Syro Malankara Church

  • Home
  • Church in Kerala



The mission of the Apostles and their successors planted the Church of Christ at various places. In divine providence (LG 23), the Indian Church was blessed to have an apostolic foundation in 52 AD through the evangelisation mission of St. Thomas, one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ. This Apostolic Church was in Catholic Communion from the early centuries. It came in contact with the Syro-Chaldean Church of the Middle East and consequently adopted the East Syrian Liturgy.

In the 16 century, this Apostolic Church came into direct relationship with the Western Church through the Portuguese missionaries. The Portuguese extended the Padroado agreement in their evangelization programme over India and wanted to bring the Indian Church of the St. Thomas Christians under this jurisdiction. The Church in India which was rooted in the socio-cultural environment and which enjoyed autonomy in internal administration in communion with the Universal Church resisted the unwanted intervention of the Portuguese who brought with them the Western ecclesiastical traditions. The Portuguese missionaries, ignorant of the Oriental traditions of the Indian Church, had the conviction that anything different from the Western Church was schism and heresy. Hence they wanted to latinize the Syrian Christians of India.

In 1599 Bishop Franciz Roz (1599-1624) convoked a Synod at Diamper and imposed latinization on the Apostolic Church of India. This was a blow to the identity of the Indian Church. However, the relation continued till the beginning of the second half of the seventeenth century. The Church of St.Thomas Christians could not withstand any more the denial of her autonomy. The initial resistance slowly gave way to discontentment, which ended up with the revolt in 1653 known as the Koonan Cross Oath. Thus, the one Church of the St.Thomas Christians was split into two. A large majority of the broken-away-group hesitated to sever ties with Rome and they remained in communion with Rome, but, under the Latin Hierarchy. This group came to be called the Pazhayakûttukar, while the other was known as Puthenkûttukar. The latter group made several attempts to come in communion with Rome safeguarding their autonomy and ritual patrimony. Failing to re-establish communion with Rome, they happened to come in communion with the Jacobite Syrian Church of Antioch. These developments were not acts against the Apostolic See of Rome but against the Portuguese missionaries and their policy of latinization. Even after the communion with the Jacobite See of Antioch, the Malankara Prelates Mar Thomas I (+1670), Mar Thomas II (+1686), Mar Thomas III (+1688), Mar Thomas IV (+1728), Mar Thomas V (+1765), Mar Thomas VI (+1808) and Mar Thomas VII (+1815) one after the other had attempted reunion with the Holy See, but all ended up in failure.

The Puthenkûr community came under the influence of the British missionaries in the 19th century. From 1815 till 1836, the year of the Synod of Mavelikara, the British missionaries propagated Protestant ideology among the Puthenkûttukar. This paved the way to the formation of the Mar Thoma Church under the leadership of Palakunnath Abraham Malpan and Mar Athanasios, who was consecrated Bishop by the Patriarch of Antioch. In order to outdo the reformists Mar Divannasios approached the Patriarch of Antioch. Patriarch Peter III arrived in Malankara and in the Synod of Mulanthuruthy (1876) the Malankara Church had to accept the authority of the Patriarch of Antioch over her. Since then, the Malankara Church had contented that the Patriarch’s authority was only in spiritual matters.

It was in this contentious context that Patriarch Mar Abdulla who came to Malankara, excommunicated Vattasseril Mar Divannasios in the year 1911. In this turbulent situation Fr. P.T. Geevarghese (later Archbishop Mar Ivanios) played a vital role in reinstating the postion of the excommunicated Metropolitan and in regaining the self-governance of the Malankara Church. To ward off the undue interference of Patriarch Abdulla in the administration of the temporalities of the Church, Fr. P.T. Varghese with the blessing of Vattasseril Mar Divannasios contacted Abded M’siha, the Patriarch of Antioch from whom Mar Abdulla usurped the Patriarchal See of Antioch, and invited him to visit Malankara and to establish a Catholicate here. Accordingly, Abded M’siha came to Malankara in 1912 and established the Malankara Catholicate. Thus the Malankara Orthodox Church in India became an autonomous Church under its head the Catholicos. Moran Mor Baselios Paulos I (1912-1913), the first Catholicos, was called to eternal rest after a short period of five months on 13 May 1913.

