The Christian Community of Kerala traces its origin back to the arrival of Apostle St. Thomas, who according to common tradition landed first at the Muziri Port (known as Crangannore, now Kodungalloor) in A.D. 52. It was here, not long after, that the Jews arrived after the destruction of the second temple and the final desolation of Jerusalem (A.D. 69) and founded a colony.

St. Thomas visited different parts of Kerala and baptised the natives, including many from the upper caste Namboodiri Brahmins into the new religion. Seven churches, namely (1) Malayankara (now Kodungalloor) (2) Palur (Chavakkad in Thrissur) (3) Paravur (Kottukavu near Cochin) (4) Kokkamangalam (between Alappuzha and Kottayam) (5) Niranam (near Tiruvalla) (6) Chayal (Nilackal near Sabarimala) and (7) Quilon (now Kollam) as well as an “Arappalli” (Chapel) at Thiruvankottu were established. The Apostle faced martyrdom at Mylapore in Madras around A.D. 72 (he was speared to death).

Against the background of trade between India and West Asia since ancient times, reaching the coast of Malabar was feasible and not uncommon around the time St. Thomas came to India.

St. Thomas first started the mission at Malayankara. It is thus that the 400 Christian settlers, who came from Syria in A.D. 345, Thomas of Cana at the head, started referring to their surroundings as "Malankara”. In course of time, all the Malayalam speaking area became collectively known as Malankara. Since they have adopted the rites and liturgies in the Syriac language, they were called Syrian Christians. They used to be called also as Nazaranees (followers of Jesus of Nazareth).

It may be worthwhile to mention here that the great Indian Philosopher Statesman and one of the former distinguished Presidents of India Dr. S. Radhakrishnan - he was respected so much that his birth anniversary, September 5th, is observed as "Teachers' Day'' in India - affirmed that the “light of Christian faith was brought to South India by the Apostle” and the legendary Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, the great freedom fighter and the first Prime Minister of free India, who is the architect of Indian democracy, recorded that there have been Christians in India from the first century.

Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church is one of the 37 Apostolic Churches: Nine in Europe and 28 in the Afro-Asian continents. It belongs to the family of the six Oriental Orthodox Churches. The 25 Dioceses, 19 of them in Kerala and 6 outside Kerala (Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi and Madras as well as in the United States of America, Canada and Europe) have about 1,700 parishes in Kerala and spread all over India and abroad, with an estimated 2.5 million believers. Eastern in origin and Asian in its moorings, the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church can be described as “Indian in culture, Christian in Religion and Oriental in Worship”.

Until the 16th century, there was only one Church in India, concentrated mainly in the South West. The Church was self-administered, guided by a group of presbyters and presided over by the senior Priest or Bishop. This is clear from the fact that no name of any church in India is seen in the records of the Persian Church from the fifth to the seventh century.

From small beginnings, the Christian Community in Kerala grew up to its present position against heavy odds. Though aided by providential factors and by the continued tolerance and hospitality of the neighbourhood and the goodwill of the local rulers and chieftains, the community flourished to the current stature. They welcomed with open arms missionaries and migrants from other churches, some of who sought to escape persecution in their own countries. However, in due course of time the church, unfortunately, was split into various factions.
Except for the origin of Christianity, all Churches have a different perspective on the history and faith of the Malankara St. Thomas Christians.


Travancore-Cochin and Malabar were integrated to form the State of Kerala, in its present form, on 1st November 1956. The name “Kerala” literally means the “land of coconut palms”.

Kerala is the cradle of Christianity in India, where Gospel was brought even before St. Peter reached Rome in A.D. 68. The Church in Kerala has a high missionary spirit. The Syrian Christians played a vital role in spreading the faith all over the world. They also play a decisive role in the educational, social, economical and political fields. Being a Christian is a prestige and privilege in the cast-ridden society in Kerala. Though Christian in faith, we remained attached to the Indian way of life. Thus we can be described as “Indian in culture, Christian in Religion and Oriental in Worship”.

There is no undisputed historical evidence; but the history of the Christian Church in the first century does not depend solely on historical documents. Tradition is often more true and more compelling than historic proof. In this sense St. Peter’s founding of the Roman Church and St. Thomas’ founding of the Malankara Church stand on the same footing. Both are supported by traditions, which are sufficiently early and strong.

Christian community in Kerala is not a homogenous entity. However most Christian denominations follow certain common practices derived from native cultural influences such as wedding customs, and use of Malayalam language in the liturgy and their belief in the St. Thomas tradition.


The Portuguese, who arrived in 1498, gradually established their power base and were keen to bring all Christians in the Roman Catholic wing. In their combined zeal to colonize and proselytize, the Portuguese have not readily grasped the way of life of the St. Thomas Christians who accommodated differing strands of Eastern Christian thought and influence, while preserving the core of their original faith.

The Portuguese were in fact instrumental in causing a division in the once united church in India. It is clear from the observations of the Portuguese Viceroy in Goa, Joas de Castro, who commented in 1548 that the “Portuguese wielded their sword mainly against the centuries old Christians of Kerala because of their resolute stand against Western colonization, and possibly the Portuguese considered everything outside Roman as heretic”.

The year 1592 saw the arrival of the Latin Archbishop Alexis De Menezes in Goa. Armed with the backing of the Portuguese Viceroy, Menezes managed to win over many leaders to his side and with a character, which stooped to use any means to achieve the desired end, including friendly visits, bribery and threat. Securing the support of the King of Cochin, he visited the churches. Finally, seeing the time was opportune, he called the Udayamperur (Diamper in Portuguese) Synod (20-26 June 1599) to correct (what he termed) “the lapses and errors of the Syrian Christians, for the purging of books from false doctrines contained in them; for the perfect union of the Church with the whole Church of Catholic and Universal; for the yielding of obedience to the supreme Bishop of Rome, the Universal Pastor of the Church and Successor on the Throne of St. Peter and Vicar of Christ upon Earth, from whom they had departed for some time”.

660 Indian lay Christians and 130 of their Elders attended the Synod. They were obliged to sign the articles dictated by Menezes, the language of which they did not even understand. In spite of their dissatisfaction with the state of affairs they were forced to submission because of the dominance of the Portuguese power. This caused the division in the once united Malankara Church. Up to the sixteenth century the Malankara Church was one, united in communion with the Babylonian Church, and for half a century united under Rome. Henceforward there were two Communions, the Roman and the non-Roman. Members of the Roman Communion came to be called as “Pazhayakuttu” (old community) and the non-Romans were called “Puthiyakuttu” (new community). These are strange terms as the Roman Catholic faction, introduced just one century before, is called the “old” while the unique centuries old independent Malankara Syrian Christians (established by Apostle St. Thomas) are called “new”!

