Syro-Malabar Church


The Syro-Malabar Church[18] (Syriac: ܥܸܕܬܵܐ ܩܵܬܘܿܠܝܼܩܝܼ ܕܡܲܠܲܒܵܪ ܣܘܼܪܝܵܝܵܐ is an Eastern Catholic church based in Kerala, India. The Syro-Malabar Church is an autonomous (sui iuris) particular church in full communion with the pope and the worldwide Catholic Church, including the Latin Church and the 22 other Eastern Catholic Churches, with self-governance under the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (CCEO). The Church is headed by the Metropolitan and Gate of all India Major Archbishop Mar George Cardinal Alencherry. The Syro-Malabar Synod of Bishops canonically convoked and presided over by the Major Archbishop constitutes the supreme authority of the Church. The Major Archiepiscopal Curia of the Church is based in Kakkanad, Kochi.[19] Syro-Malabar is a prefix coined from the words Syriac as the church employs the East Syriac Rite liturgy, and Malabar which is the historical name for modern Kerala. The name has been in usage in official Vatican documents since the nineteenth century.[20] It is the second largest Eastern Catholic Church in the Catholic communion, after the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.[21] The Syro-Malabar Church is primarily based in India; with 5 metropolitan archeparchies and 10 suffragan eparchies in Kerala, there are 17 eparchies in other parts of India, and 4 eparchies outside India.

Syro-Malabar Church
Syriac: ܥܸܕܬܵܐ ܕܡܲܠܲܒܵܪ ܣܘܼܪܝܵܝܵܐ
Latin: Ecclesia Syrorum-Malabarensium
Malayalam: മലബാറിലെ സുറിയാനി സഭ
St. Thomas' Cross (Chennai, St. Thomas Mount).jpg
The Mar Thoma Nasrani Sliva or Saint Thomas christian cross, the symbol of the Syro-Malabar Church.
TypeSelf-governing church (sui iuris)
ClassificationEastern Catholic
OrientationEastern Christianity
(Syriac Christianity)
TheologyEast Syriac theology[2]
PolityEpiscopal polity
GovernanceHoly Episcopal Synod of the Syro-Malabar Church
Major ArchbishopGeorge Alencherry
AdministrationMajor Archiepiscopal Curia[3]
RegionIndia and Nasrani Malayali diaspora[4]
LanguageLiturgical Syriac, Malayalam, Syro-Malabarica, English, Tamil, Kannada, Hindi and most other Indian languages
LiturgyEast Syriac Rite - Liturgy of Mar Addai and Mar Mari[5]
HeadquartersMount Saint Thomas,
Kakkanad, Kochi, India
with diaspora in USA, Australia and Oceania, Europe, UK, Canada, and Nations of the Persian Gulf
FounderSaint Thomas the Apostle by tradition[6]
OriginFirst century (AD 50) by tradition
Malabar Coast, South India
Separated fromCatholicos-Patriarch of the East
of the Church of the East[7]
Branched fromSaint Thomas Christians[a]
SeparationsPuthenkoor (1660s)[11][12][13][14]
Chaldean Syrian Church (1870s)
Members4.25 million worldwide, per 2016 Annuario Pontificio[15]
Other name(s)Malankara Church (former name),[16][17]
Syrian Catholic (SC),
Pazhayakoor (colloquial name for members)
Official News

The Syro-Malabar Church is the largest of the Thomas Christian communities and the third largest sui juris church in the Catholic Church, with a population of 4.25 million worldwide as estimated in the 2016 Annuario Pontificio.[15] The Church traces its origins to the evangelistic activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century.[22][23][24][25] The earliest recorded organised Christian presence in India dates to the 4th century, when Persian missionaries of the East Syriac Rite tradition, members of what later became the Church of the East, established themselves in modern-day Kerala and Sri Lanka.[26][27][28][29] The Syro-Malabar Church employs an Indianised variant of the East Syriac Rite, belonging to the historic Church of the East, which dates back to 3rd century Edessa, Upper Mesopotamia.[30] As such it is a part of Syriac Christianity by liturgy and heritage.[31] After the schism of 1552, a faction of the Church of the East came in communion with the Holy See of Rome (Chaldean Catholic Church) and the Church of the East collapsed due to internal struggles. Throughout the later half of the 16th century, the Malabar Church was under Chaldean Catholic jurisdiction. Mar Abraham of Angamaly was among the last of Chaldean bishops. He was the Metropolitan of Angamaly (1568-1597) and given the title of "Metropolitan and Gate of all India". Through the Synod of Diamper of 1599, the Malabar Church was subjected directly under the authority of the Latin Catholic Padroado Archbishopric of Goa and the Jesuits. After a half-century administration under the Goa Archdiocese, dissidents held the Coonan Cross Oath in 1653 as a protest. In response, Pope Alexander VII, with the help of Discalced Carmelite friars, by 1662, was able to reunite the majority of the dissidents with the Catholic Church. The Syro-Malabar Church descends from this East Syriac Rite hierarchy that reunited with the Holy See under the leadership of Mar Palliveettil Chandy.[32][33] During the 17th and 18th centuries the Archdiocese of Cranganore was under the Syro-Malabarians, but it was later suppressed and integrated into the modern day Latin Archdiocese of Verapoly. As per Paremmakkal Thoma Kathanar's travelogue Varthamanappusthakam (dated to 1790), the Church was known then as the Malankara Church (Malankare Kaldaya Suriyani Sabha).[16][34]