After the demise of Moran Mor Baselios Paulos I, the See remained vacant until 1925. That was a period of litigations in the Malankara Church; and also a period of spiritual renewal. The litigation for Vattippanam (a fixed deposit of money in the name of the Church) and its after-effects in the community was at its zenith. Fr. P.T. Geevarghese who loved his Church was moved by the Spirit of God. He realised that only a spiritual awakening of the Church would give a lasting solution to the problems of the Church. He himself took to sanyâsa and founded the Order of the Imitation of Christ also called Bethany Ashram in the year 1919. The first Ashram was erected at Mundanmala of Ranni Perunad. In 1925 he founded the community of the Sanyasins, the Sisters of the Imitation of Christ also called Bethany Madhom. From these two religious communities winds of spiritual fervour and renaissance blew across Malankara. By a decision of the Episcopal Synod, on 30 April 1925 Moran Mor Baselios Geevarghese I was installed as Catholicos. On the following day, the Catholicos consecrated Fr. P. T. Geevarghese under the name Mar Ivanios as the Bishop of Bethany.

On 1 November 1926, the Episcopal Synod held at Parumala near Tiruvalla, Kerala, decided to open negotiations again with Rome for communion with the Catholic Church in order to establish peace in Malankara. The Synod authorised Mar Ivanios, the then Bishop of Bethany, to make necessary correspondence with Rome regarding communion. He earnestly followed up the mandate of the Synod.

The Second Catholicos expired on 17 December 1928. Moran Mor Baselios Geevarghese I succeeded the late Catholicos. On the day following his installation, he consecrated Mar Theophilos of Bethany and Mar Gregorios of Pampady as Bishops. In the meantime, the civil court’s decision on the litigation for Vattipanam was declared in favour of the Malankara Orthodox Church. This was a civil legal backing up for the Church and the Bishops of the Malankara Orthodox Church stepped out from the endeavours of communion with Rome.

After prolonged negotiations, the plenary session of the Sacred Congregation for the Oriental Churches, which met on 4 July 1930, took the final decision on the issue of the communion of the Malankara Church. But only Mar Ivanios the Metropolitan of Bethany and his suffragan Mar Theophilos stood by the early decision of the Synod. Mar Ivanios and Mar Theophilos along with Rev. Fr. John Kuzhimepurath OIC, Deacon Alexander OIC and Mr. Chacko Kilileth made their profession of faith before Bishop Benziger OCD of the Diocese of Quilon and entered into full communion with the Catholic Church on 20 September 1930.

As the Reunion Movement gained momentum, Pope Pius XI through the Apostolic Constitution Christo Pastorum Principi of 11 June 1932, established the Syro-Malankara Hierarchy for the reunited community and erected the Archieparchy of Trivandrum with the Eparchy of Tiruvalla as its suffragan. Thus, the Malankara Church re-entered into the hierarchical communion with the Catholic Church. The Metropolitan Eparchy of Trivandrum was inaugurated on 11 May 1933 and His Grace Mar Ivanios was enthroned as its first Metropolitan- Archbishop. The Eparchy of Tiruvalla was inaugurated on 6 November 1933 and Most Rev. Jacob Mar Theophilos was enthroned as its first Bishop.

The reunion of Archbishop Mar Ivanios with the Catholic Church was a historical event in the whole Church, which inspired many of the Malankarites including the Bishops of the Orthodox Church. On 29 November 1937, Most Rev. Joseph Mar Severios of the Orthodox Church reunited with the Catholic Church. Later, Most Rev. Thomas Mar Dioscoros, the Metropolitan of the Knanaya Jacobite Church, reunited with the Catholic Church on 12 November 1939.

In God’s providence, the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church engaged in her double mission of communion of the Malankara Orthodox Church and evangelisation. The Church began to increase in number. With the blessing of Archbishop Mar Ivanios, Monsignor Joseph Kuzhinjalil founded the missionary congregation of the Daughters of Mary in 1938 at Marthandom in Kanyakumari District. Thus the mission of the Malankara Catholic Church spread to the southern regions of Kerala and Tamil Nadu also.