For over half a century from A.D. 1600 the Malankara Church continued under the Roman supremacy. But the Portuguese empire in India was on the decline and the opportunity for the Syrian Christians to reassert their independence was not far off!

The St. Thomas Christians became increasingly upset with the Latinization of their Church, resolving to preserve the faith and autonomy of their Church and to elect its Head. Discontent was smouldering; an incident in the year 1653 fanned it into flame: The Portuguese captured the Mesopotamian Bishop, Ignatius Mar Ahatalla, who was assigned to Kerala. Thousands of Syrian Christians gathered, demanding to see the Bishop but the Portuguese sent him off to Goa (where he was put to death by the Inquisition); others believed that he was drowned in the sea.This led about 25,000 Syrian Christians and 633 clergy, led by Archdeacon Thomas, to assemble in front of the Church in Mattancherri on January 16, 1653. Holding on to a rope tied around the Stone Cross in front of the Church, they took an oath rejecting the supremacy of the Roman Catholic Church and reaffirming their allegiance to the Malankara Syrian tradition. This revolt, popularly known as the “Coonen Kurisu Satyam” (Oath of Coonen Cross - "Coonen" literally means "bent"/"slanting"), ended the 54 years of Catholic supremacy over the native church.

Archdeacon Thomas was raised to the title of Mar Thoma I, the first in the long line up to Mar Thoma IX till 1816. At the request of the St. Thomas Christians, Bishop Mar Gregarious of Jerusalem came to India in 1664 to confirm the Episcopal consecration of Mar Thoma I. as the Head of the Malankara Syrian Church. Thus began the formal relationship with the Syrian Church with the explicit approval of the traditional autonomous Malankara Church.

The Church managed to survive for 150 years since the Oath of Coonen Cross, but it was certainly not alive. After the fall of Malabar to Britain in 1795, the then British Governor General, the Marquis of Wellesley, sent Rev. Claudius Buchanan, a Chaplain of the East India Company, to conduct research into the life of the ancient Church of St. Thomas in India in 1806. It was the threshold of another chapter in the history of Malankara Church.

During the beginning of the 19th Century, the kingdoms of Travancore and Cochin concluded treaty relations with the British to protect them from Tippu Sultan (The Tiger of Mysore). According to one of its terms a British Resident was to be appointed in Travancore. Colonel Colin McCauley (also written Macaulay) was the first such British Resident (it was during his time that Dewan Paliyath Achan of Cochin joined with Velu Thampi Dalawa of Travancore to fight against the British Rule. In the midnight of December 18, 1808, Macaulay’s house in Cochin was stormed by their joint forces, which freed prisoners from a jail in Cochin). Bolgatty Palace situated in a scenic island near the city of Ernakulam amidst 15 acres of lush green lawns built by the Dutch in 1744 became the seat of the British Residents.

During the time of Colonel John Munro (also written Monroe), the British Resident as well as Dewan (Prime Minister) in Travancore and the Political Agent in Cochin, Pulikkottil Ittoop Ramban (later Pulikkottil Joseph Mar Dionysius II) expressed his desire to start a “House of Learning” (Seminary) for training the clergy in the Church. The Resident supported the idea; accordingly the foundation stone for the first Syrian Christian Seminary was laid in February 1813 on a parcel of land given free of charge by Senior Rani H.H. Sri Padmanabha Sevini Vanchi Pala Dyumani Raja Rajeshwari Rani Gouri Lakshmi Bai (Rani Gowri Lakshmi Bai), Senior Rani of Attingal, Regent of Travancore from 7th November 1810, pending the birth of a son and heir on 16th April 1813 (Swathi Tirunal Rama Varma III (16 April 1813 -27 December 1846). Rani Gouri Lakshmi Bai was one of the most distinguished rulers of Travancore, instituting many reforms and advances in administration, education, and welfare. Upon her death on 18th August 1815, her sister Rani Gouri Parvathi Bai ruled the kingdom until Maharaja Swathi Tirunal was old enough to take over.

The Seminary was dedicated as an educational institution in March 1815. Initially known as the “Syrian Seminary”, later came to be called as “Old Seminary” after a new theological institution run by the European Missionaries started functioning from Kottayam in 1845.

In the beginning the missionaries showed great interest in the welfare of the Malankara Church. However, history repeated itself in another form when the British instigated “reformation” within the Orthodox Church and wanted to dominate in the administration of the Seminary. They have deviated from the original instructions: “Not to pull down the ancient Church and build another, but to remove the rubbish and to repair the decaying places. The Church was to be brought back to their primitive worship and discipline rather than be induced to adopt the liturgy and discipline of the English Church”.

Finally, the association with the missionaries was severed, leading a division in the Church into three bodies: One of them trying to bring about serious reforms in the liturgy and practices but failed. After about half a century of conflict within the Church, this body withdrew from the Church to form the Mar Thoma Church. A smaller body of the Malankara Church opted to join the missionaries and absorbed in the Anglican Church. The majority, however, continued in the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church.


The crisis following the division in the Church was contained with the help of the Patriarch of Antioch. In 1875 Patriarch Peter III came to Malankara and held a Synod at Mulanthuruthy from 27 to 30 June 1876, which adopted a number of resolutions including an admission that the Church would continue its communion with the Patriarch and the Syrian Church of Antioch.

The outcome was twofold: a reaffirmation of the distinctive identity of the Orthodox Church under its own Metropolitan and, ironically, with enhanced influence of the Patriarch of Antioch in the affairs of the Malankara Church. Sadly, however, the Patriarch tried to see in these decisions more than what the Indian Church really wanted to acknowledge.

Following the Mulanthuruthy Synod, litigation between the parties favouring and opposing the reforms continued, which came to an end with judgment announced in favour of the latter by the Highest Court of Travancore, the Royal Court of Appeal, on 14th July 1889.

Regrettably, the second successor to Patriarch Peter III, Patriarch Mar Abdulla II was determined to bring the Malankara Church under his absolute control. With this intention he came to Malankara in 1909 and pushed the issue. This led to the sad division in the Church in 1911, one party siding with the Patriarch (Jacobite) and the other (Orthodox) lining up with Metropolitan Vattasseril Geevarghese Mar Dionysius VI of who stood against foreign hegemony and wanted to defend the independence of the Malankara Church.

Thus a relationship, which started for safeguarding the integrity and independence of the Malankara Church, against the ambitions of the Roman Catholic and Anglican Protestant Churches, opened a long and tortuous chapter between the Malankara Church and Syrian (Antioch) Churches to this day. In spite of enormous troubles, trials and tribulations, the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church has been able to survive as a strong autocephalous (independent) church under the Catholicate.