After over two centuries under the Latin Church's hegemony, in 1887, Pope Leo XIII fully separated the Syro-Malabarians from the Latin Church (the Archdiocese of Verapoly remained as the jurisdiction for Latin Catholics). Leo XIII established two Apostolic Vicariates for Syro-Malabarians, Thrissur and Changanassery (originally named Kottayam), and in 1896, the Vicariate of Ernakulam was erected as well, under the guidance of indigenous Syro-Malabar bishops. In 1923, the Syro-Malabar hierarchy was organized and unified with Ernakulam as the Metropolitan See and Mar Augustine Kandathil as the first head and Archbishop of the Church.[35] The Syro-Malabar Church in effect became an autonomous sui iuris Eastern church within the Catholic communion.[36] Catholicism within the Syro-Malabar Church is unique in that it has inculturated with traditional Hindu customs through its Thomas Christian heritage. Scholar and theologian Placid Podipara describes the community as "Hindu in Culture, Christian in Religion, and Oriental in Worship."[37] The Church is predominantly of the Malayali ethnic group who speak Malayalam, although there are a minority of Tamils, Telugus, and North Indians from the various eparchies outside Kerala. Following emigration of its members, eparchies have opened in other parts of India and in other countries to serve the diaspora living in the Western world. There are four eparchies outside of India, concentrated in English-speaking countries such as Australia, Canada, UK, and US. Saint Alphonsa is the Church's first canonized saint, followed by Saint Kuriakose Chavara, Saint Euphrasia, and Saint Mariam Thresia. It is one of the two Eastern Catholic churches in India, the other one being the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church which represents the faction of the Puthenkoor that returned to full communion with the Holy See of Rome in 1930.[38]


Pre-Coonan Cross Oath

The Persian Church of the East Patriarch Shemon VII Ishoyahb's unpopularity led to the schism of 1552, due to the patriarchal succession being hereditary, normally from uncle to nephew. Opponents appointed the monk Shimun VIII Yohannan Sulaqa as a rival patriarch. Sulaqa's subsequent consecration by Pope Julius III (1550–55) saw a permanent split in the Church of the East; and the reunion with Rome resulted in the formation of the modern-day Chaldean Catholic Church of Iraq.[39][40] Subsequently, Church of the East Metropolitan Archbishop Abraham of Angamaly was appointed by Pope Pius IV (1559–65) as Metropolitan and Gate of all India of the Thomas Christians (Archbishop of Angamaly), with letters to the Archbishop of Goa and the Bishop of Cochin dated to 1565.[7] In 1597, Abraham of Angamaly died. Unfortunately, the Portuguese padroado Archbishop of Goa, Aleixo de Menezes, downgraded the Angamaly Archdiocese into a suffragan diocese of the Archdiocese of Goa and appointed the Jesuit Francisco Ros S.J. as Bishop of Angamaly. Menezes held the Synod of Diamper in 1599 to bring the Thomas Christians under the complete authority of the Latin Church.[32]

Coonan Cross Oath

The oppressive rule of the Portuguese padroado eventually led to a revolt in 1653, known as the Coonan Cross Oath.[41] Under the leadership of Archdeacon Thomas, the Thomas Christians publicly took an oath that they would not obey the Jesuit Bishops.[42] 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.