On 21 February 1943 Bishop Mar Dioscoros slept in the Lord. Mar Ivanios worked relentlessly for the building up of the Malankara Catholic Church. Through his travels abroad to Rome, other European countries, America and Australia, he spread the message of ecclesial communion and the awareness of the mission of the Malankara Catholic Church in the Universal Church. After a period of 22 years of strenuous hectic task of organizing and administering the Malankara Catholic Church he fell ill for more than a year. Nevertheless, he consecrated Benedict Mar Gregorios as his Auxiliary on 29 January 1953. Archbishop Mar Ivanios slept in the hands of the Lord on 15 July 1953.

The Eparchy of Tiruvalla was also making strides in its growth and development under the leadership of Jacob Mar Theophilos and Joseph Mar Severios. Mar Severios was the Administrator of the Eparchy until1950 due to the ill-health of Mar Theophilos. In 1950 he was appointed as the Bishop of Tiruvalla. He was also invested with the title ‘Archbishop’. He was called to eternal rest on 18 January 1955.

On 27 January 1955 Most Rev. Benedict Mar Gregorios was enthroned as the Metropolitan-Archbishop of Trivandrum and the Head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. Under his able pastoral guidance and social commitment, the Church began to flourish in its multidimensional growth and development.

The Holy See appointed Zacharias Mar Athanasios as successor of Mar Severios, whose consecration took place on 22 April 1954. His Excellency Most Rev. Jacob Mar Theophilos was called to eternal rest on 27 June 1956.

Attracted by the Liturgy of the Malankara Church, Fr. Francis Acharya, a Cistercian Monk came to the Eparchy of Tiruvalla. In the year 1957 he founded in the Malankara Catholic Church, the Kristiya Sanyasa Samaj (KSS), commonly called Kurisumala Ashram in the high ranges of Vagamon.

The Malankara Catholic Church has been steadily growing and spreading throughout all the States in South India. On 14 February 1958 the territorial boundaries of the Eparchy of Tiruvalla was extended to the north including the Malabar region of Kerala, the civil districts of Coimbatore and Nilgiris and Karoor Taluk in Tiruchirappally District of Tamil Nadu and districts of Mysore, Mandya, Coorg, Hasan, Chickamangalore, Shimoga and South Kanara of Karnataka State. On 28 September 1977 Mar Athanasios entered into eternal rest.

His Excellency Most Rev. Paulos Mar Philoxenos, the Metropolitan of the Malabar Independent Church, was received into the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church on 28 August 1977.

The appointment of Isaac Mar Yoohanon as Bishop of Tiruvalla and erection of the Eparchy of Bathery with the appointment of Cyril Mar Baselios as its first Bishop through the decree of the Holy See took place on 28 October 1978. Both the prelates were consecrated on 28 December 1978. The Eparchy of Bathery was officially inaugurated on 2 February 1978. On 15 May 1979 the Eparchial contemplative monastery, Dhyana Ashram, was founded in the Eparchy of Bathery by Fr. Silvester Kozhimannil.

The Golden Jubilee of the Reunion Movement of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church was celebrated in Kottayam on 26, 27 & 28 December 1980. His Excellency Lawrence Mar Ephrem was consecrated Bishop on 27 December 1980. His Eminence Wladyslaw Cardinal Rubin, the then Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches was the Papal Delegate for the Jubilee. Other eminent participants included His Beatitude Maximos V Hakim, the Patriarch of Antioch and all the East of Alexandria and Jerusalem, His Excellency Most Rev. Luciano Storero, the then Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to India and Mother Teresa of Culcutta.

A significant development of this period is the organisation of the Malankara Catholic Faithful in India, outside the canonical territorial boundaries of the Church. From being organized as Malankara Catholic Associations, the communities of our faithful living in the Metropolitan cities of India came to be erected as personal parish communities. With the appointment of Rev. Dr. John Berchmans OIC as the Co-Ordinator of the Malankara Catholic Communities in the Extra-territorial regions in India by the Council of Hierarchs of the Malankara Catholic Church, the ecclesial life of these parish communities was coordinated.