The Catholicate, the Holy See of the East, was established at the Jerusalem Synod in A.D. 231. First in Edessa, then moved to Selucia followed by Tigris and Masul, the Holy See was re-established in Malankara in 1912. The present Head of the Church, Catholicos Baselios Mar Thoma Mathews II, is the 89th successor to the apostolic throne of St. Thomas.

Three landmarks of recent history, however, lend hope that peace and unity might yet return to the Orthodox community. First, the relocation of the Catholicate and the consecration of the first Indian Catholicos, Moran Mar Baselios Paulose I, in Malankara in Apostolic succession to St. Thomas in 1912, with the personal participation of Patriarch Abdul Messiah of Antioch. Second, the coming into force of the Constitution of the Orthodox Church in India in 1934 as an autocephalous Church linked to the Orthodox Syrian Church of the Patriarch of Antioch. Third, the Accord of 16 December 1958 by which Patriarch Ignatius Yacoub III affirmed acceptance of the Catholicos as well as the 1934 Constitution (it may be helpful to mention here that Vatican Syriac Codex 22, written in Kodungalloor in 1301, describes Mar Jacob, prelate of Malabar, as Metropolitan Bishop of the See of St. Thomas and of the whole Church of India).


History of the evolution of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and the Roman Catholic Church:

On September 14, 1912, Patriarch Abdul Messiah from Mardin consecrated Moran Mar Baselios Paulose I as Catholicos at the famous Niranam St. Mary's Church (founded by St. Thomas). This led to internal disputes and litigation between the two factions called “Orthodox” and “Jacobite”.

Quite a few Catholicos followed testifying the association of the Church with Oriental Church. The first Catholicos was Moran Mar Baselios Paulose I (September 14, 1912 to May 2, 1913); the second was Baselios Geevarghese I (April 30, 1925 to December 17, 1928). During the time of the third Catholicos Moran Mar Baselios Geevarghese II (Feb 15, 1929 to January 3, 1964) the positions of “Malankara Metropolitan” (Head Bishop) and Catholicos were combined into one. The fourth Catholicos was Moran Mar Baselios Oughen I (May 12, 1964 to December 8, 1975) and the fifth Moran Mar Baselios Thomas Mathews I (October 27, 1975 to April 27, 1991). On the retirement of Moran Mar Baselios Mathews I due to poor health, the sixth Catholicos Moran Mar Baselios Mathews II assumed office on April 29, 1991.

His Grace Thomas Mar Timotheos became the seventh Catholicos of the Apostolic Throne of St. Thomas and Malankara Metropolitan with title "His Holiness Baselios Mar Thoma Didymos I" at a solemn ceremony held at the St. Peter's and St. Paul's Church at Parumala on Monday, October 31, 2005 following the abdication of the Throne by Moran Mar Baselios Mathews II due to old age (91 years).

The two wings of the Malankara Syrian Church, the Orthodox and the Jacobite, continued court battles; finally a verdict by the Indian Supreme Court in 1958 put an end to the litigation. Following the judgment, the two factions joined to form a single Church. In 1958 by Mutual Acceptance of the Prelates and Ecclesiasts the Catholicos accepted the Patriarch subject to the provisions of the 1934 Constitution of the Malankara Church. Accordingly, the Patriarch was invited to attend the consecration of Moran Mar Baselios Oughen I in 1964 as Catholicos. Unfortunately, division emerged again after a brief harmony. There are two groups again, the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church owing allegiance to the Catholicos and the Jacobite Syrian Church owing loyalty to the Patriarch of Antioch in Syria. The Supreme Court of India, in its Judgment on 20th June 1995, decided in favour of the Catholicos and decreed that “the Patriarch faction cannot question the 1934 Constitution and the “Throne of Catholicos” (Simhasanam) relocated in 1912 in Kerala, because both have been unconditionally accepted by Patriarch Yacoub III in 1958 when he signed the Agreement of Mutual Acceptance and by his participation in the Ordination of Moran Mar Baselios Oughen I in 1964, and put an end to the legal battles, which recognized the legitimacy of the Catholicos.

  5.1 Dioceses
Angamally (East), Angamally (West), Chengannur, Idukki, Kandanad (East), Kandanad (West), Kochi, Kollam, Kottayam, Kottayam Central, Kunnamkulam, Malabar, Mavelikara, Niranam, Thumpamon, Sultan Bathery, Thiruvananthapuram, Thrissur.

The Roman Catholic Church went through its own evolutionary changes after the decline of the Portuguese power. In 1662 the Dutch took over Cochin from the Portuguese. Before their departure, the Portuguese elevated a local priest as Bishop and made him the papal representative, who ruled the church from 1662 to 1687. The Syrian Christians who accepted loyalty to Pope came to be known as Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. Catholics converted by European missionaries are known as Latin Roman Catholics.

Though the Carmelite missionaries dominated for a while during the Dutch period, there was an ongoing struggle for local autonomy. In 1887 the process of liberalization started. Pope Leo XIII issued the bull of “Quod Jam Pridem”, which liberated the Syrians from the jurisdiction of the Latin prelates of Verapoly and placed them under two new local autonomous eparchies of Kottayam and Thrissur. For the first time three Kerala priests were anointed as Bishops in 1896. Additional dioceses were created in: Changanasserry (1896), Ernakulam (1911), Pala (1953), Tellicherry (1973), Mananthavady (1974), Palakkad (Palghat) (1977), Kanjirapally (1978), Irinjalakuda (1984), Thuckalay (Thakala) (1999), Belthangady (1999). In 1969 the Metropolitan of Ernakulam was elevated to Cardinal. A Papal Declaration upgraded Ernakulam to Major Arch Episcopal Church with the title of Ernakulam-Angamally (January 23, 1993).

On September 20, 1930 one of the leading Bishops of the Syrian Christians, Geevarghese Mar Ivanios, joined the Roman Catholic Church, forming a group called "Reethu" (Syro-Malankara Rite of the Catholic Church); this happened during the pontificate of Pope Pius XI.

Geevarghese Mar Ivanios (*21.09.1882 +15.07.1953), born Geevarghese Panickeruveettil in Mavelikara to Annamma and Thomas Panicker, was the founder of the Bethany Ashram order of monks.
Geevarghese was ordained deacon by Malankara Metropolitan Pulikkottil Joseph Mar Dionysius V (*November 12.11.1833 +11.07.1909) on January 9, 1900. He was ordained to the priesthood as Fr. P.T. Geevarghese by Vattasseril (Saint) Geevarghese Mar Dionysius VI (*31.10.1858 +23.02.1934), Malankara Metropolitan, on September 15, 1908. Fr. Geevarghese played a key role in the establishment of the Catholicate for the Malankara Orthodox Church in Kottayam on September 5, 1912.
On an invitation to Vattasseril (Saint) Geevarghese Mar Dionysius VI to attend a conference in Calcutta in 1912, Fr. Geevarghese was asked to accompany him. At the conference at the request of Dr. George Howells, the Principal of Serampore College, the Metropolitan willingly allowed Fr. Geevarghese to take up a position as Professor of the College.
On his return from Calcutta, Fr. Geevarghese established an ashram (monastery) on an extensive plot of land (100 acres; 400,000 m2) donated by E. John Vakeel at Mundanmala, Ranni-Perunadu at the confluence of Pampa and Kakkatt rivers on August 15, 1919 and called it "Bethany".