The situation is explained by Stephen Neill, an Anglican Protestant missionary and later Anglican Bishop of Tamil Nadu from Scotland in his book, A History of Christianity in India: The Beginnings to AD 1707:

"In January 1653 priests and people assembled in the church of Our Lady at Mattanceri, and standing in front of a cross and lighted candles swore upon the holy Gospel that they would no longer obey Garcia, and that they would have nothing further to do with the jesuits they would recognise the archdeacon as the governor of their church. This is the famous oath of the ‘ Koonen Cross ` (the open-air Cross which stands outside the church at Mattnchery. The Thomas Christians did not at any point suggest that they wished to separate themselves from the pope. They could no longer tolerate the arrogance of Garcia. And their detestation of the jesuits, to whose overbearing attitude and lack of sympathy they attributed all their troubles,breathes through all the documents of the time. But let the pope send them a true bishop not a jesuit, and they will be pleased to receive and obey him."

Post-Coonan Cross Oath

After the Coonan Cross Oath, the leaders of St. Thomas Christians assembled at Edappally, where four senior priests Anjilimoottil Itty Thommen Kathanar of Kallisseri, Palliveettil Chandy Kathanar of Kuravilangad, Kadavil Chandy Kathanar of Kaduthuruthy and Vengoor Geevarghese Kathanar of Angamaly were appointed as advisors of the Archdeacon and on 22 May 1653 Archdeacon Thomas was proclaimed as bishop by the laying on of hands of twelve priests.[43] Portuguese authorities requested direct intervention of Rome and hence Pope sent Carmelite Missionaries in two groups from the Propagation of the Faith to Malabar headed by Fr. Sebastiani and Fr. Hyacinth. Fr. Sebastiani arrived first in 1655 and began to speak directly with the Thoma I. Fr. Sebastiani, with the help of Portuguese, gained the support of many, especially with the support of Palliveettil Chandy, Kadavil Chandy Kathanar and Vengoor Geevarghese Kathanar. These were the three of the four counselors of Thoma I, who had defected with Francisco Garcia Mendes, Archbishop of Cranganore, before the arrival of Sebastaini, according to Jesuit reports.[42] The Carmelite missionaries succeeded in convincing a group of St.Thomas Christians that the consecration of Archdeacon as bishop was not legitimate and Thoma I started losing his followers.

In 1665 Gregorios, a bishop sent by the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, arrived in India. The independent group under the leadership of Thoma I which resisted the authority of the Portuguese padroado welcomed him.[44] Though most of the St. Thomas Christians gradually relented in their strong opposition to the Western control, the arrival of Bishop Gregorios of the Syriac Orthodox Church in 1665 marked the beginning of a formal schism among the St. Thomas Christians. Those who accepted the West Syriac liturgical tradition and miaphysitism of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch of Gregorios became known as the Puthenkuttukar, or "New Allegiance" faction; they too continued to use the name Malankara Church.

The Pazhayakuttukar or "Old Allegiance" faction under the leadership of Palliveettil Chandy that continued with the Catholic Communion and preserved the traditional East Syriac (Persian) liturgy and Dyophysite Christology evolved into the modern day Syro-Malabar Church. This faction who remained in the communion with Rome even after the oath of Coonan Cross, and those who joined the Catholic fold from the Puthenkoottukar faction during the Carmelite period, also used the title Malankara Church initially. As per Paremmakkal Thoma Kathanar's travelogue Varthamanappusthakam (dated to 1790), the Church was known then as the Malankare Kaldaya Suriyani Sabha ("Malankara Chaldean Syriac Church").[17] Between 1661 and 1662, out of the 116 churches, the Carmelites claimed eighty-four churches, leaving the native archdeacon 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 Jacobite Syrian Christian Church (Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church), the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, the Malabar Independent Syrian Church, the Marthoma Syrian Church, and the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church have originated.[45]

After the split in the church community, the Syrian Catholics of the Malabar coast came under the parallel double jurisdiction of Vicariate Apostolic of Malabar under Roman Catholic Carmelites and Archdiocese of Cranganore under the Padroado. Thus many priests and laymen attempted to persuade the Pope to restore their Chaldean Catholic rite and hierarchy 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.[46] 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.[46]

Angamaly Padiyola, a declaration of the Pazhayakūr gives the history of Saint Thomas Christians up to 1787:[47]

