Malankara orthodox Syrian Church

THE ORTHODOX CHURCH OF INDIA The Malankara Orthodox Church hereafter referred to as the Orthodox Church of India or the Indian Orthodox Church, is the second largest faction of the ancient church of the St Thomas Christians in India, which stood till 1657 as a single and united Church with an indigenous character of its own. This ancient church of the St. Thomas Christians is an Apostolic Church like all other Apostolic Churches around the world and originated from the evangelical labours of St. Thomas – the Apostle not only of Malabar and South India but also of India and all of Asia. In that sense this church is one of the Oldest Churches in the Christian world and also in India, because Roman Catholic Christians came to India only in the 16th century and Protestant Christians in the 18th century – all following Western colonialism. The Malankara Church is an indigenous Church with a distinctive heritage and characteristics of its own, deeply rooted in Indian soil. Moreover it is a church which stood for centuries in close contact with the East Syrian Church which once flourished in the present regions of Iraq and Iran.

In the 16th century it came in contact with the Roman Catholic Church through Portuguese colonialism, which after a century’s contact and interactions resulted in the enforced domination of Roman Catholicism over the church of the St. Thomas Christians. The Synod of Udayamperoor – 1599 played the decisive role in this regard. Thus this synod laid the firm foundation for all the problems which arose later on in this church. For about 54 years thereafter the St. Thomas Christians remained under Rome’s occupation and then onwards in a divided state.

In 1653 through an Oath, the St. Thomas Christians’ Church as a whole overthrew their enforced subjection to Roman Catholicism and resolved to restore their freedom as a church of India and to revive their Oriental Church heritage and indigenous characteristics. But due to various pressures their unity was broken, mainly due to the overwhelming action of the Roman Catholics who had immense support from the Colonial powers; a group of the Thomas Christians were induced to the Roman Catholic side and later on became the champions in the propagation of Roman Catholicism among the Thomas Christians. Moreover they, ie, those who were taken over to the Roman Catholic side did not allow their opponents, who had discarded Rome, to travel on freely to their destination as a free church. After many years of intense tribulation, struggles and loss of faithful to the Roman Catholics, those who stood against Rome, emerged as independent Church entering into free and friendly adherence with the bishops who came from the West Syrian Patriarchate in South – West Asia. This began from 1665, soon after the change in the political and colonial scenario of South India, when the Portuguese were ousted out the advent of the Dutch in the region.

This Church of the St. Thomas Christians who had freed themselves from the Roman Catholicism, were led till 1816 by Indian bishops of their own native origin and they were known by a common name – Mar Thoma. It is this church, which continued thereafter under bishops known as Mar Dionysius; now known by the name the Indian Orthodox Church. During 17th, 18th and 19th centuries they were also known by some names, which in most cases were appellations imposed upon them by their opponents from time to time. These are: New party (Puthencoor), Non – Romo Syrians, Malabar Syrians, Jacobite Syrians etc. After the formation of the Church’s constitution in 1934 the name of this church became the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. They believe that they are the faithful original descendants and real continuation of the Church of the St. Thomas Christians of India. Hence they claim they are an ancient and apostolic Church like any other apostolic Church elsewhere in the world. The Church in India is eastern in its ethos and worship and is clearly distinguished from western (Roman and Protestant) church traditions.

The church is fully self-governed by its local leadership and is indigenous. No foreign leadership is allowed to rule over this church now.

This elements of self-awareness always echoed whenever they were threatened during the periods of contact with Roman Catholicism , Protestantism and the West Syrians.

Moreover, a unique and noble feature of this church, even now is its broad vision of humanity, non-Christian religions and other ideologies. From time immemorial this Church was at peace, oneness and tranquility with the surrounding Hindu, Muslim, communities without prejudice, rivalry and fanaticism. It respected those religions and those religions too respected this church. Hindu rulers and others in recognition of the abilities of the faithful of this church and its tolerant attitude had been benevolent in granting material benefits of an everlasting nature towards this church. This church never engaged in proselytism of Hindu or Muslim brothers and that is its notable nobility in India. Its members serve in all noble spheres of life and actions of humanity all over the globe.