Bethany is a village on the Mount of Olives, less than 2 miles east of Jerusalem. It was the home of sisters Mary and Martha, and Lazarus, who was raised from the dead by Jesus. It was also in Bethany that Mary poured a bottle of expensive perfume over Jesus' head while he was dining in the home of Simon the leper. Jesus lodged in Bethany during his final days in Jerusalem, and the Palm Sunday Procession started out from there. After Jesus had risen, he appeared to his followers (Luke 24:36), he then led them on the road to Bethany. And somewhere on that road, he blessed his followers, and then rose up into Heaven (Luke 24:50-53). Today the village is named Al-Azariyya which is Arabic for Lazarus. There is a church called The Church of St. Lazarus, and a chapel called The Chapel of the Ascension.

On 1 November 1926 the Malankara Episcopal Synod of the Orthodox Church held at Parumala asked Mar Ivanios to open negotiations for a relationship with Rome.



Euphoria of the Romo Syrians in India over a Phoney Catholicate: Is the Patriarch of Rome More Trustworthy Than the Patriarch Of Antioch
Chor-Episcopos Kuriakos Thottupuram, Ph.D.; D.D.



Is the Catholicate of the Romo-Syrians in India Canonically Genuine or Bogus?
Chor-Episcopos Kuriakos Thottupuram, Ph.D.; D.D.



Is the Romo-Syrian Catholicate Canonically Genuine?
Chor-Episcopos Kuriakos Thottupuram, Ph.D.; D.D.



The Title of the Claim of Catholicos
H.G. Dr. Gabriel Mar Gregorios Metropolitan

The most momentous occasion for the Catholic Church in Kerala was the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1986; during this epoch-making visit the Pope declared two Keralites, Fr. Chavara Kuriakose Elias and Sr. Alphonsa, Blessed at Kottayam.

  Bethany is a village on the Mount of Olives, less than 2 miles east of Jerusalem. It was the home of sisters Mary and Martha, and Lazarus, who was raised from the dead by Jesus. It was also in Bethany that Mary poured a bottle of expensive perfume over Jesus' head while he was dining in the home of Simon the leper. Jesus lodged in Bethany during his final days in Jerusalem, and the Palm Sunday Procession started out from there. After Jesus had risen, he appeared to his followers (Luke 24:36), he then led them on the road to Bethany. And somewhere on that road, he blessed his followers, and then rose up into Heaven (Luke 24:50-53). Today the village is named Al-Azariyya which is Arabic for Lazarus. There is a church called The Church of St. Lazarus, and a chapel called The Chapel of the Ascension.

Founded in 1818 in Serampore Town (Hooghly District, West Bengal) by the English missionaries known as the Serampore Trio: William Carey, Joshua Marshman and William Ward, the College Motto runs: “Gloriam Sapientes Possidebunt" “The Wise Shall Possess Glory" (Proverbs 3:35)
CSI had its beginnings mostly from Anglican missionaries who had converted the local population. CSI is the result of the union of churches of varying traditions--Anglican, Methodist, Congregational, Presbyterian, and reformed, which was inaugurated in September 1947 after protracted negotiations among the churches concerned. Organized into 16 dioceses, each under the spiritual supervision of a bishop, the church as a whole is governed by a Synod, which elects a Moderator (Presiding Bishop) every two years.

Travancore-Cochin Anglican Church is a break away faction from CSI going back to 1966. Brethrens, a break away faction from the Baptists have their headquarters in Kumbanad near Tiruvalla.

In addition to the aforementioned major groups the early St. Thomas Christians are now spread out to about 30 groups in Kerala. Among them are such groups as the Chaldean and the Pentecostals. And then, there is the group known as Thozhiyur (Malabar Independent Jacobite) Church.

The Pentecost followers lead a simple life and prefer to treat illness through prayers. Originated in Tennessee State in 1887, Pastor Cook started the Kerala Pentecostal church in Mulakuzha in 1925. In addition, there are groups such as Indian Pentecost, Ceylon Pentecost, Apostolic United Pentecost, Independent Pentecost, Pentecost Gospel Group and Philadelphia Pentecost, Pentecost Daiva Sabha, Pentecost Daiva Samuham, Adhakrutha Pentecost, etc. exist next to other churches.

Salvation Army, founded by William Booth in London in 1878, came to Kerala the same year.

The spiritual revival movement started by an unknown preacher Mathai Upadesi and carried on by Justus Joseph (Vidwan Kutty), a famous Brahmin convert scholar and musician, had its influence throughout central Travancore (1887).

A Branch of Daiva Sabha, started by a Methodist Priest in the U.S.A. in 1884, was begun in Kerala in 1910. Russell Church, called “Jehovah’s Witnesses”, started by C.T. Russell in U.S.A., had a branch in Mallapally since 1925.

Lutheran Mission, followers of reformist Martin Luther, operating in over seventy centres in Southern Travancore, established themselves in Perurkada near Trivandrum in 1911. The so-called “Miracle Crusaders” are fast gaining ground in the State. In a small town Potta near Thrissur, Fr. Mathew Naickamparambil started a prayer service attracting thousands of devotees.


While the church in the west is evangelical, the focus of the mainstream church in India is social. There is also a strong ecumenical movement. Today the Kerala Christians are a prosperous community commanding extraordinary Political clout. The religious practices of this group were shaped in the place of origin and are dominated by Church services, which follow traditional patterns. Their basic belief is in the Christian doctrine and life after death. The clergy-laity relationship is very strong. Syrian Christians have strong and active religious organizations. Attendance in the Sunday Church Service is conscientiously adhered to. In the very beginning Holy Liturgy was conducted in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke. This has since been modified and services are conducted in the native language Malayalam. All Christians practice the holy sacrament of Baptism. The Episcopal Churches emphasize child baptism and use sprinkling of water in the name of the Triune of God. Pentecostal groups practice believer's baptism by immersion in water. The Aramaic word "Qurbana" ("Offering" is used for the Lord's Supper celebrated by various groups. The Greek word (eukharistia) "Eucharist" (“thanksgiving”) is also used and is an expression of one's renewal of faith and participation in the death and suffering of Jesus Christ.

