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Indian (Malankara) Orthodox Church

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Malankara (Indian) Orthodox Church
File:Catholicate emblem.JPG
Catholicate Emblem
Founder St. Thomas the Apostle
Independence Apostolic Era
Recognition Oriental Orthodox
Primate Baselios Marthoma Didymos I
Headquarters Kottayam, Kerala
Territory India
Possessions United Arab Emirates, United States, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, South Africa, Kuwait, Malaysia, New Zealand, Germany, Switzerland, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Singapore and Australia,
Language Malayalam, English, Hindi
Adherents 2 Million[1]

The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church is popularly known as Indian Orthodox Church in the International Orthodox Communion of Churches. This Church is believed to have been founded by Apostle Thomas in his mission to India and the Eastern regions of Roman Empire in the first century AD.

This Indian Orthodox Church was known as Jacobite Church from 1665, until the adoption of new constitution of the church in 1934. This change was made in confirmation with its theological and traditional connections with other Orthodox church bodies of the world.

The church is theologically and traditional a part of the Oriental Orthodox Communion of Churches. It was acting like a foreign diocese under the Orthodox Catholicos of the East until 1665, and later under the direct rule of Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch. This continued till 1912 and in that year the Catholicos throne itself was transferred from Persia to India.

The Indian Orthodox Church accepts the Alexandrian Christology, as does the Coptic Orthodox Church and its two daughter churches, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Eritrean Orthodox Church.

Hierarchy, distribution and doctrine

The spiritual regional head of the church is the Catholicos of the East and the temporal head over the church assets is Malankara Metropolitan. Since 1934, both the titles vest in one person. The official title of the head of the Church is the "Catholicos of the East and the Malankara Metropolitan". The present Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan is Baselios Thoma Didymos I, who was enthroned on October 31, 2005, at Parumala Church by the Holy Synod. Didymos I is the 111th Catholicos of the East in the lineage of Apostle Thomas; 6th Catholicos after its re-instatement in India and 19th Malankara Metropolitan.

The church accepts only the first three Ecumenical Synods like all other Oriental Orthodox Churches.

The church uses the liturgy of Saint James, as does its sister church, the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch. The Church in India was connected to the Church of Antioch through the Catholicos of the East, existed in Edessa, Selucia, Tigris and Mosul in various intervals. Today the Church uses liturgy in West Syriac, Malayalam, Hindi, and English.

The church has theological seminaries at Kottayam and Nagpur. The Church has dioceses and churches in most parts of India as well as in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Western Europe, Persian Gulf nations, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.

The name, Malankara Orthodox Church, refers to St.Thomas Christians of India, that come under Catholicate of the East whose Supreme Head is His Holiness The Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan,with headquarters at Devalokam, Kottayam, Kerala, India.

There are 1,300,000 members in the church as per the survey results published by the Government of State of Kerala in 2009. This is further split into two halves known as 'Metran Kakshi' and 'Bava Kakshi'.


The first 17 centuries

Part of a series on
in India
India christianity

Saint Thomas Christians
Malankara Church
Holy Apostolic Throne of St. Thomas
Ancient Crosses of India
Coonan Cross Oath
Synod of Diamper


St. Thomas the Apostle
Mar Sapor and Prodh
Thomas of Cana
St. Alphonsa
Blessed Kuriakose Chavara
Fr. Varghese Palakkappillil
Blessed Kunjachan
Blessed Euphrasia
Blessed Mariam Thressia
Blessed Mother Teresa
St. Francis Xavier
St. Gonsalo Garcia
Marthoma Metrans
St. Gregorios of Parumala
Antonio Francisco Xavier Alvares


Syro-Malabar Catholic Church
Syro-Malankara Catholic Church
Latin Catholic Church
Indian Orthodox Church
Jacobite Syrian Church
Malabar Independent Church
Mar Thoma Church
St. Thomas Evangelical Church
Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church
Church of North India
Church of South India

Thomas the Apostle is credited by tradition for founding the Indian Church in 52 A.D.[2] This Nasrani faith had many similarities to Judaism, and, owing to the heritage of the Nasrani people, developed contacts with the non-Chalcedonian religious authorities of Edessa, Mesopotamia.

The local church maintained its autonomous character under its local leader. When the Portuguese established themselves in India in the 16th Century, they found the Church in Kerala as an administratively independent community. Following the arrival of Vasco de Gama in 1498, the Portuguese came to South India and established their political power there. They brought missionaries to carry out evangelistic work in order to establish churches in communion with Rome under the Portuguese patronage. These missionaries were eager to bring the Indian Church under the Pope's control. They succeeded in their efforts in 1599 with the `Synod of Diamper'.The representatives of various parishes who attended the assembly were forced by Portuguese authorities to accept the Papal authority.

Following the synod, the Indian Church was governed by Portuguese prelates. They were generally unwilling to respect the integrity of the local church. This resulted in disaffection which led to a general revolt in 1653 known as "The Coonan Cross Oath". This demanded administrative autonomy for the local church. Since it had no bishop, it faced serious difficulties.

