Jacobite Syrian Christian Church
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The Jacobite Syrian Christian Church (JSCC), also known as the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church, Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church, the Jacobite Syrian Church, and the Syriac Orthodox Church in India, is an autonomous Oriental Orthodox church based in Kerala, India, and is an integral branch of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch. It recognizes the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East as supreme head of the church. It functions as a largely autonomous unit within the church, under the authority of the Catholicos of India, Baselios Thomas I. It is currently the only church in Malankara that has a direct relationship with the Syriac Christians of Antioch, which has continued since the schism of 1665 and employs the West Syriac Liturgy of Saint James.
Emperor Justin I supported the Chalcedonians. Severus of Antioch, who was not a Chalcedonian, was exiled to Egypt and died in 538 AD. Three bishops remained in the church, and at that time Jacob Baradeus restored the church with Queen Theodra's help.
Puthencruz is the headquarters of the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church in India. It is registered as a society under the Societies Act of the Government of India. Its headquarters are named after Ignatius Zakka I. The property was bought and built under the leadership of Baselios Thomas I after the church faced difficulties in continuing its operations in Muvattupuzha after Baselios Paulose II's death.
It is believed that Saint Thomas Christians of Malabar were in communion with the Church of the East from 295 AD to 1599. They received episcopal support from Syriac bishops, who traveled to Kerala in merchant ships along the spice route, while the local leader of the Saint Thomas Christians held the rank of archdeacon, which was a hereditary office held by the Pakalomattam family. In the 16th century, the overtures of the Portuguese padroado to bring the Saint Thomas Christians into Latin Rite Catholicism led to the first of several rifts in the community due to Portuguese colonialists, and the establishment of the Syro-Malabar Church and the Malankara Church factions. Since then, further splits have occurred, and the Saint Thomas Christians are now divided into several factions.
Saint Thomas Christians were administratively under the single native dynastic leadership of an archdeacon (a native ecclesiastical head with spiritual and temporal powers, deriving from the Greek term arkhidiākonos) and were in communion with the Church of the East centered in Persia, from at least 496 AD. The indigenous Church of Malabar/Malankara followed the faith and traditions handed over by the apostle St. Thomas. In the 16th century, the Portuguese Jesuits deliberately attempted to annex the native Christians to the Catholic Church, and in 1599 they succeeded through the Synod of Diamper. Resentment against these forceful measures caused the majority of the community under Archdeacon Thomas to swear an oath never to submit to the Portuguese, known as the Coonan Cross Oath, in 1653. The Malankara Church consolidated under Thoma I welcomed Gregorios Abdal Jaleel, who regularized the canonical ordination of Thoma as a bishop.
Meanwhile, the Dutch East India Company defeated the Portuguese and gained supremacy over the spice trade in Malabar in 1663. The Malankara church used this opportunity to escape from Catholic persecution with the company's help. At the church's request, the Dutch brought Gregorios Abdal Jaleel of Jerusalem, a bishop of the Syriac Orthodox Church, aboard their trading vessel in 1665. Thoma I formed a relationship with the Syriac Orthodox Church and gradually adopted West Syriac liturgy and practices.
As part of the Syriac Orthodox communion, the church uses the West Syriac liturgy and is part of the Oriental Orthodox group of churches. It has dioceses in most parts of India as well as in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Western Europe, the Persian Gulf, Australia, and New Zealand. In 2003 it was estimated that the church had 1,000,000 (including Knanaya) members globally.
The highest rank in the ecclesiastical hierarchy is the patriarch. The second-highest rank is the maphrian, also known as the Catholicos of India, and is the head of the Jacobite Syrian Church in India. There are metropolitan bishops or archbishops, and auxiliary bishops beneath them.
Three ranks of hierarchy
There are three ranks of priesthood in the Syriac Orthodox Church:
- Episcopate: patriarch, Catholicos, archbishop, and bishop.
- Vicariate: chor-episcopos and priest or qasheesho.
- Deaconate: archdeacon, evangelical-deacon, subdeacon, lector or qoruyo and singer or mzamrono.
The Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church of India established by Thomas the Apostle believed in apostolic succession by the Syriac Orthodox Church and traditions carried out by the early Church of the East. The Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church believes in the Church of Antioch's rulings regarding the councils of the Christendom and promises made by the Holy Fathers of the Church of Antioch and the Church of Alexandria.