The Eucharist liturgy of the Syrian and Mar Thoma Churches stem from eastern traditions and is based on the liturgy of St. James. The liturgy of the Roman Catholics is western. The liturgy of the Church of South India combines elements from both. Pentecostal Churches do not follow a definite liturgy. The mainline Churches also practice Kayyasturi (in Malayalam), an oriental custom meaning kiss of peace, which enhances the celebration of the Lord's Supper. It is done by a form of eastern handshake. The Pentecostals also practice this, but in their case the brothers kiss brothers and sisters kiss sisters. The manner of celebration of the Lord's Supper varies from denomination to denomination. Syrian Christians use several accessories such as the altar, the cross, the coverings, the bells, the veil, and the candles.


The Churches follow many Hindu traditions and customs. Among Hindus and Kerala Christians consanguineous marriages are permitted only if the partners are separated at least four generations. Arranged marriages are common. Both the Hindu and the Nazaranee women have an amulet tied around their neck by the bridegroom at the time of marriage (which indicates the woman is married). It is called "Thali" by Hindus and "Minnu" by Christians. Many other Hindu traditions, such as dowry (now banned by law), decorations with rice flower, and observance of forty one days after death in the family, are followed by the Syrian Christians.

Syrian Christians observe all Christian religious sacraments. They have a liturgy-centred life with days of fasting and abstinence. It is normal for them to perform lent for twenty-four days prior to Christmas and fifty days prior to Easter. Those who do so eat only vegetarian meals and refrain from consuming alcoholic beverages. Passion Week is very important. Special Church services are conducted on Palm Sunday, Pesaha (Maundy Thursday), and Good Friday as well as on every evening. Good Friday is of great significance, services starting at nine O’clock in the morning last until four O'clock in the afternoon. On Easter Sunday Church service starts at mid-night and concludes with Holy Communion early in the morning.

The westerners have begun to recognize the eastern Christian tradition only recently. Christianity in Kerala, began as an oriental religion, is older than Rome. Syrian Christian priests wear cassocks, caps and beards as seen also in west Asia. Deacons are allowed to marry; but only unmarried priests can rise to the position of Bishops.

Many Syrian Christian practices are distinctively eastern and early western missionaries found them primitive and ignorant in their point of view. The Syrian Christians have a special identity. Their customs and manners are different from those of other Christian groups. Their names are unique: Cyriac/Zechariah is Kuriakose, Elizabeth is Eliamma, Joshua is Koshy, Mark (Marcos)/Immanuel is Maani (Mani), Paul is Peeli, Peter is Oommen and Mammen is the Malayalam equivalent of Thomas, and so on. Some Syrian Christians still believe in astrology and horoscopes.

The Syrian Christians have been ahead of other communities with respect to education. They have achieved the level of education they have reached now, with sheer perseverance and initiative. There was a significant influence in the area of education through the efforts of the Christian missionaries, which account for the high literacy rate and excellent education among the Keralites.

In the conflict within church the Metropolitan could obtain the support of Patriarch Mar Abdul Messiah, who succeeded Patriarch Peter III in 1895. By a state interference he lost his position in Turkey and came to be replaced by Mar Abdulla. While Metropolitan Vattasseril Geevarghese Mar Dionysius VI clashed with Mar Abdulla, the Canonical Senior Patriarch Abdul Messiah came to the assistance of Mar Dionysius in 1912. Thus The Canonical Senior Patriarch, in association with Mar Dionysius VI and other Bishops, helped to establish the Catholicate of the East in Malankara in a solemn ceremony held at St. Mary's Church at Niranam on 15 September 1912.

The Catholicate of the East was thus re-established in Malankara, with the cooperation of the canonical Patriarch Abdul Messiah, who was senior to Mar Abdulla. Thereby the Patriarch himself had withdrawn his right of spiritual supervision, if any, in the Malankara Church, which the Royal Court of Appeal had acknowledged for him on 14th July1889.

The Jerusalem Synod gave the designation "Catholicos of the East" to the successors of Apostle St. Thomas in A.D. 231. The Seat of the Catholicos of the East was first at Uraha (Edessa) in Persia. This was moved to 'Selucia' and it was there the title “Catholicos of the East” originated, (followed by Tigris and Masul, the Holy See was re-established in Malankara in 1912). Catholicos is an ecclesiastical dignitary recognized in the Antiochian Syrian Church. He is equal in rank with the Patriarch though the latter is considered as first among equals (primus inter pares).

The present Head of the Church, Catholicos Baselios Mar Thoma Mathews II, is the 89th successor to the apostolic throne of St. Thomas.


Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church is administered according to the Constitution passed by the Malankara Syrian Christian Association in 1934. The Association is a fully representative body of the church with elected members - priests and laymen - from all Parishes. There are about 1664 parishes under the Orthodox Syrian Church. It is the Association, which elects the Catholicos and the Malankara Metropolitan as well as the Bishops.

The Managing Committee for the Association with members elected from each Diocese is presided over by the Malankara Metropolitan. The Working Committee with Malankara Metropolitan as the President acts as the Consultative Committee.

The Episcopal Synod has all the Prelates of the Malankara Church as members. Matters concerning Faith, Order and Discipline are under the authority of the Episcopal Synod, which installs the Catholicos.


A scrutiny of the History of the Christian Church would reveal that disputes, dissensions and divisions have always existed in Church.

Until A.D. 313 Christianity was the religion of the poor and the have-nots, of the destitute and of the downtrodden, who were enlivened by Hope kindled by our Saviour. These oppressed people met in the caves to rejuvenate their Faith in Christ and to share what little they had among themselves. The original Church, which belonged to them, cannot be revived.

The First major division in Christendom was the Separation of the Oriental Orthodox Churches after the Council of Chalcedon in A.D. 451. The Second rift came with the Separation of Byzantine Churches in A.D. 1054. The Third division came in the 15th century when Martin Luther (Germany) and John Calvin (France; the Latinized form of his birth name is Jean Cauvin) created their own churches.

Rift was not a phenomenon, which existed only in the Malankara Church; it also existed elsewhere in other churches. St. Thomas Christians existed here since A.D. 52; they were a free group governed by Archdeacons. Christian travellers and missionaries from all over the world used to visit them.

Syrian, Roman, Latin, Knananite, and Antioch and Rite Catholics with many exclusive orders of priests and nuns in each of them; the Malankara Orthodox Church, former Jacobite Church now transmuted to the New Society Church; Church of South India with many sub-groups like Syrians, London Mission, Dalits, Basel Mission etc; Mar Thoma Church with Pathiopadesa Samiti (started in 1952 by K.N. Daniel) and Satya Viswasa Samiti (of the Mar Thoma Church to counter the former); Caldaya Nestorians; Thozhiyur Church; Yooyomayam; Brethren of many hues; Salvation Army; many forms of Pentecost and Churches of Individual Pastors. In short, division and dissentions are the rule in Christendom. Hence decrying the present day disputes among Christians as unchristian is denial of Christian history.