It appealed to several eastern Christian churches for help. The Antiochene Syrian Patriarch responded and sent metropolitan Mar Gregorios of Jerusalem to India in 1665. He confirmed Marthoma I as the bishop and worked together with him to organize the Church.

Until 1599, it depended on the Assyrian (Persian) Church for prelates to ordain its priests.

The English assist in reviving church

In 1795 the British captured Malabar, Kerala. In 1806 the Marquis of Wellesley, the British Governor General of India, Cecil Cherian, sent the Rev. Claudius Buchanan, an Anglican priest, to conduct research into the life of the ancient Church of St.Thomas in India. This started a new chapter in the life of the Malankara Church.

The Anglican missionaries were deeply interested in the welfare of the Malankara Church, and they helped the church to start a theological seminary at Kottayam in 1815. Soon, however, the missionaries began to impose Protestant doctrines on the seminarians. As a result the Malankara church discontinued the association.

This eventually gave rise to the division of the community into three bodies.

One of them set out to bring about major reforms in the liturgy and practices of the Church, but failed. After about half a century of conflict within the Church, this body withdrew, and organized itself as the Mar Thoma Church.
A smaller body of the Malankara Church opted to join with the missionaries and be absorbed into the Anglican Church.
A large majority of the community continued in the Malankara Orthodox Church without accepting the reforms.

Anglican Influence

The London Missionary Service was active in India. Bishop Norton inaugurated the first Anglican Church in Kerala at Thalavady in the house of one Itty Matthan Panickar. This church was later known as Christian Missionary Service and after Indian Independence it became the Church of South India. Lore says that Bishop Norton was tutored in Malayalam by Itty Matthan Panickar. Later the same person tutored Bishop Benjamin Bailey in Sanskrit & Malayalam, and was presented the chair on which the Bishop sat as a gift. Later in the 19th century, exposure to the doctrines of the Church of England inspired a reform movement led by Abraham Malpan. This led to the formation of the Mar Thoma Church.

In 1912, the Catholicate of the East was revived in India. The Malankara Orthodox Church wanted to retain its autocephalous nature. It appealed to Patriarch Ignatius Abdul Masih II of the Syriac Orthodox Church, who ordained Murimattathil Paulose Mar Ivanios as Baseliose Paulose, Catholicos of the East. The ceremony was held at St. Mary's Church, Niranam in 1912.

While there have been several schisms since,[clarification needed] the resultant churches remain viable.

The Metropolitan Bishopric of the United States and Canada was created in 1979 with the appointment of Thomas Mar Makarios to the new diocese. The first church of this diocese was consecrated in 1980 as the St. George Malankara Orthodox Church, located on Cedar Grove Avenue in the New Dorp Beach section of Staten Island, New York. An additional 74 parishes have been established in the United States since then.

File:Nasrani Evolution.jpg


The word "Catholicos" means "The General Head". It can be considered as equivalent to "Universal Bishop". There were only three ranks of priesthood in the early Church: Episcopos (Bishop), Priest, and Deacon. By the end of the third century certain bishops of certain important cities in the Roman empire gained pre-eminence over other bishops and they came to be known as Metropolitans. The Ecumenical councils of the fourth century recognized the supreme authority of these Metropolitans. By the fifth century, the Bishops in major cities like Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch etc. gained control over the churches in the surrounding cities. Gradually they became the heads of each independent regional church and were called Patriarch which means common father. The same rank in the Churches outside the Roman Empire was called Catholicos. There were three ancient Catholicates in the Church before the fifth century. They were the Catholicate of the East, the Catholicate of Armenia and the Catholicate of Georgia. None of these ranks and titles are the monopoly of any church. Any Apostolic and national church has the authority to declare and call its head, Catholicos, Pope, or Patriarch.

St. Thomas established the church in India and is recognized as its first Head or Catholicos.

The reign of the Archdeacons started from the fourth century and lasted until the sixteenth century. The third stage started when the archdeacon was elevated to the position of a Bishop by the community with the name Marthoma I in 1653. Since then the head of the community was the Marthoma Metrans and later the position was developed to Malankara Metropolitan with more recognition.

In 1912, the Catholicate of the East was relocated to India, and Baselios Paulose I was seated in the Honorary Apostolic Throne of St. Thomas as the Catholicos of the East.

Catholicate Palace


The Headquarters of the Indian Orthodox Church, named Devalokam is located at Kottayam, in Kerala. It is the official headquarters of the Catholicos Of The East who reigns on the Honorary Throne of St. Thomas, the Apostle, and was established on 31 December 1951.

The Chapel next to the Aramana built in 1953 was primarily the efforts of the women folks of the Malankara Orthodox Church. The construction of the Holy Altar was completed on 15 August 1956.

The Catholicate Office built in 1957 was donated by Dr. Mrs Lukose in memory of her husband the renowned high court Judge Kunnukuzhiyil K.K. Lukose. On 22 April 1957 the Catholicos consecrated the building.

