Indian Orthodox Church

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The Indian Orthodox Church (also known as the Malankara Orthodox Church, Orthodox Church of the East, Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, Orthodox Syrian Church of the East), is a prominent member of the Oriental Orthodox Church family. The Church traces its origins to St. Thomas the Apostle, who came to India in AD 52, established the Church and suffered martyrdom.

The head of the Indian Orthodox Church is the Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan whose seat is at Kottayam, Kerala, India. 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 official title of the head of the Church is the "Catholicos of the East, Catholicos of the Apostolic throne of St. Thomas, and the Malankara Metropolitan". The present Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan is H.H. Mar Baselios Mar Thoma Didymos I, who was enthroned on October 31, 2005 at Parumala Church by the Holy Synod amidst the Holy Eucharist.

The Church, though modern in its vision and outlook, keeps the traditional Orthodox faith and liturgy. It accepts the first three Ecumenical Synods. The liturgy now in use is the translation of the liturgy adopted from the Antiochian Church in the 17th century. However, the liturgical rites are uniquely Indian. Today the Church uses liturgy in Malayalam, Hindi, and English.

The Indian Orthodox community inherited many aspects of Indian civilization and they are as any other member of any other community in India, in their customs, manners, and life style.

The Church has a Theological Seminary at Kottayam, Kerala, which was established in AD 1815. Another seminary is situated in Nagpur, Maharashtra. The later was established fairly recently in the later part of the 20th century.

The Church takes an active role in various ecumenical activities at national and international levels. It is a member of the World Council of Churches. Famous theologians such as Mar Paulose Gregorious, Mar Geevarghese Osthathios, Rev. Fr.V.C. Samuel, and Rev. Dr. K.M. George, who contributed to the negotiations between the Oriental and Byzantine churches, belong to this church. The Indian Orthodox Church also participated in the Ecumenical Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches held in Addis Ababa, in AD 1965.

The Indian Orthodox Church is distinct from the Malankara Jacobite Syriac Orthodox Church who is guided by the spiritual leadership of the Patriarch of Antioch, presently H.H. Moran Mor Ignatious Zakka Iwas I. Under the Indian Orthodox Constitution, this patriarch is the church's supreme spiritual head.



During the later Old Testament times the Malabarian coast had trade relations with West Asia. These trade routes later enabled Christianity to reach Kerala, a state on the south western coast of India. Tradition states that the Apostle Thomas preached the Gospel to the locals (which included Jewish settlers in Kerala), baptized many, ordained some as bishops and founded seven churches. These churches remain the major Christian centers in Kerala. The Christians of this ancient tradition were and are known as either Nasranis or Syrian Christians.

The Indian Church was related to the Church of the East in the early centuries, and this church sent "East Syrian" bishops to India. The head of the Eastern church was the "Catholicos of the East" in the lineage of Apostle Thomas. In AD 431, the Council of Ephesus condemned the teachings of Nestor, who was the Patriarch of Constantinople. A section of the Church of the East rejected the decisions of the Council of Ephesus and accepted the Nestorian teaching. In AD 544, Pope Theodosius I, the Patriarch of Alexandria, ordained Mar Jacob Baradaeus as a general bishop. In AD 559, Mar Jacob Baradaeus visited the east and consecrated a Catholicos for the non-Chalcedonians who accepted the Council of Ephesus and rejected the Council of Chalcedon.

The Portuguese who colonized India in AD 1498 tried to convert the St. Thomas Christians to Catholicism. By AD 1599 they succeeded in forcibly converting some to the Roman Catholic Church. But in AD 1653, a section of St. Thomas Christians revolted and resolved against accepting foreign authority. The party that sought to preserve the Church's freedom appealed to several Eastern Christian Centres for help in restoring its Episcopal succession. The Antiochene Church responded and sent to India a Bishop, Metropolitan Mar Gregorios of Jerusalem who came to India in AD 1665. The Archdeacon who had been declared in the meantime to be Metropolitan Mar Thoma by the laying on of hands by twelve Presbyters was now confirmed by him in his Episcopal rank, and both of them worked together to organize the church on firm footing. Mar Thoma I was followed in succession by a series of Prelates with the same name till AD 1816 when the last of them namely Mar Thoma IX came to the scene, but was soon replaced by Mar Dionysius II.

Later in the 19th century, exposure to the doctrines of the Anglican Church inspired a reform movement led by Abraham Malpan. This was largely unsuccessful and ended in schism with the reformers founding the Mar Thoma Church.

In AD 1912, the Catholicate of the East was revived in India with the co-operation of Mar Abdul Messiah, the deposed Patriarch of Antioch, Mar Dionysius VI, the Metropolitan of the Indian Church, and the Bishops of the Church. The ceremony was held at St. Mary's Church, Niranam on 15 September 1912. The universal Syriac Orthodox Church did not accept this consecration as valid which is the historical root of the present schism in the Malankara church.

Despite several schisms, the Indian Orthodox Church remains a stronghold of Oriental Orthodoxy in The Subcontinent.

Important pilgrim centers


Past Catholicoi

Since the revival of Catholicate in India.

Dioceses and Churches

See also

Mumbai Calcutta

External links

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