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Catholicos of India is the official title of the Catholicos/Maphrian of the Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church who functions at an ecclesiastical rank second to the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch. The jurisdiction of the Syriac Orthodox Catholicos is limited to India and Indian diaspora, although he is often invited to preside over Syriac Orthodox functions abroad.[1] The current Catholicos of India is Catholicos Baselios Thomas I who was consecrated in 2002.


The word is a transliteration of the Greek καθολικός, pl. καθολικοί , meaning concerning the whole, universal or general. It was a title that existed in the Roman Empire where Government representative who was in charge of a large area was called ‘Catholicos’. The Churches later started to use this term for their Chief Bishops.

‘Maphriyono’ (Maphrian) is derived from the Syriac word 'afri', “to make fruitful’, or "one who gives fecundity". This title be used exclusively for the head of the Syriac Orthodox Church in the East. From the mid 13th century onwards, a few occupants of the Maphrianate were referred also as ‘Catholicos’, but the title never came into extensive usage.

In the 20th century when this office of the Maphrianate under the See of Antioch was established in India, the chief of the local church assumed the title ‘Catholicos’. It is this title that is being used in India today, whilst the title Maphrian is no longer used.[1] Both the titles have the same meaning in the Syriac Orthodox Context. [2]

Origins and development of the Catholicate in India

The political rivalries being great between the Roman and Persian Empires, the Syriac Church thought it wise to create a local head in Persia to facilitate communication from Christians under Roman rule. A "Catholicate of the East" was established in AD 410 by the Patriarch of Antioch and the Persian Synod under the auspices of Mar Marutha of Muipharqat, the Patriarchal delegate. Earlier, at least one other Persian bishop, Mar Papa, tried to create a Catholicate but was not heeded. Mar Issac, bishop of Seleucia, became the first canonical Catholicos, empowered to exercise authority over the Universal Church's Persian jurisdictions (excluding India). As the Persian church embraced Nestorian beliefs (after A.D.431), the association between the majority of Persian Christians and the main body of Christendom was broken. Known now as the Assyrian Church, these Christians sought to better establish themselves by claiming that the Apostle Thomas not only evangelized their territories and ordained presbyters, but gave authority to specific successors to govern the Church. This teaching contradicted the teachings of Nicaea. To maintain Orthodoxy, patriarchs continued to ordain local Orthodox catholicoi. For more details visit this exposition.

A reconciliation movement gathered momentum in the 1950s and culminated in the consecration of Mar Augen I by the Universal Bishop's Synod presided over by the Patriarch Ignatius Jacob III, canonically establishing the Catholicate as the spiritual and temporal head of the Church in India under the Holy See of Antioch (1964). The camps later split again in 1975 with Mor Augen I favoring autocephaly and "Thomasine" hierarchical succession.

The Catholicate of the East was continued with the consecration of Mor Baselios Paulose II by Patriarch Jacob III in 1975. After Mor Baselios Paulose II's demise in 1996 the office remained vacant for several years to accommodate reconciliation attempts, which were unsuccessful.

In 2002 Baselios Thomas I was consecrated by Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas to be the local head of all Syriac Christians in India. Though most often called Catholicos of the East, his official title was made Catholicos of India. due to the region of his jurisdiction. He functions at an ecclesiastical rank second only to the Patriarch, having the privilege to preside over the consecration of new patriarchs. The Catholicos is welcomed brotherly alongside the Patriarch at ecclesiastical and ecumenical functions, and hosted the Patriarch during a state visit to India in 2005.

This Catholicate is headquartered at Puthencruz, Kerala, India. The Catholicos of India presides over the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Christian Association, the legal entity of Malankara parishes that unequivocally supports remaining within the Antiochian Patriarchate.

The Catholicos is not authorized to consecrate Holy Chrism independently. The jurisdiction of the Syriac Orthodox Catholicos is limited to India only, although he is often invited to preside over Syriac Orthodox functions abroad.


As the head of the Church in India the Catholicos presides over the Holy Episcopal Synod of Malankara Church which includes all the Metropolitans of the Syrian Orthodox Church in India.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Catholicate of the East
  2. Malankara Jacobite Syrian Christian Network

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