This Church now consists of about 3.5 million members, who are spread all over the world, though the majority reside in Kerala state. The Supreme of the Church and the present Catholicos is H.H. Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II.His residence and the Head-quarters of the Church is in Kottayam in the Kerala State of the South-West India. The Church as a whole is divided into 30 ecclesial units as dioceses and each diocese is served by a bishop, administratively and spiritually. The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church The Throne of St. Thomas What do we believe? The Creed Theology Christology Ecclesiology Missiology Pneumatology St. Mary the Mother of God The Ministry of an Episcopos Theology of Dialogue Spirituality The Christian Life Deification Fasting and abstinence Lent The Great Lent What is Prayer? Shubqono Syrian Heritage Oriental and Eastern Orthodox churches History Before 1653 Before the Portuguese arrival Apostolic origin As an independent Church 19th Century The Syrian Connections 20th Century The Holy Myron

Sulthan Bathery Diocese
The church in India and the beginnings of Parishes in Malabar

We Christians in India are proud of our faith and tradition which have remained alive and vibrant through nearly 2000 years. The ancient church has its beginnings in this part of Malabar only recently.

The 1930s witnessed the exodus of settlers from Travancore – Cochin area to Malabar (Wayanad is a part of it). The hard-working agriculturists from these places left their native lands and settled in the virgin land of the hills and valleys of Wayanad. Unmindful of the vagaries of nature they toiled in the farm lands and occasionally launched for the church bells. They started establishing, worshiping places here and small parishes developed.

St. Thomas Orthodox Church of Malankarakkunnu near Sulthan Bathery was the first church in Wayanad and soon churches started coming up in different centres. At the beginning, Bishop Palouse Mar Sevariose of Cochin and Malabar Diocese rained the churches here. In 1958 the churches of this area came under the jurisdiction of metropolitan of Malabar Diocese Pathros Mar Osthathios, popularly known as Mookkancheril Thirumeni. Then Thomas Mar Themothios Metrapolitha (H.H. Baselios Marthoma Didymos I) took charge of the Malabar Diocese and it is during this period that we saw wide spread growth of parishes and His Grace was our Bishop till the formation of Sulthan Bathery Diocese.

Formation of Sulthan Bathery Diocese

When the Sulthan Bathery Diocese was constituted by the Church on 28-10-1985, at first the Diocese was under the direct rule of His Holiness the Catholicos of the East, and his nominee Fr. Mathai Noornal became the administrator. The Diocese headquarters started functioning at St. Mary’s Orthodox Cathedral, Sulthan Bathery. With the coming of Kuriakose Mar Clemis Thirumeni on June 14, 1991 we get a Bishop for this Diocese and the parishes here see rapid progress after his coming.

The Diocese Today

Sulthan Bathery Diocese is spread over two revenue districts of Kerala – Wayanad and eastern parts of Kannur, the Nilgiri Dt. Of Tamil Nadu and Coorg area of Karnataka State. We have over 50 churches. St. Mary’s College, Sulthan Bathery, Kariampadi Eye Hospital, Ulikal Mission Centre, Manathavady St. Mary’s Home, Nirmala Matha Public School are some of the proud institutions of our church in the Diocese. By 1993 the Diocese headquarters moved to its own building at Nirmalagiri (Poomala), Sulthan Bathery. In 1996 construction started for a new Aramana building. Now the Aramana an architecturally distinctive three storeyed building and the Aramana Chapel towering over it – Sulthan Bathery Diocese Centre is the result of the vision and the untiring work of Clemis Thirumeni and the prayers & financial help of all the good minded people of our Diocese and the people outside the diocese all over the world – American Parishes and the Parishes in Muscat, Sharjah, Kuwait, Salalah and other places of gulf countries and some of the parishes outside Kerala in India.