It is just impossible for any Church to go back to the pristine and ideal Christian life that existed among our forefathers in the 1st and 2nd Centuries. So, saying that one is neutral in disputes, or such disputes are unchristian is only evasion of the problem and sheer escapism.

  Let us now have a random look at the brief history of our church cases.
  17.1. Mavelikara Padiyola (Resolution) (16th January 1836) Prologue

The destructive incursions into the Kingdoms of Travancore and Cochin by Hyder Ali and his son Tippu Sultan of Mysore between 1766 and 1790 paved the way for the establishment of British Power, which forced these kingdoms to accept British suzerainty in 1791 and 1795 respectively. Territories of the Zamorin in the north were annexed into the Malabar District of the Madras Presidency under direct British rule. Unsuccessful revolts against the British led by Pazhassi Raja of Malabar from 1800 to 1805 and by Velu Thampi Dalawa of Travancore in 1808-09, leading to their martyrdom, ended in fiasco. The Dalawa sacrificed his life in front of the Goddess at the Bhagavathy Temple in Mannady near Adur, instead of surrendering to the enemy, on 29 March 1809!

As per one of the terms of Agreement, a British Resident was assigned in Travancore. Accordingly, Colonel Colin McCauley (also written "Macaulay") was appointed as the first Resident. It was during his time and that of the episcopate of Mar Dionysius I. that Rev. Claudius Buchanan, a Chaplain of the East India Company, visited Travancore in 1806. He wanted to help the Syrian Christians and made arrangements for the printing of the Scriptures in Syriac and with the assistance of Mar Dionysius the four Gospels were translated into Malayalam.

Dr. Claudius Buchanan in a letter dated 1st November 1806 tells the following story: "There was an insurrection of the Nayars in Travancore last year, against the Rajah: three battalions of his Nayar bodyguards revolted and sought to kill the British Resident, the Rajah and the minister. Colonel Macaulay fled to Cochin. The Rajah called in the Christian fishermen from the coast to defend him against the Nayars. They assembled in Trivandrum in huge numbers, each man armed with a short bludgeon. The bowmen from the hills appeared at the same time to protect the King; the rebels laid down their arms and fled. About fifty of the ringleaders were seized and hanged. The battalions were disbanded and the Rajah accepted a subsidiary force from the English." Pearson’s: Memoirs of Claudius Buchanan, London: Seeley, 1846.p.238.

In 1810 Colonel John Munro replaced McCauley as Resident. Munro, a devout Christian, was interested in the welfare of the Syrian Church. He noticed that the social and religious state of the Church was at its low ebb. After one century and a half following the Oath of Coonen Cross, the Church had managed to survive. But it was certainly not alive. There was no spiritual vitality and no missionary zeal. The Church was Christian only in name. The clergy was uneducated; there was no centre for their training. Boys of ten and below were sometimes ordained as deacons. It was a source of income to the Metropolitans. Compulsory celibacy of the clergy introduced by Rome remained the rule. There was no facility for the reading of Bible. Church services were conducted in Syriac, which the congregation did not comprehend and the celebrant priest understood only imperfectly. The clergy earned money by saying masses for the dead. Superstitious practices, which prevailed among the non-Christians, affected the Christians also.

Colonel Munro saw the need in the Syrian Church and wrote to the Church Missionary Society (CMS), founded in 1799, to send a Mission of Help. Buchanan’s personal appeals in London and his book “Christian Researches in Asia” had awakened great interest in England about the Malankara Syrian Church. Therefore, CMS was only happy to respond to the call for help and sent Rev. Thomas Norton as the first missionary in 1816; he lived in Alappuzha and was well received by the people. The first Anglican bishop in India Bishop Middleton visited the Syrian Church in 1819, and had discussions with the Metropolitan Mar Dionysius and with Rev. Norton. He advised Norton to be very careful in his dealings with the Syrian Church.

In the course of the next three years four CMS missionaries came to Kottayam. Rev. Benjamin Bailey (1816), Rev. Joseph Fenn (1818) and Rev. Henry Baker (1819), popularly known as the “Kottayam Trio”, left indelible marks on the history of the Syrian Church. They were well received by the Syrian Metropolitan, and given freedom to work among the people as well as to visit and preach in the churches. With the support of Resident Munro and encouraged by the gracious relationship with the Metropolitan, the missionaries started their work vigorously. Fenn devoted himself with the Seminary for the training of the clergy. In 1813 the Syrian Metropolitan was made available the interest from a Trust Fund of Rs. 10,500, which was entrusted with the British for the benefit of the Syrian Church. This is the famous “Vattippanam” the claim to which had led to so many court cases.

Note: The exact information about the origin of the Endowment Fund is not available, because the records of the Resident’s office were burned by the rebellious Travancore troops in December 1809. But, such information as can be obtained is noted here: Three thousand Star Pagodas were invested with the East India Company at 8 per cent interest in 1808 for the benefit of the Syrian Christians and a like sum at the same interest for the benefit of the Roman Catholic Mission at Verapoly. These investments remain to this day. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Verapoly draws the interest on one fund. The interest on the other fund is claimed both by the Malankara Syrians and by the Reformed Syrians this dispute was brought before the district Court of Trivandrum in the form of an interpleader suit by the Secretary of State as the stakeholder. Mar Dionysius pleaded that the money was the amount saved by the Syrian bishop. Colonel Macaulay, in the turbulent times of the Revolt of 1808, borrowed this sum from the bishop and that instead of repaying the cash it was invested. This suggestion does not seem likely. The fact that a like sum was invested for a Roman Catholic Mission is against it.

Another story is that these two sums were the forfeited property of a wealthy Christian named Mathu Tharakan. Yet another guess is that these two sums were the personal wealth of the Resident Colonel Macaulay given as a gift for having escaped with his life in the revolt.

The (old) Seminary built in 1813, is erected on 16 acres of land bordering the Meenachil River given as a gift by Rani (Queen) Gowri Lakshmi Bai of Travancore, which was Fenn's field of work. The first batch of the missionary trio was wise enough to appreciate the instructions by the CMS “Not to pull down the ancient Church and build another, but to remove the rubbish and to repair the decaying places. The Church was to be brought back to their primitive worship and discipline rather than be induced to adopt the liturgy and discipline of the English Church”. The missionaries strictly adhered to this principle though they were sometimes impatient about the small results produced. Fenn, Bailey and Baker returned to England in 1826 and 1833.

