Aji: I’m not a Catholic and have no vested …
I’m not a Catholic and have no vested interest in establishing links with Rome; however, you should speak from facts and evidence and not from the raw uninformed anti-Catholic emotional reaction that many ignorant Puthenkoor speak from.
If you look at our history, we can see the following:
1. A dark ages period from the 1st to 5th centuries from which *zero* literary or archeological evidence exists about our community
2. A semi-dark semi-light period from the fifth century up to the 12th century, where we have some evidence that indicates links to the East Syriac Church, which was not politically under Rome, although it did have occasional dialog with the Greco-Roman Churches. (i.e., it was not “untouched” by the Greek Church, since the East Syriac Church has Graecisms and honors the “Greek Malpans”).
3. A fairly bright period post-12th century where we have reports of our community from natives and foreigners, including Roman Catholic monks and missionaries who came to India and dealt with our people.
Regarding 2, like I said, there is no evidence that we were under Rome. Regarding 3, the situation is different.
a. There were Churches started in India by Roman Catholics back in that era, and Christians may have been converted during that era. You can read about the various missions that came to Kollam and what they did.
b. Regardless of (a), which is murky and unclear, we also know that, the schism that occurred in the East Syriac Church in which a segment entered into communion with Rome (the Mar John Sulaqa schism) also affected Malabar. Both factions: the non-Roman Church of the East and the Chaldean Church in communion with Rome, sent bishops to India. There is evidence for this and it is undeniable: the Syriac scholars who’ve studied our community’s literature have found this, and you can check out the SRITE project online for details.
So our history ran like this:
1. murky, unclear (pre-5th century)
2. contact and likely communion with the East Syriac (non-Roman) Church for a long period of time (5th century to the 15th century)
3. contacts with *both* the Church of the East (non-Roman) and the Chaldean Church (16th century)
4. schism into:
a) Pazhayakoor (connection to Chaldean Church basically terminated, now in direct communion with Rome, but using the old Syro-Chaldean liturgy, with many attempts to restore the Chaldean Catholic connection)
b) Puthenkoor (connection to Chaldean Church basically terminated due to inability to reconnect, in various states to confusion, using a hybrid liturgy that started to include elements of a new affiliation with the non-Chalcedonian Church of Antioch).
So, strictly speaking, all of Malabar essentially was in communion with Rome, willingly, for about 200 years. First, during it’s connections with the Chaldeans (not via the Portuguese, but under our Syriac brothers in West Asia who entered into communion with Rome), and second during it’s honeymoon period with the Portuguese whereby Malabar willingly accepted their help, political and spiritual.
If you read Jornada, in fact, you’ll see that many Churches in Malabar, especially in the South which was basically ignored by our generally inept or inconsiderate leaders in Angamaly (the Archdeacons). When Menezis came to the South of Malabar many greeted him, as he celebrated the Qurbana/Mass, conducted baptisms, etc., something that our local priests only did very infrequently.
It’s very popular among the Puthenkoor and also among the Pazhayakoor to decry the Portuguese and the Roman Catholics, and to claim that our own leaders (the Kathanars, the Archdeacons, etc) were great people. But when you look at history, and see what was written back then, it becomes apparent that our own leaders were quite poor, and that sent a lot of people to the newcomers.
In fact, if the Portuguese/Catholics after Menesis has shown more tact, allowing us to retain our Chaldean connections, it’s likely that there would be no Syriac Orthodox Church in Kerala at all. Everyone would be Chaldean Catholic, with perhaps a small, but significant faction that retained a link to the Church of the East, and perhaps some minor Protestant groups (who would likely be far smaller than now, since it was likely the Syriac Orthodox Church’s lack of tact that send a lot of people to Protestantism… I say this as a nominal member of that Church).
Related NSC Network Articles
- ‘The Indian Christians of St. Thomas’ by Dr. Leslie Brown
- Sixteenth Century Churches – Churches belonging to Catholics and Syriac Orthodox ( 1818 AD-Statistics)
- Ancient Churches with traditional dates of foundation & Stone Crosses of Kerala- Saint Thomas Cross, Nazraney Sthambams and other Persian Crosses
- Focus II- History, Munnu Noyambu and Kappalottam – Marth Mariam Church, Kuravilangad
- Population Statistics and Demography of Saint Thomas Christians, Churches with historical references
- “Christianity in India- a History in ecumenical perspective” by HC Perumalil and ER Hambye
- ‘The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopedia of India’- Volume I -Prof. George Menachery
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