It was the long cherished dream of the Malankara Catholic Church to have a Major seminary of its own for the formation of its clergy. St. Mary’s Malankara Major Seminary was inaugurated at Pattom on 29 June 1983 and the new building at Nalanchira, Trivandrum was blessed on 25 May 1989.

The Malankara Catholic Church was fortunate to welcome His Holiness Pope John Paul II on 8 February 1986 at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Pattom, Trivandrum. The Holy Father, in his speech at Shankhumukam, praised the founder of the Reunion Movement and expressed his high appreciation of the work and witness of the Syro-Malankara Church.

On 28 April 1987 His Excellency Mar Yoohanon, the Bishop of Tiruvalla slept in the Lord.

Following the visit His Holiness Pope John Paul II, His Eminence Cardinal Lourdusamy, the then Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, visited the Malankara Catholic Church on 18 and 19 August 1987.

His Excellency Geevarghese Mar Timotheos succeeded Mar Yoohanon as the Bishop of Tiruvalla. He was consecrated Bishop on 6 August 1988.

His Grace, Metropolitan-Archbishop Mar Gregorios was called to eternal rest on 10 October 1994 after an eventful service of 41 years. Most Rev. Cyril Mar Baselios, the Bishop of Bathery having been appointed by His Holiness Pope John Paul II, was enthroned as Metropolitan-Archbishop of Trivandrum and as the head of the Malankara Church on 14 December 1995. His Excellency Geevarghese Mar Divannasios was consecrated Bishop of Bathery in the place of Cyril Mar Baselios on 5 February 1996.

His Eminence Achille Cardinal Silvestrini, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, visited the Malankara Catholic Church on 11, 12, 13 February 1996.

On the request of His Grace Most Rev. Cyril Mar Baselios, by an Apostolic Bull dated 16 December 1996, His Holiness Pope John Paul II erected the Eparchy of Marthandom bifurcating the Metropolitan Eparchy of Trivandrum. Most Rev. Lawrence Mar Ephrem was appointed as its first Bishop. God called him to himself after a few months of his enthronement as Bishop of Marthandom, on 8 April 1997.

In the mean time the Eparchy of Tiruvalla was blessed with an Auxiliary Bishop in the person of Most Rev. Thomas Mar Koorilos who was consecrated Bishop on 17 July 1997. On 29 June 1998 Most Rev. Yoohanon Mar Chrysostom was consecrated as the Bishop of Mathandom and Joshua Mar Ignathios as the Auxiliary Bishop for the Metropolitan Eparchy of Trivandrum. His Excellency Paulos Mar Philoxenos passed away on 3 November 1998.

Christu Jayanthi Maha Jubilee and the Sapthathy of the Re-union Movement of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church were celebrated jointly at Tiruvalla on 26, 27, 28 December 2000. His Beatitude Ignace Moussa Daoud, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches was the Papal Delegate for the Celebration.

A significant development in this period has been the establishment of parishes for the faithful of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church in the United States of America. The Holy Father John Paul II nominated the Proto Syncellus of Bathery Very Rev. Fr. Isaac Thottunkal, as Apostolic Visitor and the Auxiliary Bishop of Trivandrum on 18 June 2001 for the Syro-Malankarites residing in North America and Europe. He was consecrated on 15 August 2001 at Tirumoolapuram, (Tiruvalla) and he assumed the name Isaac Mar Cleemis.

Bifurcating the Eparchy of Tiruvalla, the Eparchy of Muvattupuzha was erected on 15 January 2003 and The Most Rev. Thomas Mar Koorilos was appointed as its first Bishop.

On 29 March 2003 Bishop Mar Timotheos gave resignation to the Holy See due to super-annuation and the Holy See appointed Isaac Mar Cleemis, the Apostolic Visitor to Europe and America, as the Bishop of Tiruvalla. His Excellency Mar Cleemis took charge of the Diocese on 2 October 2003. On January 5, 2005 Most Rev. Joseph Mar Thomas was appointed as the Auxiliary Bishop of Trivandrum and Apostolic Visitor to North America and Europe.

