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Council of Capharthutha

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Council of Capharthutha was a religious historical council held in February 869 AD to resolve the differences between the Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East of the Syriac Orthodox Church and the Maphriyan in Persia and India. It aimed to regulate the relationship and the resolution of frequent difficulties arising between the two positions.

The assembly codified eight canons dealing with the Patriarch and the Maphrian of Tigris:

1. The bishops and the monks in the Mar Mathai's Monastery, should submit to and obey the Maphrian whose seat is in Tigris

2. The Patriarch should not interfere in the administration of the Church in Tigris, unless when invited. In the same way the maphrian should not interfere in the Patriarchal See

3. When the Maphrian is present along with the Patriarch of Antioch he should be seated immediately at the right hand side of the Patriarch. The name of the Maphrian shall be mentioned immediately after that of the Patriarch, in the liturgy; and he should receive the Holy Qurbana after the Patriarch

4. When a Maphrian is alive, a Patriarch should not be installed without his concurrence, otherwise, the orientals shall have the right to install the Maphrian by themselves. The question of who should perform the laying on of hands on the new Patriarch - ie, the Maphrian or the President of the Synod, shall be decided by four bishops, two each elected by the orientals and the westerners (Antiochan) respectively

5. The Archdiocese of Kurdu, Beth-Sabdaya and also Najran, provided, the Arabs agree to it, shall vest with Tigris administration

6. The mutual excommunications between the orientals and the Antiochans shall be withdrawn

7. A final decision was taken about the three bishops consecrated by the Patriarch in the see of the Maphrian

8. A bishop excommunicated by the Maphrian shall also be considered as excommunicated by the Patriarch

It established the authority the Patriarch of Antioch over the East Syriac Church with the Maphrian probably swearing allegiance and obedience to the Patriarch at the time of his ordination.


The word Maphrian 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.

According to one of the most famous Maphriyans, Mar Gregorios Bar Ebraya (Bar Hebraeus), Apostle Thomas is the first in the Apostolic succession of the East. Bar Ebraya did believe that the Eastern Church was an integral part of the Antiochian Church, due to the historical context of the time in which he lived. He did, however, vigorously defend his rights, as dictated by the church canons.

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’. Both the titles have the same meaning in the Syriac Orthodox Context. [1]

The present Maphrian is the Catholicos of India Catholicos/Maphrian of the Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church (Jacobite Syrian Christian Church) Baselios Thomas I


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