"Our forefathers received the true faith of Īshoʿ Mîshîħa [Jesus Christ] at the hands of Mār Thōma Shlīħa [the Apostle Saint Thomas]. Upon this, Chaldean Syrian bishops ruled over us up to the time of the death of the Metropolitan Mar Abraham, which took place in the East Church of Angamāly in the year 1596. Then the Sanpaloor padre [Jesuits priests] stopped the arrival of other Syrians, and oppressed our people, and ruled over them with an iron rule. However, another Syrian Metran [bishop, referring to Ahattalla] arrived at Cochin with the view of coming to us; but soon the news reached us that he had come to an untimely death by being drowned in the sea. Upon this our forefathers assembled at Mattancherry, and took an oath that neither they themselves, nor their descendants, should ever have anything to do with the Sanpaloor padre. They subsequently assembled at Allangād church, where they duly nominated Archdeacon Thoma as their bishop. Not long after, the Carmelites, who were then established at Goa, were brought into the country, and they asserted that the bishop who was elected by this assembly could not bless the anointing oil. They proposed, however, that some one should sent to Rome to be consecrated there, and he might, on his return, complete the consecration of Mar Thoma. This proposal, which was sent through Padre Joseph [Joseph Maria Sebastiani], was agreed to; and upon this Joseph himself went to Rome and received consecration. On his return to Malabar he refused to acknowledge the ordination and the blessings of the anointing oil per formed by the bishop Mar Thoma, and consecrated Chandy Kathanar as bishop over us. Towards the end of Chandy's life the Carmelites formed a plan to extinguish the rank and honour of our Church altogether; they consecrated a half-caste Portuguese, Raphael by name, over the Malabar Churches. Our people, however, insisted that they would not submit to a half-caste bishop. About this time Mar Shemon [Shemon of Ada], a Syrian, was on his way to be our bishop. But the Sanpaloor padre detained him at Tānūr. Some Carmelite priests went thither and took charge of him, promising to banish him from the country. They took him first to the church of Allangād, and after they had brought about the consecration of Padre Angelus [Angelus Francis] they put Mar Shemon on board a ship and took him to Pondicherry, where he was imprisoned, and died a most miserable death. Thus have these two religious orders oppressed our forefathers in various ways. The bishop, Mar Thoma, offered on different occasions not only to give in his submission to the Holy Church, but also to cause others to submit, but up to this time his offer has not been accepted.... As nothing but strife and grievance must continue to arise if we have our bishops from a race which oppresses us, we have sent information to Rome and Portugal, to the effect that our Church should have bishops from among its own body, just as other countries and nations have from among themselves; and that our mind is made up that in future we will have no bishop but from among ourselves.... Should this application to the faithful Queen of Portugal meet with a refusal, we will transfer our allegiance to the Chaldean Patriarch, Mar Joseph (who himself is subject to the Holy Church), as our forefathers rendered their allegiance before the Portuguese had power over us; and we will procure bishops thence who will consecrate our honourable Governors......"

Angamāly Padiyōla

Some of the churches that did not sign the Angamaly Padiyola (1787) later became Latin churches, e.g. Mathilakom (Pappinivattom), Maliankara, Thuruthipuram, etc. One branch of the Syro Malabar Church later left to form the Chaldean Syrian Church aligned with the Assyrian Church of the East when an Eastern Syriac rite bishop, Mar Elias Mellus, came to evangelize them in 1874. Marth Mariam Valiyapalli, in Thrissur, was the headquarters of Mar Elias Mellus.

After earlier being under the Babylonian Church of the East (with the Catholic faction known as Chaldean Catholic Church from 1681), and under Latin Catholic bishops from 1599, Catholics of Saint 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 Syro-Malabar Catholic to differentiate them from the Jacobite Syrians and Latin Church.

Latin Catholic Carmelite clergy from Europe served as bishops, and the Church along with the Latin Catholics was under the Apostolic Vicariate of Malabar (modern-day Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Verapoly). In 1887, the Holy See established two Apostolic Vicariates, Thrissur and Kottayam (later Changanassery) under the guidance of indigenous Syro-Malabar bishops, and named the Church as "The Syro-Malabar Church" to distinguish them from the Latins.[36] The Holy See re-organized the Apostolic Vicariates in 1896 into three Apostolic Vicariates (Thrissur, Ernakulam, and Changanassery). A fourth Apostolic Vicariate (Kottayam) was established in 1911 for Knanaya Catholics.

Restoration of the Syro-Malabar hierarchy

In 1923, Pope Pius XI (1922–39) set up a full-fledged Syro-Malabar hierarchy with Ernakulam-Angamaly as the Metropolitan See and Augustine Kandathil as the first Head and Archbishop of the Church. In 1992, Pope John Paul II (1978–05) raised the Syro-Malabar Church to Major Archepiscopal rank and appointed Cardinal Antony Padiyara of Ernakulam as the first Major Archbishop.[48] The Syro-Malabar Church shares the same liturgy with the Chaldean Catholic Church based in Iraq and the independent Assyrian Church of the East based in Iraq (including its archdiocese the Chaldean Syrian Church of India). The Syro-Malabar Church is the third-largest particular church (sui juris) in the Catholic Church (after the Latin Church and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church).[49]