The Church believed in the Trinity, apostolic succession, Miaphysitism Christological doctrines, and the Saints' Communion with Heaven. It also believed in the Throne of Antioch established by Saint Peter and Saint Paul, and accepted the Petrine primacy and supremacy of Patriarchs akin to the Church of Rome. Those who follow the early theological doctrines from India are known as Saint Thomas Christians. The Syrian Orthodox Church of India accepts Buddhism and Jewish traditions as a part of Christian culture. The church venerates icons. It has prayers to Geevarghese Gregorios of Perumpally, Curien Kaniyamparambil, and other people who controlled higher positions in the church. The Church has myths in India related to Hinduism regarding churches in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. It has major and minor pilgrim sites in the Manarcad Church.
- Manarcad Church is a pilgrimage site in Kerala and is known as the Global Marian Pilgrim Center. The Holy Girdle of the Virgin Mary was installed in 1953 by Ignatius Zakka I, and church construction was completed in 1954.
- Kothamangalam Cheriya Pally is a major pilgrimage site of the gathering church of whole religions(സർവ്വ മത തീർത്വടന കേന്ദ്രം).
- Piravom Church is a major church that is over 2,000 years old. The church was established by the Biblical Magi who visited the infant Jesus Christ in Bethlehem.
- St. George Jacobite Syrian Cathedral is the ancient cathedral named after Saint George, and was established in 722 AD.
- Kattachira Church is the pilgrimage site where the icon of Saint Mary, the Holy Liturgy Book, and hundreds of holy icons of the Virgin Mary are kept.
- Vadakkan Paravoor Church is the church that entombed Gregorios Abdal Jaleel, who protected the original faith of the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church.
- St. Mary's Church, Kundara, located in the Kollam district of Kerala, is the traditional church of the Pakalomattam family. The saints of the Pakalomattam family are Saint Alphonsa, Kuriakose Elias Chavara, and Kuriakose Mar Gregorios (Pampady Thirumeni).
The Syrian Christians accepted the traditions of the Syriac traditional Indian Church. The rituals incorporated into Syrian Christianity from other religions include many different blessings and processions. The Syrian Christians have a prominent position given by Maharajas.
- The Minnukettu and Manthrakodi are Syrian Orthodox rituals adhered to by the Malankara Church. They approved by Ignatius Peter IV, the Patriarch of Antioch. The Manthrakodi is known as sari for a bridegroom, and the Minnu is the ritual layout of a wedding ceremony in a shape resembling wheat, which represents rebirth and resurrection.
- The Procession is the ritual of the Bible being shown to everyone at Mass, an existing tradition in Hinduism and Syriac Christianity.
- Chattayum Mundum is the traditional dress of Syriac Christians; it was inspired by Jewish and Mohammedan culture.
- The Onam is a festival in Kerala.
According to the Bible:
...And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.— Mathew 14:35-36
The Syriac Orthodox Church respects the relics of Saint Mary, forefathers, and saints. The most venerated relics of the Syrian Orthodox Church are the Holy Girdle found from the olden manuscripts by Ignatius Aphrem I and the relics of the Thomas the Apostle discovered by Ignatius Zakka I. The Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church kept some of these relics and celebrated on occasions.
The liturgical service is called Holy Qurobo in the Syriac language. The Liturgy of Saint James is celebrated on Sundays and special occasions. The Holy Eucharist consists of Gospel reading, Bible readings, prayers, and songs. Apart from certain readings, prayers are sung in the form of chants and melodies. Hundreds of melodies remain preserved in the book known as Beth Gazo.
The Syriac Orthodox Church respects the Bible in the Church of tradition and liturgy. It preserves the Syriac manuscripts of the Bible and other holy books. The Syriac name of Peshitta is Vishudhagrandham (വിശുദ്ധ ഗ്രന്ഥം) in Malayalam, translated by Curien Kaniamparambil.
The Jacobite Syrian Christians pray from the Shehimo during canonical hours in accordance with Psalm 119. In 1910, Reverend Konattu Mathen Malpan translated the prayer book of the Syrian orthodox church into Malayalam, known as Pampakuda Namaskaram, with permission from Ignatius Abded Aloho II. It is the common prayer book of Syrian Orthodox Christians in India.
In punishment by the cross (was) the suffering on this one; He who is true Christ and God above, and Guide ever Pure— Inscription of St. Mary's Knanaya Church, Kottayam
However, it does not refute the Church of the East's relationship with the earlier church, and as the Church of the East never professed the alleged Nestorianism, it is held as a misnomer and false accusation according to most historians.
