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Sunday School Information on History of MOSC

 

 

HISTORY OF

MALANKARA ORTHODOX SYRIAN CHURCH

 

(Part of Curriculum Covered on the Annual Centralized Examinations for 8th Graders)

Recommended Book – Handbook for the Malankara Orthodox Church (Chapter 1)

 

Since the above book may not be readily available, the full text of Chapter 1, giving a brief history of our Malankara Orthodox Church is given below :

       Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church was founded by St. Thomas, one of the 12 apostles of our Lord in 52 A.D., according to the traditions. This is strongly believed by a significant Christian community from the early centuries. These Christians were known as St. Thomas Christians. This church is one of the most ancient churches in Christendom.

        There were trade relations between India and the western countries even before Christ. Hence, there was the possibility of St. Thomas coming to India. The names of ivory, apes and peacocks in the palace of Solomon, mentioned in I Kings 10:22 and II Chronicles 9:21 in the Hebrew language, are found to be similar to the old Tamil names. It is to be remembered in this connection that Tamil was the language in use in Kerala up to the ninth century A.D. There is also clear evidence for the fact that monsoon winds were used for navigation in the first century A.D.

      St. Thomas baptized people, consecrated churches at Maliankara, Paloor, Paravoor, Gokamangalam, Niranam, Chayal and Kollam and ordained priests from four families. He was martyred at Mylapore near Madras in 72 A.D.

       Clear historical evidence regarding our church in the early centuries, is lacking. But we have the evidence of a colony of Christians coming from Persia in 345 A.D. under the leadership of one Thomas of C’nai, on account of the persecution in Persia.

     In the sixth century, Cosmas, a traveler who came to South India has written the details of his tour in a book called ‘Universal Topography.’ He says that in Male, where pepper grows, he found Christians who were looked after by a bishop who came from Persia. The copper plates belonging to the early centuries (4th and 9th centuries) in which great privileges were granted to the Christians by the local rulers, prove the high status Christians had. The Persian stone crosses belonging to the 8th and 9th centuries show the relationship with the Persian Church. While the bishops who came from Persia catered to the spiritual needs, Archdeacon was the temporal leader of the Christians.

     The social status of the St. Thomas Christians before the coming of the Portuguese at the end of the 15th century, was high and Christians were held in high esteem. They served in the military and kings had great faith in the honesty and loyalty of the Christians. They were the leaders in trade. It is also said that there was a Christian King who had his headquarters at Diamper.

     The Portuguese who came at the end of the 15th century, were Roman Catholics. They tried to bring the St. Thomas Christians under the Pope of Rome. Through political influence the Synod of Diamper was held in 1599 and St. Thomas Christians were brought under the Pope. Those who kept away from the Synod of Diamper continued as a small separate Church in Trichur and they are called the Chaldean Church. In 1653 the majority of the St. Thomas Christians broke away from the Roman Catholic Church, through an oath called the “Coonan Cross Oath.”

     In the 18th century one foreign bishop Mar Gregorios consecrated a bishop with the name Mar Coorilos without the consent of the local bishop, Marthoma VI. The courts in Travancore and Cochin passed judgements against Mar Coorilos and he had to go to Malabar (northern most part of Kerala) and start a new Church called “Thozhiyoor Church.”

      As the Portuguese were driven out by the Dutch, Mar Gregorios, a bishop who was under the Patriarch of Antioch, came to Kerala in 1665. There was a succession of the local bishops from this time.

      In 1816, the British missionaries came and started a mission of help when the British came into power. They belonged to the Anglican (Episcopal) Church. The missionaries helped the St. Thomas Church to start a Theological Seminary and a number of schools. They also translated the Holy Bible into Malayalam. But as they began to teach Protestant theology, these missionaries were rejected through a declaration called “Mavelikara Padiyola” in 1836. Thereupon, the missionaries started a new church, called C.M.S (Church Missionary Society) which later on joined with other Protestant denominations to form the C.S.I (Church of South India).

      A few members, influenced by the Protestant teaching of the missionaries, tried to reform the Church from inside. Their leader was Abrahm Malpan of Maramon. He sent his nephew to the Patriarch of Antioch to get consecrated as bishop. This new bishop was Matthews Mar Athanasios. To oppose him, Pulikottil Joseph Ramban went to Antioch and was consecrated as bishop with the name Joseph Mar Dionysios. He brought down the Patriarch of Antioch Peter III and convened the Synod of Mulamthuruthy in 1876. Thus the church accepted the spiritual supremacy of the Patriarch of Antioch. In 1889, the Royal court gave the verdict in favor of Joseph Mar Dionysios, saying that the Patriarch of Antioch had spiritual supremacy over theMalankara Church. This resulted in the separation of the reformation group and new group/church later on took the name “Marthoma Church.”

       The Malankara Church did not actually want to be under the rule of the Patriarch of Antioch. Hence the Church sent a request to have a Catholicos. The request was rejected by the then Patriarch, Abdul Messiah. Then another Patriarch came to the throne with the name Abdulla, as the majority had sided with the new Patriarch. This Patriarch came to India and wanted Vattasseril Geevarghese Mar Dionysios Metropolitan to sign a document declaring that the Patriarch had temporal powers also over the Malankara Church. Mar Dionysios refused to sign. The Patriarch therefore excommunicated Mar Dionysios. Those who sided with the Patriarch, became known as “Bava Party” and the other “Metran Party” and litigation began.

      Thereupon, Mar Dionysios brought down the Senior Patriarch, Mar Abdul Messiah and had a Catholicos enthroned, establishing the Catholicate in 1912 A.D. Thus our Church gained the authority to consecrate our own bishops and to consecrate Holy Mooron.

      In 1930, a bishop our Church, Mar Ivanios joined the Roman Catholic Church with his followers including Mar Theophilos, forming the Malankara Rite (within the Roman Catholic Church).

     The litigation between the Bava party and Metran party, later known as Pathriyarkis party and Catholicos party respectively, continued and finally the Supreme Court of India gave the judgement in favor of the Catholicos in 1958. This led to the mutual recognition of the Patriarch and Catholicos. The Patriarch came for the enthronement of the next Catholicos H.H. Baselios Augen I in 1964. But unfortunately, a major portion of the Bava party separated in 1972. A Catholicos was installed by the Patriarch, for them. This Catholicos died in 1996.

     Thus the history of our Church has been a struggle with foreign powers and internal rifts, causing divisions. Finally, through God’s grace, we have an autocephalous and autonomous Church. In the midst of odds, our Church has made much progress in evangelic work and in starting and running colleges, schools, I.T.Cs, hospitals and orphanages. Our Theological Seminary in Kottayam is now one of the most eminent theological colleges in Asia. The Church has spread all over the world forming new dioceses.

 

(The End)

 

 

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