The Catholic Saint Thomas Christians (Pazhayakūttukār) came to be known as the Syro Malabar Catholics from 1932 onwards to differentiate them from the Syro-Malankara Catholics in Kerala. The Indian East Syriac Catholic hierarchy was restored on 21 December 1923 with Augustine Kandathil as the first Metropolitan and Head of the Church with the name Syro-Malabar.[50]

Syro-Malabar identity

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

Faith and communion of Syro-Malabarians

The St. Thomas Christians got their bishops from the Church of the East/Chaldean Church until the end of the sixteenth century, when it was stopped by the Portuguese Roman Rite Catholics in 1597, after the death of Metropolitan Archbishop Abraham of Angamaly.


As per the East Syriac tradition, liturgical day of the Syro-Malabar Church starts at sunset (6 pm). Also the worshiper has to face the East while worshiping. This is not followed after Latinization.[51]

According to the East Syriac (Edessan or Persian) tradition, the following are the seven times of prayer:

  • Ramsha (ܪܲܡܫܵܐ‎) or the Evening Liturgy (6 pm)
  • Suba-a (ܣܘܼܒܵܥܵܐ‎) or the Supper Liturgy (9 pm)
  • Lelya (ܠܸܠܝܵܐ‎) or the Night Liturgy (12 am)
  • Qala d-Shahra ( ܩܵܠܵܐ ܕܫܲܗܪܵ‎ ) or the Vigil Liturgy (3 am)
  • Sapra (ܨܲܦܪܵܐ‎) or the Morning Liturgy (6 am)
  • Quta'a (ܩܘܼܛܵܥܵܐ‎) or the Third Hour Liturgy (9 am)
  • Endana (ܥܸܕܵܢܵܐ‎) or the Noon Liturgy (12 pm)

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.

Rite of Renewal of Holy Leaven (Malka)

Restoration of East Syriac liturgy

Syro-Malabar Major Archbishop Mar George Alencherry crowning a baby after baptism
Crowning ceremony during a Syro-Malabar wedding

East Syriac liturgy has three anaphorae: those of the Holy Apostles (Saints Mar Addai and Mar Mari), Mar Theodore Mpašqana, and Mar Nestorius. The first is the most popularly and extensively used. The second is used (except when the third is ordered) from Advent to Palm Sunday. The third 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 same pro-anaphoral part (Liturgy of the Word) serves for all three.

In the second half of the 20th century, there was a movement for better understanding of the liturgical rites. A restored Eucharistic liturgy, drawing on the original East Syriac sources, was approved by Pope Pius XII in 1957, and for the first time on the feast of St. Thomas on 3 July 1962 the vernacular, Malayalam, was introduced for the celebration of the Syro-Malabar Qurbana.[52] Currently they celebrate the Divine Liturgy of Addai and Mari and the Anaphora of Theodre in mostly Malayalam, with Syriac and English influences.

Besides the Anaphora of Mar Addai and Mar Mari being used currently in Syro-Malabar liturgy, there are two more anaphorae known as Anaphora of Theodore and Anaphora of Nestorius. That the Anaphora of Theodore which was withdrawn from use after the Synod of Diamper (a large number of churches used it up to 1896) is being used again in the Syro-Malabar Church after 415 years is indeed an important historical reality. In a way the Syro-Malabar church rejected the Synod of Diamper. Pope Pius XII during the process of restoration of the Syro-Malabar Qurbana in 1957 had requested the restoration of the Anaphorae of Theodore and Nestorius. The draft of the Anaphora of Theodore was restored after meticulous study by the Central Liturgical Committee, Liturgical Research Centre, various sub-committees, and the eparchial liturgical commissions. Many changes befitting to the times have been made in the prayers, maintaining maximum fidelity to the original text of the Second Anaphora. It was this text so prepared that was sent to Rome for the recognition of the Apostolic See in accordance with the decision of the Syro-Malabar Synod. The Congregation for the Eastern Churches gave its approval for using this anaphora on an experimental basis for three years on 15 December 2012.[53]

Rite of Renewal of Holy Leaven (Malka) by Mar Joseph Kallarangatt

After almost 420 years, the Anaphora of Nestorius is restored in the Syro-Malabar Church.[54] The aftermath of the so-called Synod of Diamper was that any texts related to Nestorius were systematically burnt by the Jesuits, who represented and ruled the Latin Church of India in 1599. In a way, the SyroMalabar church rejected the Synod of Diamber (Udayamperoor) by restoring the Anaphora of Theodore and Anaphora of Nestorius.