Knanaya Syrian Church
The Knanaya Syrian Community (ക്നാനായ സുറിയാനി സഭ) claimed to be the descendants of a migrant group of Jewish Christians from Antioch. In 345 AD, 72 families under the leadership of Knai Thoma from Edessa (or modern Urfa) immigrated to Malabar (presently Kerala). The migration was considered a good turning point for Saint Thomas Christians. The community belongs to priests, deacons, and their bishop named Uraha Ouseph (Bishop Joseph of Uraha/Urfa). They were welcomed by Cheraman Perumal, emperor of Kerala.
Today, the majority of the Knanaya are members of the Syro-Malabar Church (Kottayam Archeparchy) and the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church (Knanaya Archdiocese) under the guidance of Sevarios Kuriakose. They have a special constitution under the Syriac Orthodox Church.
The Simhasana Church (സിംഹാസന പള്ളി) is under the direct control of the Syrian Orthodox Church patriarch in Malayalam diaspora. It was established by Yulios Elias Qoro. The church formed under the direct administration of the Syrian Orthodox Church.
Malankara Arch-Diocese of Syrian Orthodox Church in North America
The Malankara Orthodox Church of North America is an overseas church under the Syriac Orthodox Church patriarchate. The archdiocese of America was formed in 1975 as Saint Gregorios in Staten Island, United States. Legal issues spread around the church after the church separated, the rival Malankara Orthodox Church from the Syrian Orthodox Church of the United States of America. The church leadership was taken by the metropolitan Mar Samuel, after Ignatius Zakka I consecrated P.G. Cherian as Mor Nicholovos Zachariah. He rebelled against the Holy See of Antioch and joined the Malankara Orthodox Church with most churches of the Holy Church. Today, the Church is represented in the United States and Canada by Titus Yeldho.
Middle East Diocese
In the Gulf region, the Jacobite Syrian Church has a special constitution for churches under the Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the UAE, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen government officials. The Jacobite Syrian Church has a prominent role for Commander M. A. Yusuff Ali to establish churches in Gulf regions.
The First major seminary is known as Manjanikkara Dayara (മഞ്ഞനിക്കര ദയറാ), and was established by Yulios Elias Qoro in 1932. The Manjanikkara Dayara motivated the study of Syriac Orthodox Church faith and established stronger spiritual relationships between churches. The Second major seminary is known as Malekurish Dayara (മലേകുരിശ് ദയറാ).
The Malankara Syriac Orthodox Theological Seminary was established on 1 January 1990, and was inaugurated by Baselios Paulose II.
List of minor seminaries
The Syrian Orthodox Churchhas been persecuted by the Malankara Orthodox Church because of its alignment to Miaphysitism from the time of Baradaeus and Severus of Antioch. The Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church lost many of its prominent churches to Malankara after the Supreme Court of India's verdict, despite having absolute majority in those churches. After the long struggle for talks on churches that were dismissed by Malankara, the Jacobite Syrian Church decided to end their sacramental relationship with them. Meanwhile, the Syriac Orthodox Church of India has developed relationships between the remaining Christian churches like the Mar Thoma Syrian Church, the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, and the Syro-Malabar Church and with other religious leaders.
The Church has undergone a number of splits throughout the centuries since 1665.
- Malabar Independent Syrian Church: first split on 1772
- Mar Thoma Syrian Church: Second split on 1898
- Malankara Orthodox Church: third split on 1914 and 1930
- Syro-Malankara Catholic Church: fourth split on 1930
As per Supreme Court Order 2017, the Syrian Church disputed its rights to attend holy mass and rituals and took the proposed ordinance for cemeteries. The ordinance gives the right for every person to attend rituals and laws passed on by the majority votes with the support of the chief minister, ministers and other Assembly members.
According to the Agreement of Pope John Paul II and Ignatius Zakka I, the Holy Catholic Church and Syriac Orthodox Church have a relationship between sacraments of Penance, Eucharist and Anointing of the Sick for a grave spiritual need.
Marthoma Syrian Church
The Marthoma Syrian Church and Jacobite Syrian Church attend prayer meetings and marriage ceremonies together. TheThey continue their synods in recognition of theological acceptance and Holy Communion from their understanding. The Holy Muron of Marthoma Syrian Church given by Ignatius Elias III in 1842 and the church never uses the title of the ecclesiastical title of Ignatius and Baselios to honour the Syriac Orthodox Church.
Malankara Orthodox Church
The Malankara Orthodox Church is the excommunicated independent church of the Syriac Orthodox Church. One of the faction emerged in 1914 because of Dionysius of Vattasseril. Later, the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church consecrated new Malankara metropolitan Coorilos Paulose.
