Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Jacobite Syrian Christian Church - India

Jacobite Syrian Christian Church

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Jacobite Syrian Christian Church
Syriac orthodox COA.svg
Syrian Church Emblem
Founder St. Thomas the Apostle
Independence Apostolic Era
Recognition Oriental Orthodox
Primate Moran Mor Ignatious Zakha Iwas I
Headquarters Kerala, India
Territory Universal
Possessions India, Middle East, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, North America
Language Malayalam, English, Hindi, Syriac
Adherents 1.2 million
The Jacobite Syrian Christian Church is part of the Syriac Orthodox Church, located in Kerala, India. It recognizes the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, currently Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, as its supreme head. It functions as a largely autonomous archdiocese within the church, under the authority of the Catholicos\mapriyanate of India, currently Baselios Thomas I. Its members are part of the Saint Thomas Christian community, which traces its origins to the evangelical activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century.[1][2][3][4]
Historically, the Saint Thomas Christians were united in leadership and liturgy, and were part of the Church of the East centred in Persia.[5][6] From the 16th century the Portuguese Jesuits attempted to forcefully bring the community fully into the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church. Resentment of these measures led the majority of the community to join the archdeacon, Thomas, in swearing never to submit to the Portuguese in the Coonan Cross Oath in 1653. The part of the church that followed Thomas is known as the Malankara Church.
Following the arrival of the Bishop Gregorios Abdul Jaleel of Jerusalem, Archdeacon Thomas forged a relationship with the Syriac Orthodox Church and gradually adopted West Syrian liturgy and practices. Over time, however, relations soured between the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchs and the local hierarchy, particularly after Patriarch Ignatius Peter IV (reigned 1872—1894) began demanding registered deeds for the transfer of properties. In 1912, a synod led by the Patriarch Ignatius Abdul Masih II, who had been controversially deposed by the Ottoman government,[7][8] consecrated Evanios as Catholicos of the East, under the name Baselios Paulose I. The faction that supported Baselios Paulose became what is now the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, while those who supported the Patriarch became the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church. The two groups were briefly reunited between 1958 and 1975, but attempts by church leaders and two Supreme Court decisions were unable to resolve the contention, and the two churches operate independently today.
As part of the Syriac Orthodox communion the church uses the West Syrian 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, and the Persian Gulf nations. In 2003 it was estimated that the church has 1,000,000 members globally.[9]



The church is officially named Jacobite Syrian Christian Church.[10] The Church is sometimes referred to as the "Patriarchal faction" or "Bava faction", because of the disputes with the Metropolitan Faction.
In 2000, a Holy Synod ruled that the name of the church in English should be the "'Syriac Orthodox Church". It had been, and often still is today, called the "Syrian Orthodox Church". The church in India uses the term "Jacobite" or 'Bava Faction' as a way to distinguish themselves from the other group known as Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (Indian Orthodox Church) or Methran Faction.
Syriac liturgical calendar is used to mark the observations of fasting and prayer and the preparation for the Eucharist. However, the Malayalam Calendar is used to make the more recent religious events such establishment dates of churches, houses and gravestones. This practice is increasingly superseded by the standard Western Gregorian calendar. The Malayalam numbering of calendar years is 825 years less than the standard.


Relationship of the Nasrani (Saint Thomas Christians) groups
Thomas the Apostle is credited by tradition for founding the Indian Church in 52 A.D.[11][12][13] This "Nasrani" faith had many similarities to Judaism, (see also Jewish Christianity) 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".Under the leadership of their elder Thomas, Nazranis around Cochin gathered at Mattancherry church on Friday, January 24, 1653 (M.E. 828 Makaram 3) and made an oath that is known as the Great Oath of Bent Cross. The following oath was read aloud and the people touching a stone-cross repeated it loudly. By the Father, Son and Holy Ghost that henceforth we would not adhere to the Franks, nor accept the faith of the Pope of Rome[29] (The Missionary Register for 1822 seems to be the earliest reliable document available) Those who were not able to touch the cross tied ropes on the cross, held the rope in their hands and made the oath. Because of the weight it is believed by the followers that the cross bent a little and so it is known as ‘’Oath of the bent cross (Coonen Kurisu Sathyam) ’’ 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.

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