Malankara Church

The Malankara Church is the church of the Saint Thomas Christians of Kerala, India, with particular emphasis on the part of the community that joined Archdeacon Mar Thoma in swearing to resist the authority of the Portuguese Padroado in 1653. This faction soon entered into a relationship with the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch, and was thereafter often known as the Malankara Syrian Church (Malayalam: Malankara Suriyani Sabha).

As part of the Saint Thomas Christian community, the church traced its origins to the evangelical activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century. As an independent faction, it originated in the first major split within the Saint Thomas Christian community. Historically, the Thomas Christians had been united in leadership and liturgy, and were part of the Church of the East, based in Persia. However, the collapse of the Church of the East's hierarchy in Asia left the province of India effectively isolated, and through the 16th century, the Portuguese, recently established in Goa, forcefully drew the Thomas Christians into Latin Rite Catholicism. Resentment of these measures led the majority of the community to join the archdeacon, Thoma, in swearing never to submit to the Portuguese in the Coonan Cross Oath. Several months later Thoma was ordained as the first indigenous Metropolitan of Malankara.

Following the Oath, in 1661 Pope Alexander VII established a new East Syrian Rite hierarchy in communion with Rome for the Saint Thomas Christians; by the next year 84 of the 116 communities had joined, forming what is now the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. The remaining 32 communities stayed independent, and formed a relationship with the Syriac Orthodox Church. Over the next centuries this relationship strengthened, and the Malankara Church adopted a variant of the West Syrian Rite known as the Malankara Rite (as opposed to the previous East Syrian usage) and entered into full communion with the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch. However, through this time the church experienced a series of splits, resulting in large numbers of followers breaking away. In the 20th century a dispute over authority between supporters of the Metropolitan and supporters of the Patriarch finally divided the church, with the former group becoming the essentially independent Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and the latter maintaining ties with the Patriarch as the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church. Motions by church leaders and two Supreme Court decisions in the 20th century failed to heal the rift. Other groups to split from the main body are the Malabar Independent Syrian Church, which broke away in 1772; the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church, (also known as Mar Thoma Church) which entered into communion with the Anglican Communion; and the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, which entered into communion with the Catholic Church as an Eastern Catholic Church with its own liturgy.

Read more about Malankara Church:  Terminology, Early History of Christianity in India, Archdeacons, Arrival of The Portuguese, Coonan Cross and An Independent Church, Later Development, Malankara Church Today, See Also

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