Liturgical latinisation was furthered in 1896 by Ladislaus Zaleski, the Apostolic Delegate to India, who 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 had schismed and joined with Assyrians at that time and various delayed the approval of this translation, until in 1934 Pope Pius XI stated that latinization was to no longer be encouraged.[55] He initiated a process of liturgical reform that sought to restore the oriental nature of the latinized Syro-Malabar rite.[56] 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.

Altar of St.Thomas Syro Malabar Church Malayattoor

Liturgical calendar

The Syro-Malabar Church has its own liturgical year, structured around eight liturgical seasons:

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

Syro-Malabar hierarchy

List of ecclesiastical Heads of the Syro-Malabar Church

Icon of Throne of Mar Thoma Slīha

Syro-Malabar major archiepiscopal curia

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

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

The administration of the Syro-Malabar Church has executive and judicial roles. The major archbishop, officials, various commissions, committees, and the permanent synod form the executive part. The permanent synod and other offices are formed in accordance with the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (CCEO). The officials include the chancellor, vice-chancellor, and other officers. Various commissions are appointed by the major archbishop: Liturgy, Pastoral Care of the Migrant and Evangelisation, Particular Law, Catechism, Ecumenism, Catholic Doctrine, Clergy and Institutes of Consecrated Life, and Societies of Apostolic Life. The members of the commissions are ordinarily bishops, but include priests. For judicial activities there is the major archiepiscopal ordinary tribunal formed in accordance with CCEO which has a statutes and sufficient personnel, with a president as its head. At present, Rev. Dr. Jose Chiramel is the president. The Major archiepiscopal curia functions in the curial building in Kerala, India. They have prepared the particular law for their Church and promulgated it part by part in Synodal News, the official Bulletin of this Church. There are statutes for the permanent synod and for the superior and ordinary tribunals. CCEO c. 122 § 2 is specific in the particular law, that the term of the office shall be five years and the same person shall not be appointed for more than two terms consecutively.[58]

Provinces, (Arch)Eparchies and other jurisdictions

Syro-Malabar bishops at the Generalate of Sisters of the Destitute

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

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

There are 13 further eparchies outside the canonical territory of which Adilabad, Bijnor, Chanda, Gorakhpur, Jagdalpur, Kalyan, Rajkot, Sagar, Satna, Faridabad, Hosur, Shamsabad, and Ujjain in India are with exclusive jurisdiction. The St. Thomas Eparchy of Chicago in the United States, St. Thomas the Apostle Eparchy of Melbourne in Australia, Eparchy of Great Britain, and Eparchy of Mississauga, Canada enjoy personal jurisdiction.[59]

Proper Ecclesiastical provinces

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

Late Varkey Vithayathil former Major Archbishop.

Eparchies beyond Kerala with exclusive jurisdictions

Exempt jurisdictions

Outside India

Syro-Malabar Religious Congregations

The Religious Congregations are divided in the Eastern Catholic Church Law (Code of Canons of the Oriental Churches – CCEO) as Monasteries, Hermitages, Orders, Congregations, Societies of Common Life in the Manner of Religious, Secular Institutes, and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Active are:

Syro-Malabar Major Archiepiscopal churches


The number of Syro Malabar Church institutions and personnel[61]
Institutions #
Parishes 3,224
Quasi-parishes 539
Missions 490
Institutes of consecrated life – men & women 53
Major & minor seminary 71
Regular, technical & other colleges 691
Teachers' training institutes 24
Engineering colleges

Higher Secondary & Primary Schools



Kindergartens 1,685
Non-formal & adult education 503
Special schools 4,021
Health care institutions 700
Nurse's training schools 44
Hospitals, dispensaries & health centers

Medical colleges



Specialized health care centers, incurables & leprosy care centers 54
Old age homes 211
Children's homes 185
Orphanages 230
Rehabilitation centers and other institutions 1,616
Total 13,805
Religious sisters 35,000
Religious brothers 6,836
Seminarians 2,907
Diocesan and religious priests 9,121
Bishops 56
Major archbishop 1
Total 51,097

According to the 2016 Annuario Pontificio pontifical yearbook, there were about 4,189,349 members in the Syro-Malabar Church.[59]

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.[59]

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

Erstwhile Cochin State, Meenachil (Palai) and Changanaserry together had 56 percent of the total Syro Malabar population. Kottayam, Pala, Muvattupuzha, Kanjirappally, Thodupuzha, Kothamangalam, Cherthala, Mukundapuram (irinjalakkuda-chalakkudy), Wadakkancherry, Thrissur, North Parur, Alwaye, Kunnathunadu, Ambalapuzha, Kuttanad, Peerumedu, Nedumkandam and Devikulam etc. are the prominent taluks.[59]

