOR ISHAQ (Issac), the bishop of Seleucia becomes the head of the Persian Church. He is the one who is acknowledged as the first "CATHOLICOS", with jurisdiction over the entire Persian Empire. He assumed this title at the Synod of Seleucia held in AD 410. The primate at that time, was also conferred with the title "Great Metropolitan and Chief of All Bishops". (In some other records the title is mentioned as "Great Metropolitan of All the East and Major Metropolitan of Seleucia-Ctesiphon".).
The Catholicate office of His Beatitude Baselios Thomas I functions at the Patriarchal centre in Puthencuriz near Kochi, which is also the headquarters of the Syrian Orthodox Church in India. His Beatitude resides at Mor Ignatius Seminary at Kothamangalam.
Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas Centre
(Patriarchal centre), Puthencuriz - 682 308
Ernakulam, Kerala, INDIA.
Tel: 0484 - 2732804
Fax: 0484 - 2732804