Aramana and its locale

The Aramana is in Sulthan Bathery a fast-developing town. Bordering the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, and lies on the Calicut – Bangalore Highway. Once the land of adivasis – aborgines – it now is a conglomeration of different cultures. Three hours travel from Calicut on the way to Mysore – Bangalore you reach Sulthan Bathery Diocese headquarters – Nirmalagiri Aramana. The land called Wayanad (the mist covered mountains, the never ending green of the tea, coffee and pepper gardens, the lush forest) is part of Kerala, yet sublimely different from the rest of the State. It is believed that human life existed in Wayanad from pre-historic times. The Edakkal caves at Ambalavayal – 12 kms south of Sulthan Bathery – are clear evidence of Neolithic Civilizations. At the height of 700 meters to 2000 meters above sea level Wayanad has pleasant climate throughout the year. The thick forests here are the home elephants, spotted deer, bison, tiger and exotic varieties of orchids and flora.

People of different communities – Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Adivasis – all live happily here, making this beautiful land of God more beautiful.

In 2009,H.G.Dr. Abraham mar Ephipanios Metropolitan took the charge of Sultan Bathery Diocese.

In 2022, H.G. Dr. Geevarghese mar Barnabas Metropolitan took the charge of Sulthan Bathery Diocese. Presently, there are 48 churches under the Diocese.

Former Metropolitans

H.G. Kuriakose Mar Clemis Metropolitan

1991 - 2009

His Grace was born in 1936 at Nellikkal, Koipram Village in Thiruvalla Taluk as the second son to Perumethmannil Mr PK Mathai and Mrs Sosamma. He has one brother and two sisters. He belongs to Koorthamala St.Mary's Orthodox Church in Chengannur Diocese.

After his schooling, he joined Kerala University and did his graduation, post graduation in Science and B.Ed from Catholicate College, Pathanahitta and Mount Tabore Training College Pathanapuram respectively. Thereupon His Grace was teaching Botany at Catholicate College, Pathanamthitta, until he was elected to the Episcopal order.

He became a priest in 1964 after his studies at Orthodox Theological Seminary, Kottayam. He was also a member of St Basil Daya, Pathanamthitta. His Grace also served the Thumpamon Diocese as Secretary of Priests, Thumpamon Diocese. He was ordained a Bishop in 1991 and was given charge of the newly formulated Sultan Battery Diocese. And is serving it with all vigour and enthusiasm. His spiritual strength has helped the diocese to grow in all aspects within a short span of time.

His Grace is actively involved in many social activities. He is the President of a special school for mentally challenged children--Olivemala and Baselious Gregorios Mercy Home. He has so far extended helping hands poor and also runs a secret fund and educational fund for the economically weaker sections.

His Grace has many published articles to his credit. He is known for his simplicity and sweet voice. Presently he is serving the Thumpamon Diocese as its Metropolitan

H. G. Abraham Mar Epiphanios Metropolitan

2009 - 2022

His Grace was born on 17th September 1960 as the son of Mr. V. A. Oommen and Mrs. Gracy Oommen. His Grace is a member of St. Mary's Cathedral, Malaysia.

His Grace had his education in Pathanamthitta Catholicate School and College, the Orthodox Theological Seminary and stands with his M.Th. degree from Serampore University. His Grace was ordained as deacon and Priest in 1986 and 1987 respectively; on 31st March 2002 His Grace became Ramban.

His Grace has spent a long time in the Ashrams in Parumala and Madras from 1990 to 1996. His Grace served as Vicar of St. Thomas Cathedral from 1996 to 2002. Thereafter His Grace served as the Manager of Bishop's House, Madras in 2003 From 2004-2006 His Grace was served as the Manager at Parumala Seminary and Devalokam Catholicate Aramana.

His Grace is serving the Mavelikara Diocese as its Metropolitan.

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