Syriac Orthodox Patriarchal Delegates of India
The Syriac Orthodox Patriarchal Delegates of India is the representative body of the patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church, who is sent to India to guide and administer the church, or on special occasions, as the representative of the Holy See of Antioch. Every year, Syriac Orthodox Patriarchal Delegates participate in the Manjanikkara Church Feast.
By the fifth century, the bishops of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch gained control of the churches in surrounding cities. They became the heads of the regional churches, and were known as patriarchs. Outside of the Roman Empire, patriarchs were known as catholicos. After Nestorian Schism in the seventh century, the Syriac Orthodox Christians who lived in Persia began using the title for its maphrian, who was originally the head of the Syriac Orthodox Christian community in Persia. This office ranked right below the patriarch of Antioch in Syriac Orthodox church hierarchy, until it was abolished in 1860 and reinstated in 1964.
Catholicos of India
The Catholicos of India is an ecclesiastical office of the Syriac Orthodox Church and the head of the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church. He is the Catholicos of the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church, an autonomous body within the Syriac Orthodox Church. The jurisdiction of Catholicos was in India of the East, so Syriac Orthodox Church Catholicos of the East was renamed the Catholicos of India in 2002. The position remained vacant between 1996 and 2002.
Malankara Metropolitan was a legal title given to the head of the Malankara Church by the Government of Travancore and Cochin in South India. This title was awarded by a proclamation from the King of Travancore and the King of Cochin. The Prime jurisdiction regarding the temporal, ecclesiastical, and spiritual administration of the Malankara Church.
In 2002, after the new bylaws for the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church were enacted, and in the light of verdicts from the Supreme Court of India, the Malankara Metropolitan officially assumed the title of "Metropolitan Trustee". The current Metropolitan Trustee is Joseph Mor Gregorios.
Proclaimed saints of the Church
The Church venerates the saints of the Syriac Orthodox Church along with regional saints of the Church declared by the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East.
- Ignatius Elias III: entombed in Manjanikkara Dayara at Omallur
- Baselios Yeldo: entombed in Kothamangalam cheria pally
- Parumala Thirumeni (Geevarghese Gregorious): entombed in Parumala Church
- Paulose Athanasius: entombed in Aluva Thrikkunnathu Seminary
- Koorilos Paulose: entombed in Panampady Church
- Koorilos Yuyakkim: entombed in Mulanthuruthy Marthoman Church
- Osthatheos Sleeba: entombed in Arthat St.Mary's Simhasana Church, Kunnamkulam
- Baselios Sakralla III of Aleppo: entombed at Morth Mariam Cathedral, Kandanad
- Gregorios Abdal Jaleel: entombed at St. Thomas Church North Paravur
There are archdioceses under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Antioch:
- Knanaya Archdiocese
- USA, Canada, and Europe
- Malankara Archdiocese of North America
- Malankara Archdiocese of Europe
- Patriarchal Vicarate of Ireland
- Patriarchal Vicarate of UK
- Patriarchal Vicarate of Germany & Central Europe
Dioceses in Kerala
- Kollam Diocese
- Thumpamon Diocese
- Niranam Diocese
- Kottayam Diocese
- Idukki Diocese
- Kandanad Diocese
- Kochi Diocese
- Angamaly Diocese
- Thrissur Diocese
Dioceses outside Kerala
- Mangalore Diocese
- Bangalore Diocese
- Mylapore Diocese (formerly Chennai Diocese)
- Mumbai Diocese
- Delhi Diocese
Dioceses outside India (autonomous)
- Middle East Diocese: Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen
- Australia & New Zealand
- Singapore & Malaysia
Other dioceses (autonomous)
Bishops of the church
- Gregorios Joseph
- Severios Abhraham
- Alexandrios Thomas
- Thimotheos Thomas
- Thimotheos Mathews
- Ivaniyos Mathews
- Aprem Mathews
- Theodosius Mathews
- Anthimos Mathews
- Athanasius Elias
- Yulios Elias
- Philoxenos Zacharias
- Polycarpose zakharias
- Athanasios Geevargees
- Divanasios Geevargees
- Coorilos Geevargees
- Barnabas Geevargees
- Meletius yuhanon
- Dioscorus Kuriakose
- Theophilose Kuriakose
- Clemis Kuriakos
- Thithos eldho
- Eusebios Kuriakose
- Chrisostomos Markose
- Anthonios Yakkoob
- Osthatheos Issac
- Osthathiyos pathros
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