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.[62]

List of prominent Syro-Malabar Catholics

Prominent Syro-Malabar leaders

Mar Kudakkachira Anthony Kathanar

Saints, Blesseds, Venerables and Servants of God

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


Beatified people


Servants of God

Candidates for canonization

  • Fr. Emilian Vettath CMI

See also



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  2. ^ East Syriac theology : an introduction. Satna, M.P., India : Ephrem's Publications. 3 September 2007. ISBN 9788188065042 – via Internet Archive.
  3. ^ "Major Archbishop's Curia::Syro Malabar Church".
  4. ^ "Eparchial Sees in the Syro-Malabar Church".
  5. ^ "Circular - New Liturgical Texts of the Syro-Malabar Church::Syro Malabar News Updates".
  6. ^ "Un esercizio di comunione". L'Osservatore Romano.
  7. ^ a b Encyclopaedia of sects & religious doctrines, Volume 4 By Charles George Herbermann page 1180,1181
  8. ^ Fernando, Leonard; Gispert-Sauch, G. (2004). Christianity in India: Two Thousand Years of Faith. p. 79. ISBN 9780670057696. The community of the St Thomas Christians was now divided into two: one group known as the 'old party' joined in communion with the Western Church and in obedience to the Pope whose authority they recognized in the archbishop of Goa. The 'new party' (Puttankuttukar) stayed with Mar Thoma and eventually came under the influence of and entered into communion with the West Syrian Church of Antioch
  9. ^ Robert Eric Frykenberg (2008). Christianity in India: From Beginnings to the Present. p. 361. ISBN 9780198263777. His followers became known as the 'new party' (Puthankuttukar), as distinct from the 'old party' (Pazhayakuttukar), the name by which the Catholic party became known.
  10. ^ Hillerbrand, Hans J. (2004). Encyclopedia of Protestantism: 4-volume Set. Routledge. ISBN 9781135960285. those who rejected the Latin rite were known as the New Party, which later became the Jacobite Church
  11. ^ Vadakkekara, p. 84; 86.
  12. ^ Frykenberg, p. 361.
  13. ^ Fernando, p. 79.
  14. ^ Chaput, pp. 7–8.
  15. ^ a b Roberson, Ronald G. "The Eastern Catholic Churches 2016" (PDF). Eastern Catholic Churches Statistics. Catholic Near East Welfare Association. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 October 2016. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
  16. ^ a b "Museum". The Syro-Malabar Church. Archived from the original on 29 October 2007. Retrieved 28 September 2013.
  17. ^ a b "THE VARTHAMANAPPUSTHAKAM" written by Cathanar Thomman Paremmakkal". Archived from the original on 27 April 2013.
  18. ^ "Letter signed by the Holy Father to the major archbishop and bishops of the Synod of the Syro-Malabar Church (3 July 2021) | Francis". Retrieved 17 April 2022.
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  24. ^ 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.)
  25. ^ 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.
  26. ^ Frykenberg, pp. 102–107; 115.
  27. ^ Mihindukulasuriya, Prabo. "Persian Christians in the Anuradhapura Period". Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  28. ^ "St. Gregorios Malankara (Indian) Orthodox Church of Washington, DC : Indian Orthodox Calendar". Archived from the original on 21 January 2020. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  29. ^ "Mar Aprem Metropolitan Visits Ancient Anuradhapura Cross in Official Trip to Sri Lanka". Assyrian Church News. 6 August 2013. Archived from the original on 26 February 2015. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
  30. ^ Addai and Mari, Liturgy of. Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Oxford University Press. 2005
  31. ^ P. Malekandathil (2003). St. Thomas Christians: A Historical Analysis of their Origin and Development up to 9th Century AD, from St.Thomas Christians and Nambudiris Jews and Sangam Literature: A Historical Appraisal. Kochi, India: Bosco Puthur (ed.) LRC Publications).
  32. ^ a b Menon (1965).
  33. ^ Stephen Neill, A History of Christianity in India: The Beginnings to AD 1707, pp. 326-27
  34. ^ "When a Keralite priest wrote India's first modern international travelogue". OnManorama. Retrieved 6 April 2022.
  35. ^ "CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS IN THE HISTORY OF THE SYROMALABAR CHURCH". Syro-Malabar Church Official website. Retrieved 13 August 2020.
  36. ^ a b George Joseph Nedumparambil (2013). "A Search of the Roots of the Syro-Malabar Church in Kerala" (PDF). University of Würzburg. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  37. ^ Wilfred, Felix (2014). The Oxford Handbook of Christianity in Asia. Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN 978-0-19-932906-9.
  38. ^ Roberson, Ronald. "The Syro-Malankara Catholic Church". E Catholic Near East Welfare Association. Archived from the original on 3 August 2018. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  39. ^ Habbi 1966, p. 99-132, 199-230.
  40. ^ Wilmshurst 2000, p. 21-22.
  41. ^ "Koonan Oath 00001" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 June 2011. Retrieved 20 May 2007.
  42. ^ a b Eugene Cardinal Tisserant, "Eastern Christianity in India"
  43. ^ The Encyclopedia of Eastern Orthodox Christianity,John Anthony McGuckin
  44. ^ Thekkedath, History of Christianity in India"
  45. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia profile of "St. Thomas Christians" - The Carmelite Period
  46. ^ a b Malekandathil, Pius (2013). "Nazrani History and Discourse on Early Nationalism in Varthamanapusthakam". NSC Network. Retrieved 28 January 2013.
  47. ^ Whitehouse, Thomas, ed. (1873). Lingerings of light in a dark land: Researches into the Syrian church of Malabar. William Brown and Co. p. 308.
  48. ^ Roberson, Ronald. "The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church". CNEWA.
  49. ^ "Presentation of the Pontifical Yearbook 2019 and the Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae 2017". Holy See Press Office. 6 March 2019. Archived from the original on 7 March 2019. Retrieved 6 March 2019.
  50. ^ George Thalian: "The Great Archbishop Mar Augustine Kandathil, D. D.: the Outline of a Vocation"., Mar Louis Memorial Press, 1961. (Postscript)[permanent dead link] (PDF)[permanent dead link].
  51. ^ Divine Praises in Aramaic Tradition by Pathikulangara Varghese Kathanar
  52. ^ The Origin and Progress of the Syro-Malabar Hierarchy By Varkey J. Vithayathil
  53. ^ Official Website
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  55. ^ The Synod of Diamper and the Liturgy Jacob Vellian The Synod of Diamper Revisited, George Nedugatt, ed.
  56. ^ A Study of the Syro-Malabar Liturgy (George Vavanikunnel)
  57. ^ "Syro-Malabar Major Archdiocese of Ernakulam–Angamaly []".
  58. ^ Francis Eluvathingal, Syro-Malabar Church Since the Eastern Code
  59. ^ a b c d [1], Syro Malabar Church: An Overview.
  60. ^ a b "Provisions for the Syro-Malabar Church, 10.10.2017" (Press release). Holy See Press Office. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  61. ^ At a Glance Archived 2009-09-04 at the Wayback Machine, Syro Malabar Church Website.
  62. ^ "Syro-Malabar Church Dublin Ireland". Retrieved 27 August 2016.