10 February 2005 is a day that is engraved in golden letters in the history of the Malankara Church. The Syro-Malankara Catholic Church was raised to the status of a Major Archiepiscopal Church on that day. His Grace Pedro Lopez Quintana, the Apostolic Nuncio in India read the official declaration at St. Mary’s Metropolitan Cathedral, Trivandrum. The Hierarchical Head of the Church was elevated as Major Archbishop who exercises patriarchal powers and governs the Church assisted by the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Church. The Major Archbishop also assumed the title “Catholicos” according to the Antiochene-Malankara tradition. This is the crowing event of all the ecclesial communion endeavours since 1653. 

On 19 February 2005, Joseph Mar Thomas was consecrated as the Auxiliary Bishop of Trivandrum and the Apostolic Visitor to North America and Europe. On 11 April 2005 the Faculty of Theology of St. Mary’s Malankara Seminary got affiliated to the Pontifical Urbanian University, Rome.

The enthronement of the Major Archbishop-Catholicos as the Father and Head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church on 14 May 2005 was officiated by His Eminence Ignace Moussa Cardinal Daoud, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. His Grace Pedro Lopez Quintana, the Apostolic Nuncio of the Holy Father in India, was present at the enthronement ceremony. The Malankara Major Archiepiscopal Curia (Catholicate Centre) started functioning at the St. Mary’s Campus, Pattom, Trivandrum. On 20 May 2005 His Beatitude Moran Mor Cyril Baselios Catholicos blessed the Curia building. The Catholicos soon constituted the Holy Episcopal Synod. The first Synod of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church was convened from 16 to 18 August 2005 at the Major Archiepiscopal Curia (Catholicate Centre), Trivandrum.

The first Holy Episcopal Synod constituted the Permanent Synod and the various Synodal Commissions headed by Bishops to take care of various Apostolates of the Church. The official bulletin, MALANKARA, is published from the Catholicate Centre, to communicate the Synodal acts and voice of the Syro-Malankara Major Archiepiscopal Church.

The Platinum Jubilee of the Reunion Movement and the Year of the Eucharist were celebrated jointly at Mar Ivanios Nagar, Punnamoodu, Mavelikara on 19, 20, 21 September 2005. His Grace Pedro Lopez Quintana, the Apostolic Nuncio of the Holy Father in India, Shri Bhaironsingh Shekhawat, the Vice-President of India, and Sri Oommen Chandy, the Chief Minister of Kerala, participated in the celebrations.

By the decrees of the Major Archbishop-Catholicos the Metropolitan Province of Tiruvalla with the Eparchies of Bathery and Muvattupuzha as suffragans, was established on 15 May 2006 and Most Rev. Isaac Mar Cleemis was appointed as the Metropolitan-Archbishop of Tiruvalla. On 10 June 2006 Isaac Mar Cleemis was enthroned as the first Metropolitan-Archbishop of Tiruvalla.

By the decree of the Major Archbishop-Catholicos, on 01 January 2007, the new Eparchy of Mavelikara was erected and His Excellency Joshua Mar Ignathios, The Auxiliary Bishop and protosyncellus of the Major Archdiocese of Trivandrum, was appointed as its first Bishop.

The Second Ordinary Holy Episcopal Synod was convoked on 6-7 December 2006 and it was decided to revive the ministerial titles of Ramban and Corepiscopo which were in vogue in the Church and to honour a few priests for their meritorious service in the Church. His Grace Most Rev. Isaac Mar Cleemis, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Tiruvalla, conferred the titles on Saturday, 13 January 2007 on three priests at St. John’s Cathedral, Tiruvalla and Moran Mor Cyril Baselios Catholicos conferred these titles on priests on 17 Wednesday, 2007 at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Pattom.

On Thursday, 18 January 2007 His Beatitude Moran Mor Cyril Baselios, the first Major Archbishop-Catholicos of the Syro- Malankara Catholic Church slept in the Lord. The mortal remains of the Catholicos was entombed by the side of his great predecessors at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Pattom on 20 January 2007.

