St. Thomas Syro Malabar Catholic Church

St. Thomas Syro-Malabar
Catholic Forane Church

Syro-Malabar Church - A Brief History

The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church or Church of Malabar Syrian Catholics is an Eastern Catholic Major Archiepiscopal Church in full communion with the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. It is one of the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches in the Catholic communions. The Church is headed by Major Archbishop Cardinal George Alencherry of the Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly in Kerala, India. The members of the Church are or have been known at various times as Syrian Catholics, Nasranis, St. Thomas Christians, or Syro-Malabar Catholics. It is the largest of the Nasrani denominations with around 5.01 million believers and traces its origins to the evangelistic activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century.The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church follows a variant of the East Syrian Rite liturgy, traditionally attributed to saints Addai and Mari, which dates back to 3rd century Edessa. And like the Chaldean Rite, it is a Syro-Oriental Rite. It is the second largest Eastern Catholic Church, the largest being the Ukrainian Catholic Church. It is one of the two Eastern Catholic Churches from India, the other being the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church which follows the West Syrian Rite liturgy. Saint Alphonsa is the first canonized saint from the Church. Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Euphrasia Eluvathingal are other saints from the church.Origin of St. Thomas ChristiansAccording to tradition St. Thomas the Apostle (Mar Thoma shleeha) landed at Kodungalloor in 52 A. D. and established Christian communities in different parts of India and died at Mylapur in 72 A. D.Traditionally, he founded seven churches or communities in Kerala; at Kodungalloor, Niranam, Kollam, Chayal, Kottakkavu (North Paravur), Kokkamangalam and Palayoor(Chattukulangara).Syro-Malabar Archepiscopal Church- AdministraionThe Holy Catholic Church today is a communion of twenty-four Particular Churches: the Latin Catholic Church and twenty-three Oriental (Eastern) Churches. The Latin Catholic Church is the largest among them. The Churches which originated in the eastern regions came to be known as Eastern Churches. The Syro-Malabar Church is the second largest Oriental Church, Ukranian being the largest. Syro-Malabar Church was erected as a Major Archiepiscopal Church on 16th December 1992 by the Apostolic Constitution Quae maiori of John Paul II (Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 85[1993], pp. 398-399) with His Eminence Cardinal Antony Padiyara, the Archbishop of Ernakulam, as the First Major Archbishop, and Archbishop Abraham Kattumana as the Pontifical Delegate. After the death of Kattumana in 1995, all the powers of the Major Archbishop rested in Cardinal Padiyara. When he retired 1996, Archbishop Varkey Vithayathil was appointed the Apostolic Administrator as a temporary arrangement, but with the powers of the Major Archbishop. Ernakulam-Angamaly is the See of the Major Archbishop. The Syro-Malabar Bishops' Conference is now replaced with the Synod of Bishops. The first meeting of the Synod was held on May 20, 1993 at Ernakulam.As in the secular administrative systems there are three wings in the administration of the Syro-Malabar Church also: Executive or administrative, legislative and judicial. The Major Archbishop, his officials, various commissions and committees, the Permanent Synod and the Major Archiepiscopal Assembly form the executive. His officials include his chancellors and finance officer or officers. Various commissions are appointed by the Major Archbishop for dealing with matters as liturgy, pastoral care of the migrant Syro-Malabarians and so on. The members of the commissions are ordinarily bishops. The Permanent Synod is an advisory council of bishops to help the Major Archbishop in fulfilling his function. Three of them are elected by the Synod and one is nominated by the Major Archbishop. Among the three elected at least two must be bishops who govern dioceses. Including the Major Archbishop there are five members in the Permanent Synod. The Major Archiepiscopal Assembly is a meeting of the representatives of the various sections of faithful of the Syro-Malabar Church. It is to meet at least once in five years. If necessary, the Major Archbishop can convene it as often as needed. The first Major Archiepiscopal Assembly of the Syro-Malabar Church was held from 9 to 12 November 1998 at Mount St. Thomas.The Synod of Bishops is the legislative body. All the bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church are members in it and have voting rights. It can enact laws for the Syro-Malabar Church. If they are liturgical laws they will be applicable for all the dioceses; but if disciplinary they are applicable only in those dioceses which fall within the proper territory of the Syro-Malabar Major Archbishop.For judicial activities, there are the Superior Tribunal and the Major Archiepiscopal Ordinary Tribunal. The Superior Tribunal is the Synod itself. However, it exercises this function through three bishops elected from among the members of the synod. One of them is nominated as the Moderator. The Major Archiepiscopal Ordinary Tribunal will have its own personnel. They are not bishops. The personnel can be anyone with the prescribed qualifications. The head of the Ordinary Tribunal is known as the President. The Church, with 3.5 million faithful, has five Archdioceses and fifteen dioceses within the state of Kerala, India, twelve dioceses outside Kerala, in India, and one in Chicago, USA. At present, there are fifty bishops from the Syro-Malabar Rite working in Kerala and outside: thirty-one serving in Syro-Malabar dioceses & nineteen serving in other dioceses and apostolic offices. There are about 7000 Syro-Malabar priests working in India and outside. Moreover, 2300 seminarians of the Syro-Malabar Rite are studying in the various seminaries of India. There are 30,000 sisters from the Syro-Malabar Rite working in India and other countries. The Syro-Malabar Church is also very actively involved in educational, social and health–related fields. Regarding institutions run by the Syro-Malabar Church, there are 182 colleges, 3821 schools, 262 ecclesiastical institutions, 581 medical institutions, 445 technical institutions, 917 charitable institutions and 1031 other institutions. The contribution of the educational institutions managed by the different dioceses of the Church to the welfare of the state of Kerala and other states of India is immense. There are five arch-dioceses* in Kerala (including Kottayam diocese for Knananites) and the others are suffragan dioceses under the arch dioceses. The Mission dioceses that are located outside the physical territory of Kerala are under the Holy See directly.