References and bibliography

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  • Jarric, Pierre du (1615). Thesaurus rerum Indicarum. Sumptibus Petri Henningii..
  • Paulinus, a. S. Bartholomaeo (1794). "India Orientalis Christiana'". Typis Salomonianis. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  • MacKenzie, Gordon Thomson (1901). Christianity in Travancore. Travancore Government Press. ISBN 9781230341651.
  • Medlycott, Adolphus E. (1905). India and the Apostle Thomas: An Inquiry, with a Critical Analysis of the Acta Thomae.
  • Thalian, George (1961). "The Great Archbishop Mar Augustine Kandathil, D: The Outline of a Vocation". Mar Louis Memorial Press.(Postscript)[permanent dead link](PDF)[permanent dead link].
  • Menachery G (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). Vol. 1, 1982. Vol. 3, 2010.
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External links

  • Syro-Malabar Church
  • Archdiocese of Thrissur
  • Archdiocese of Kottayam
  • Archdiocese of Changanacherry
  • Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly
  • Archdiocese of Tellicherry
  • The website for Synod of Diamper
  • Indian Christianity : Books by Geddes, Mackenzie, Medlycott, &c.
  • The Chennai Mission Archived 25 September 2020 at the Wayback Machine
  • Syro malabar mission in Chennai Archived 28 November 2020 at the Wayback Machine
  • Syro Malabar Church in Australia
  • Nazraney Heritage
  • Syro Malabar Church in Qatar
  • Syro Malabar Matrimony
  • Article on the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church by Ronald Roberson on the CNEWA web site
  • Fathima Matha Church, East Hill, Kozhikode

Coordinates: 9°58′56″N 76°16′35″E / 9.9823°N 76.2763°E / 9.9823; 76.2763