Syro-Malabar Church in India

The Syro-Malabar Church traces its origin to St.Thomas the Apostle, who according to tradition, came to India in 52 A.D. , its members being called St. Thomas Christians. It is one of the four Oriental Churches having in common the East Syrian Liturgical tradition , the others being those ofEdessa Seleucia- Ctesiphon and Persia. On account of this common heritage the Syro-Malabar Church continued its hierarchical relations with the Chaldean Churches under the Catholicate of Seleucia-Ctesiphon.

In the 16th century the Portuguese came to India and the Latin missionaries, suspecting the St.Thomas Christians of heresy, started latinizing them. Hierarchically they were brought under the rule of the Latin Bishops.

In 1653 in the famous "Coonan Cross Declaration"at Mattancherry the St.Thomas Christians took the oath not to obey the ruling Latin Bishop. This was the starting point of division among the Christians who were one Church till that time. Further events led to many of them coming back to the jurisdiction of the Latin rule to be in communion with the Pope, while others stood firm in their opposition to the Portuguese.

Eventually those who continued under the Latin rule formed the Church which we now call the Syro-Malabar Church. Those who remained opposed to the Portuguese, tried to have Bishops from Oriental churches, came into contact with the Jacobite Patriarch and eventually became Jacobities, of which a fraction was reunited to the Catholic Communion in 1930 and is now known as the Syro-Malankara Church.

After 230 years of Latin rule the Syro-Malabar Hierarchy was established in India.

From 1950 onwards the Syro-Malabar Church and its jurisdiction was gradually extended in Kerala and beyond by means of division of the old dioceses and establishment of new exarchates and dioceses. The need for giving pastoral care to the emigrants of the Syro-Malabar Church necessitated established of the diocese of Tellicherry in 1953 and the territorial extension of the dioceses of changanacherry and Trichur in 1955. In 1956 the diocese of Changanacherry was made an Archdiocese.

Syro-Malabar Church exarchates were established in mission territories from 1962 onwards which later became dioceses. At present the Syro-Malabar Church has 21 dioceses in India with 30 lakhs of faithful. On December 16,1992 Pope John Paul II raised the Syro-Malabar Church to the status of a Major Archepiscopal Church and Cardinal Antony Padiyara the Archbishop of Ernakulam was appointed the first Archbishop Major and was given the title Archbishop Major of Ernakulam- Angamaly with the two Metropolitan Provinces of Ernakulam and Changanacherry as his "territorium proprium". Archbishop Abraham Kattumana, until then Apostolic Pro-Nuncio in Ghana, Togo and Benin was appointed as Pontifical Delegate to complete the process with the powers of Archbishop Major exercised by him temporarily.

On May 20,1993 Cardinal Antony Padiyara was installed as Archbishop Major.

Archbishop Major: His Eminence Antony Cardinal Padiyara

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