His Grace Most Rev. Isaac Mar Cleemis was elected the Second Major Archbishop-Catholicos of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church through the first Holy Episcopal Synod of election of the Syro Malankara Catholic Church convoked on 7 -10 February 2007 at Catholicate Centre, Pattom, Trivandrum.His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI approved the election on 9 February and it was announced on 10 February at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Pattom.

The installation of His Excellency Most Rev. Joshua Mar Ignathios was held on 16 February, 2007 at Mavelikara and His Excellency Most Rev. Geevarghese Mar Divannasios, the Administrator of The Malankara Catholic Major Archiepiscopal Church presided over the installation ceremony. The new eparchy has a 30825 Syro-Malankara Catholic faithful of a total population of 29,98,325 inhabitants. Of this 269849 are Malankara non- Catholics and 5,98,824 Christians of other denominations.

On Wednesday, 7 February 2007 a long-cherished dream of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church was realized. The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI appointed Very Rev. Dr. Chacko Aerath OIC as the Apostolic Visitor with Episcopal status for the Malankara Catholic faithful residing in the Extra-territorial Regions of the Church within India.

Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis was enthroned the Second Major Archbishop-Catholicos of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church on 5 March 2007 at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Pattom. His installation service was officiated by Most Rev. Geevarghese Mar Divannasios, the Synodal Administrator of the Church. A large number of ecclesiastical and political dignitaries including Cardinal Telesphore Toppo (the President of the CBCI), Cardinal Mar Varkey Vithayathil (Major Archbishop of Syro-Malabar Church) and Sri. V. S. Achuthanandan (the Chief Minister of Kerala) participated in the installation ceremony.

On Saturday, 10 March 2007 Very Rev. Dr. Chacko Aerath OIC was consecrated Bishop by Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis Catholicos and he received the name Jacob Mar Barnabas.

On Monday, 26 March 2007 the Most Rev. Thomas Mar Koorilos was appointed the Second Metropolitan Archbishop of the Archieparchy of Tiruvalla. His installation Ceremony was held on Wednesday, 2 May 2007at St. John’s Cathedral, Tiruvalla. His Beatitude Baselios Cleemis was the main celebrant.

His Beatitude Baselios Cleemis Catholicos visited the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI on 28 May 2007 at Vatican and received ecclesiastical Communion. The Congregation for the Oriental Churches in Rome gave a warm reception to His Beatitude on his first visit to the Holy See.

On Saturday, 14 July 2007 Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis, Major Archbishop-Catholicos declared Archbishop Mar Ivanios as Servant of God on the basis of the petition submitted by Rev. Fr. Antony Valiyavilayil, the postulator for the cause of canonization of Archbishop Mar Ivanios the Prophet of Reunion Movement..

The 77th Reunion celebrations, the Platinum Jubilee of the Constitution of the Hierarchy of the Malankara Church in Catholic Communion and the Golden Jubilee of the Immigration of the Malankarites to Malabar were celebrated at Kodencherry in the Eparchy of Bathery from 19 -21 September 2007.

On Sunday, 23 September 2007 the 125th birth anniversary of Servant of God Archbishop Mar Ivanios was celebrated at Puthiyakavu, the birth place of the Servant of God in the Eparchy of Mavelikara.

The Silver Jubilee of the Malankara Major Seminary that commenced on Thursday, 29 June 2007 was officially inaugurated on Tuesday, 2 October 2007 by His Beatitude Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis Catholicos and its concluding celebrations were held from 5-8 November 2007. 

In the course of the growth and development of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, besides the canonical institutions, various associations such as the Malankara Catholic Youth Movement (MCYM), the Malankara Catholic Association (MCA), the Legion of Mary, Matruvedi, Pithruvedi, and other pious associations have become the backbone of the life of the Church.

Monastic and other religious communities that are founded in the Malankara Catholic Church contribute towards the spiritual enrichment of the Church. Similarly, other Religious Congregations of both men and women founded in other sui iuris Churches are rendering their valuable service in fulfilling the mission of the Malankara Church. The cause of Canonisation of Mar Ivanios, the pioneer of the Reunion Movement is in progress.