In 1816 the Travancore Durbar gave Rs. 8,000 to enable the Syrian Christians to undertake the study of Scriptures and in 1818 the Rani gave Rs. 20,000 through the Resident Colonel Munro for the support of the Syrian College at Kottayam. Next year, 1819, the Rani gave Munro’s island for the benefit of the Syrians and particularly for the education of the boys in the Kottayam Seminary.

In 1835 Bishop Daniel Wilson of Calcutta visited Travancore and at once saw that the system was unsuccessful. He made a proposition that the Syrian church should reform itself and at the same time keep its independence. Others attempted in vain to induce the Syrians to come to terms. A synod of the Syrian church was held and a majority of those present carried a resolution dissolving connection with the missionary society.

In the year 1830 Cheppaud Philipose Dionysius IV became Metropolitan. He had never been friendly with the missionaries. The new missionaries – Rev. Joseph Peet (1833-1865) and Rev. W.J. Woodcock (1834-1837) - were different from the original trio. Peet was rash and hasty in his actions and Woodcock a controversial person. Both thought that the time of waiting for gradual results was over, and that it was time for boldly criticising the “shortcomings” and working deliberately for reform with open criticism and action, the scene was set for a struggle. Peet was imprudent in his actions. To site an example, there were important documents kept in the seminary strong room under two locks, one key with the Metropolitan and the other with Peet. Fearing that the Metropolitan was planning to take the documents into sole custody, Peet forcibly removed the documents and kept them in a safe with the Resident, which led to an open dispute.

The visits of Rev. J. Tucker, Secretary of the CMS Corresponding Committee at Madras, and Bishop Wilson, the Anglican Bishop of Calcutta could not heal the wounds due to stubborn stands taken by the two evangelists. Things moved on to an open breach. Then in 1835 Bishop Wilson of Calcutta came down and made friendly approaches to Cheppaud Philipose Mar Dionysius IV. For continued relationship between the Syrian Church and the missionaries Bishop Wilson made the following suggestions for consideration:

1. As a rule, only those who have received certificates from the Seminary in Kottayam should be ordained.
2. Accounts of Church lands and property should be rendered to the British Resident.
3. There should be a permanent endowment so that the clergy can be paid a fixed salary instead of depending on uncertain payments at the time of services in the church.
4. Every parish church must have its school.
5. During divine services every Sunday the Gospel must be expounded to the believers.
6. Malayalam prayers are to be used instead of Syriac prayers.

The Metropolitan promised to consider the suggestions and convened the epoch making Synod in Mavelikara on 16th January 1836. The synod rejected the suggestions and decided to break all relationships with the Church of England.

The Syrian Metropolitan and the Missionaries instead of going to the court for division of the property called in arbitrators. Both parties accepted a partition award. According to the award, the Old Seminary, the compound and the “Vattippanam”, the Trust Fund of Rs. 10,500, were assigned to the Metropolitan. The Missionaries received the Munro Island and the fund for education. Thus the missionaries and the Church parted company, ending a relationship of over twenty years.

Excerpts from the Resolution (Padiyola) widely known as Mavelikara Padiyola, unanimously adopted at the Synod held at the Mavelikara-Puthiyacavu St. Mary's Church on 16 January 1836:

In the name of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, the one True God, Resolution (Padiyola) drawn up in the year of our Lord 16 January 1836, corresponding 5 Makaram 1011 (M.E.) at the Church dedicated to the Virgin Mother of our Lord at Mavelikara, between Cheppaud Philipose Mar Dionysius, Metropolitan of the Malankara Syrian Church, subject to the supremacy of Patriarch Mar Ignatius, the Father of Fathers, and the Chief of Chiefs ruling the Throne of St. Peter at Antioch, the Mother of all Churches and his successor Mar Coorilos, and the Vicars, Priests and Parishioners of Angamally and other churches under the charge of the said Metropolitan.

THAT WHEREAS an interview held at Kottayam between Rt. Rev. Daniel Wilson, Lord Bishop of Calcutta and the Metropolitan in Vrischikam last, it was proposed by the former that certain changes should be made in the Liturgies and Ordinances of our Syrian Church,

AND WHEREAS it was stated in reply that a meeting of all churches should be held to discuss the subject and its decision made known, we, the Malankara Syrians, being subject to the supremacy of the Patriarch of Antioch and observing as we do the liturgies and ordinances instituted by the prelates sent under his command, cannot deviate from such Liturgies and Ordinances and maintain a discipline contrary thereto, and a man of one persuasion being not authorized to preach and admonish in the church of another following a different persuasion without the permission of the respective Patriarch, we cannot permit the same to be done against us, and our churches being built by the aid of the prelates sent under the order of the Patriarch and on the wishes of the people of each parish and ornamented by their money, and as the accounts of the annual income according to our churches under the head of voluntary contributions, offerings, etc. are, as required by the rules, furnished to our Bishops as is the custom in the churches of Antioch as well as in the churches of this and other countries following different persuasions we are without the power, and feel reluctant to follow and cause to be followed a different procedure from the above.

That the Honourable Resident Colonel Colin McCauley, having taken a loan of 3,000 star pagodas from Valiya Mar Dionysius (the Great), who died on 8 April 1808, gave him a bond for the same. The interest on the amount having fallen in arrears, Mar Thoma VII made a representation to Colonel John Munro and received the interest with which the Seminary in Kottayam was built. Having also collected the money brought by the prelates from Antioch and the property left by the late Bishops of the Pakalomattom family, Mar Dionysius laid out a portion of this together with the donation made by His Highness the Maharaja on behalf of the Syrian Christian Youths to meet the expenses of their education.

The Reverend Missionaries who came to Kottayam in their profuse benevolence taught the youths English and other languages at the Seminary, protected them like loving fathers, caused books to be printed for their benefit, rendered all necessary help in maintaining the prevailing discipline of the Syrian Church, caused the annual interest due to be drawn, had superintendence over the affairs of the Seminary and caused ordination to be made agreeable to the request of the people and the power of the prelates. While affairs were being thus conducted the Missionaries took to managing the Seminary and expended the annual interest money themselves without consulting the Metropolitan, dissolved the deacons who were taught in the Seminary, conducted affairs in opposition to the discipline of the Church and created dissensions amongst us, all of which have caused us much grief and vexation. For this reason we do (would) not follow any faith or teaching other than the Orthodox Faith of the Malankara Syrian Christians to the end that we may attain salvation through the Prayers of ever Happy, Holy, and Ever Blessed Mother of God, the Redresser of all complaints and through the Prayers of All Saints. In the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit! Amen!

  17.2. The Case for the Malankara Sabha Properties
The Case for the Malankara Sabha properties filed at the Alappuzha District Court was the second one. The Royal Court finally decided in favour of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (Pulikkottil Thirumeni) in 1889. The defendants left to form the Mar Thoma Church. Arthat Case, filed by Pulikkottil Thirumeni for properties in Cochin State was also won.
  17.3. Vattippanam (Trust Fund) Case

'Vatti' means interest and 'panam' means money: Vattippanam refers to interest money on a deposit (in Malayalam the usage may have derived from ‘baddi’ in Kannada, which means interest!)

