The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church was founded by St. Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, who came to India in A.D. 52. At least from the fourth century, the Indian Church entered into a close relationship with the Persian or East Syrian Church. From the Persians, the Indians inherited The East Syrian language and liturgies and gradually came to be known as Syrian Christians. In the sixteenth century, Roman Catholic missionaries came to Kerala. They tried to unite the Syrian Christians to the Roman Catholic Church and this led to a split in the community. Those who accepted Roman Catholicism are the present Syro-Malabar Catholics. Later, Western Protestant missionaries came to Kerala and worked among The Syrian Christians. This also created certain divisions in the community. In the seventeenth century, the Church came into a relationship with the Antiochene Church, which again caused splits. As a result of this relationship, the Church received West Syrian liturgies and practices. The Church entered into a new phase of its history by the establishment of the Catholicate in 1912.
The Catholicate in India was a growth and development through centuries within the Malankara Church. Though the developments in other churches like Persia, Antioch Rome and external interferences has influenced the growth in different stages, it should always be considered as a symbol of Apostolic origin, authority and heritage as well as nationality and independence of the Malankara Orthodox Church. Throughout centuries the Metropolitan heads of the Thomas Christians were known as the apostolic successors of St.Thomas, the founder of the Indian church. The Vatican Syriac codex 22 written in 1301 at Kodungalloor refers to the Metropolitan of the church as “The Metropolitan Bishop of the See of St. Thomas, and of the whole church of Christians in India”. The church always asserted that St. Thomas had his apostolic throne in India as St. Peter had it in Rome or Antioch. When the Catholicate was established the Catholicos as the head of the Malankara church, took the title “The successor of the Apostolic throne of St. Thomas”.
The Malankara (Indian) Orthodox Church has always cherished the tradition of St Thomas as the founding father of Christianity in India. At present, the Church is using the West Syrian liturgy. The faith of the Church is that which was established by the three Ecumenical Councils of Nicea (A.D. 325), Constantinople (A.D. 381) and Ephesus (A.D. 431). The Church is in communion with the other Oriental Orthodox Churches namely, Syriac, Alexandrian, Armenian, Eritrean and Ethiopian Orthodox Churches. The Church is in a good ecumenical relationship with the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches. The Orthodox Church in India declared itself autocephalous in 1912, though conflicts with the Syrian patriarchate continue. With two theological colleges, Kottayam and Nagpur, a mission training centre and many educational and charitable institutions, the church is fully involved in the life of the country. The Supreme Head of the Church and the present Catholicos is H.H. Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II. H.H.’s residence and the Head-quarters of the Church is in Kottayam in the Kerala State of South-West India. Besides the catholicos residing at Kottayam, Kerala, the church has 24 bishops and 30 dioceses within its jurisdiction. This Church now consists of about 2.5 million members, who are spread all over the world, though the majority reside in the state of Kerala in South-West India. It has a diaspora in North America, the U.K., Ireland, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and the Gulf nations in the Middle East.
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