The new Aramana which was built in 1961 was inaugurated by the visiting Armenian Catholicos Vazgen I.

A burial place for the interment of the Holy Fathers was constructed next to the Aramana by Baselios Ougen I Catholicos. The burial places of Baselios Geevarghese II and Baselios Ougen I were embossed with marble and made beautiful with ornate engravings. The room for tombs was widened in order to facilitate the interment of successors of the Catholicos. An auditorium and an administrative Block were also constructed close to the Aramana. The Office of the Catholicose, the Office of the Holy Synod, Kottayam Central Diocesan Office, Malankara Corporate Management Office, Sunday School Office, Malankara Sabha Magazine Office, Catholicate Press, M.O.C Publication Office etc. are also at the head quarters.

The mortal remains of Baselious Geevarghese II, Baselious Augen I Baselious Marthoma Mathews I, and Thomas Mar Makarios Great Metropolitan of the West are entombed in the Catholicate Chapel. A portion of the holy relics of St. Thomas, the Apostle of India and Founder of the Church, is also kept in the chapel.

List of Catholicos

The Catholicos lineage starts from the Apostle Thomas, continuing with the bishops of Edessa and Archbishops in Selucia-Ctesiphon. In 410 AD, Isaac first used the title Catholicos. Since then, the Catholicos has claimed jurisdiction over all Christians of the East outside the Roman Empire.

This Catholicate resided in Persia until the end of the 19th century. In 1912 , the deposed Patriarch of Antioch[clarification needed] relocated the Catholicate to India, without authority from the Universal Syriac Orthodox Synod, causing century long problems in Malankara Church. Catholicos Didymos I is the 111th Catholicos sitting on the throne of Saint Thomas. The Orthodox Catholicos is known also known as Maphrian to distinguish this church from the schismatic lineage formed in the latter half of the 5th century due to Nestorian influence.

To see the lineage of Catholicos: List of Catholicos of the East

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Saints of the Church

File:Parumala Thirumeni.jpg

Current Metropolitan

  • Baselios Thoma Didymos I (Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan)
  • Paulose Milithios (Catholicos Designate)
  • Dr. Geevarghese Osthathios
  • Mathews Barnabas
  • Thomas Athanasius
  • Geevarghese Ivanios
  • Dr. Thomas Athanasius
  • Dr. Yuhanon Milithios
  • Kuriakose Cleemis
  • Zachariah Anthonios
  • Dr. Mathews Severius
  • Job Philoxenos
  • Geevarghese Coorilos
  • Paulose Pachomius
  • Dr. Yakoob Irenaeus
  • Zachariah Nicholovos
  • Dr. Gabriel Mar Gregorios
  • Dr. Zachariah Theophilos
  • Dr. Yuhanon Chrysostomos
  • Yuhanon Policarpos
  • Mathews Theodosius
  • Joseph Dionysius
  • Abraham Ephiphanios
  • Dr. Mathews Timothios
  • Alexios Eusebios
  • Dr. Yuhanon Dioscoros

Theological seminaries


Ecumenical relations


The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church takes an active role in various ecumenical activities at national and international levels. It was a founding member of the World Council of Churches.[3]

Various theologians were involved in negotiations between the Oriental and the Byzantine churches. The Indian Orthodox Church participated in the Ecumenical Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches held in Addis Ababa, in 1965.

International Ecumenical Organisations

World Council of Churches

One of the founding members of this worldwide ecumenical body, the church has participated in all its projects and programmes. Its members have filled leadership positions. Sara Chacko, and the Metropolitan Dr. Paulos Gregorios have been president.

Other organizations to which the church belongs are{

  • Faith and Order Commission
  • Christian Conference of Asia. Susan Jacob is a member of the Executive Committee. Philip Kuruvilla the Secretary of the CCA's HlV/AlDS Programme.
  • Global Christian Forum

Monasteries of the Church

Pilgrim sites

Parumala church

Parumala Church


See also


  1. [1] from official website
  2. History of Christianity. Vol.1. By Kenneth Scott Latourette, page 80
  3. The Encyclopedia of Christianity By FAHLBUSCH, Erwin Fahlbusch, Geoffrey William Bromiley page285
  4. St. Mary's Church, Niranam
  5. [2]
  6. [3]
  7. [4]
  8. [5]
  9. [6]

External references

  • Fahlbusch, Erwin Fahlbusch, Geoffrey William Bromiley (198), The Encyclopedia of Christianity, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2008, ISBN 080282417X,9780802824172 

External links

Autocephalous and Autonomous Churches of Oriental Orthodoxy
Autocephalous Churches
Alexandria | Antioch | Armenia | Eritrea | Ethiopia | India
Autonomous Churches
Alexandria: British Orthodox Church | French Orthodox Church

Antioch: Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church

Armenia: Catholicos of All Armenians | Cilicia | Constantinople | Jerusalem

frp:Égllése malancara ortodoxe

bg:Индийска православна църкваhu:Indiai Ortodox Egyház ml:മലങ്കര സഭst:marys orthodox chruch

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