Through prudent marshalling of resources, Primate Marthoma VI (Mar Dionysius I) of the Malankara Syrian Church was able to leave an accumulated surplus of 3,000 Star Pagodas, equivalent to Rs 10,500 to his successor, Marthoma VII.
Of the 3,000 Star Pagodas, 840 (Rs 2,940) was money collected from the Malankara Syrian Christian community, and the remaining 2,160 (Rs 7,560) was money collected from Hindus by the Travancore Government towards reparation for damages inflicted on the properties of the Syrian Christians. The British Resident in Travancore, Colonel Colin Macaulay, was instrumental in collecting the levy.

Marthoma VII deposited the 3,000 star pagodas with the British East India Company in perpetuity for an annual interest rate of 8%.

After the unlawful excommunication of Malankara Metropolitan Vattasseril Geevarghese Mar Dionysius (Vattasseril Dionysius VI) by Patriarch Abdulla II, division and strife arose in the church, leading to the creation of two rival Malankara Metropolitans. In 1913, the Secretary of State for India filed an interpleader suit in the District Court of Trivandrum seeking a declaration from the court as to which of the two rival sets of trustees were entitled to draw the interest on the 3,000 Star Pagodas deposited with the British Treasury by Mar Thoma VII. This is known as the ‘Vattipanam Case’.

After various twists and turns, the Travancore High Court in 1928 ruled that Vattasseril Mar Dionysius VI was the legitimate Malankara Metropolitan; consequently he was entitled to draw the interest money.

Source: Malankara Orthodox Sabha Encyclopaedia
  17.4. Samudaya Case

Paulose Athanasios of the Patriarch faction claiming the office of Malankara Metropolitan filed the case in the Kottayam District Court on 10th March 1938. After a series of appeals and reviews, the Apex Court of India ruled in favour of the Catholicos in 1958. Following the judgment, the two factions joined to form a single Church. In 1958 by Mutual Acceptance of the Prelates and Ecclesiasts the Catholicos accepted the Patriarch subject to the provisions of the 1934 Constitution of the Malankara Church. As per this constitution the Patriarch was invited to attend the consecration of Moran Mar Baselios Oughen I in 1964 as the new Catholicos. Later, on 31 December 1970, the last joint meeting of the Malankara Association was held to elect Vattakunnel Mathews Mar Athanasios as the Malankara Metropolitan-Designate.

The erstwhile Patriarch faction kept quiet for 12 years until 1970 to escape the Supreme Court award of all the expenses to the Catholicos. The 1934 Constitution and the 1958 Supreme Court Judgment imposed restrictions on the spiritual powers of the Patriarch over the Malankara Church, over which the Patriarch had no temporal powers ever. Yet the Patriarch faction in the United Church fomented problems. One after other, provisions of the 1934 Constitution was violated; a rival Sreshta Catholicos as well as four Bishops were ordained. Even flagrant orders were issued to the Catholicos, resulting in further remedial litigation measures by the Catholicos faction. Thus the case O.S. 4/79 was filed to prevent these illegal Bishops from entering the church properties.

  17.5. Second Samudaya Case

A special additional District Court was created to hear all cases. Eight of them and their appeals were later transferred to the Kerala High Court. On 1st June 1990, a two-member court decreed that the defendants are no legal bishops; they were served with permanent injunction from performing any religious services or sacraments. The Court ruled that the Malankara Syrian Church is Episcopal, governed as per the 1934 Constitution and not a federation of parish churches.

Thereupon the Patriarch faction filed an appeal in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court gave the verdict on 20th June 1995 in favour of the Catholicos by affirming the verdict of the High Court in 1990. The gist of the Court's observations and Decree are that the Patriarch faction cannot question the 1934 Constitution of the Church and the Throne of Catholicos (Simhasanam) created in 1912 in Kerala, because both have been unconditionally accepted by Patriarch Yacoub III in 1958 when he signed the Agreement of Mutual Acceptance as well as by his acceptance to participate in the Ordination of the Moran Mar Baselios Oughen I in 1964.
Supreme Court heard and dismissed all cases on January 13th, 2001 and ordered to hold the Association before April 30th, 2002.

The handling of the Malankara Sabha Case by the Supreme Court Judges headed by Justice Kripal was very unique. In order to help both Parties to unite the judges prompted the Catholicos Party which won the case to yield too many of the demands of the opposition. In his humility and for the sake of the unity of the Church the Catholicos, Moran Mar Baselios Mar Thoma Mathews II, even offered to resign if the Association declares that he is not the Malankara Metropolitan.

So as agreed by both Parties, the Court appointed Chief Justice Malimud (Retired), as Observer for the orderly conducting of the Malankara Association and the Election and to report back to the Supreme Court for final verdict. As precaution, both Parties were asked to deposit Rs.50, 000 (later raised to Rs.100,000) as security.
The Malankara Association, in its Meeting on 20th March 2002, duly elected Moran Mar Baselios Mar Thoma Mathews II as Catholicos and Malankara Metropolitan with 3464 votes (with 10 abstentions).

Justice Malimud duly reported the proceedings to the Supreme Court, on the basis of which the Supreme Court gave its final verdict on 12th July 2002 that Moran Mar Baselios Mar Thoma Mathews II is the Malankara Metropolitan and that this decision is final and unchallengeable in any Court or Forum.

The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church is built on an Apostolic Foundation. With the re-establishment and re-location of the Catholicate in 1912 the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church has come to its own. Though majority of the members of the church numbering around 2.5 million live in Kerala, they are spread all over India and throughout the world. There are a total of 25 Dioceses, 19 of them in Kerala and 6 outside Kerala, namely Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi, and Madras as well as in the United States of America, Canada and Europe.

Let us not glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Author has exercised due care and honest efforts to compile and present this narrative derived from historical facts collected from various (denominational) sources, some of which are listed below, which are gratefully acknowledged. However, the Author does not offer guarantee over the validity of such information and would not be held responsible for errors and omissions in the given information.

1. The Orthodox Church in India: Towards the Third Millennium (by late H.G. Paulose Mar Gregarious:
2. Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), a papal agency for humanitarian and pastoral service:
3. Catholic Bishops Conference:
4. Christianity in India and a Brief History of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church (1968) (by The Most Rev. Juhanon Mar Thoma, Metropolitan, Mar Thoma Syrian Church)
5. Church of South India Website:

Comments/suggestions may please be e-mailed to:


© Kochukunju Joy 2003 (Updated 2013) All Rights Reserved