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India - Syro-Malankara Christian

The Nestorians of India, after receiving a metropolitan from the Patriarch Timotheus (778-820), had bishops appointed henceforth immediately by the patriarch. They enjoyed special privileges from the native princes, particularly after the beginning of the ninth century, these being due primarily to Thomas Kananams (also called Mar Thomas), who seems to have been a wealthy and influential merchant, and not a bishop. Thanks to these privileges and their increase in population, they gradually became able to have kings of their own, but on the extinction of the dynasty their little domain was inherited by the rulers of Cochin. The internecine strife of the Indian princes so oppressed the Christians of St. Thomas that in 1502 they offered the crown to Vasco da Gama, when he landed in India.

The bond between the Indian Nestorians and the patriarch seems to have been broken at an early date. About 1120-30 their spiritual head, Johannes, seems to have gone to Constantinople to request consecration, and thence to Rome. Later the church sank so that only a deacon was left to perform all ecclesiastical functions. Georgius and Joseph were accordingly sent in 1490 to the Nestorian patriarch to obtain a bishop; they were ordained priests and received the Nestorius monks Thomas and Johannes as bishops.

The patriarch Elias (d. 1502) consecrated three more monks bishops and sent them to India, where they reported some 30,000 Christian families, scattered in twenty cities, chiefly in Carangol, Palor, and Colom, although there were churches in all cities. Later Portuguese accounts reduce the number of Christian families to 16,000. In extreme poverty and oppressed from every side, they declared their sole allegiance to King Emmanuel of Portugal. The result was their destruction, oppressed both by the native princes because of this Portuguese alliance and also crushed by the Portuguese themselves. They were obliged, moreover, by Alexius Menezes, archbishop of Goa, to accept the decisions of the synod held at Diamper in 1599, so that only a few communities in the mountains remained true to the faith of their fathers.

But in 1653 they revolted from their enforced union with the Roman Catholic Church, nor have the efforts of the Discalced Carmelites since that time availed to reconcile the Indian Nestoriana with Rome. In 1665, on the other hand, the patriarch Ignatius of Antioch sent the Jacobite metropolitan Gregory of Jerusalem to Malabar, where he introduced a Jacobite tendency among the non-Uniates which became wide-spread, the Malabar Jacobites being estimated at nearly 170,000 by the younger missionary Baker.

By 1887, however, the leaders of the Syro-Malabar Church had reconciled with Rome, which formally recognized the legitimacy of the Malabar rite. The Syro-Malankara Church was reconciled with Rome in 1930 and, while retaining the Syriac liturgy, adopted the Malayalam language instead of the ancient Syriac language.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:43:36 ZULU