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Indian Orthodox Church

Indian Orthodox Church, London

The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church

The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church has deep historical roots that trace back to St. Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ. According to tradition, St. Thomas arrived in India in 52 A.D., bringing the Christian faith to the subcontinent. By the fourth century, the Indian Church had established a close relationship with the Persian or East Syrian Church, inheriting the East Syrian language and liturgies. This connection played a pivotal role in the church’s development, leading to its recognition as the Syrian Christian Church.

In the sixteenth century, Roman Catholic missionaries began arriving in Kerala. Their efforts to integrate the Syrian Christians into the Roman Catholic Church created a significant divide within the community. Those who accepted Roman Catholicism became known as the Syro-Malabar Catholics, forming a distinct branch within Kerala’s Christian community. Subsequent arrivals of Western Protestant missionaries further contributed to these divisions, causing additional splits within the church.

The seventeenth century marked another turning point for the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church when it entered into a relationship with the Antiochene Church. This alliance led to the adoption of West Syrian liturgies and practices, but it also caused additional rifts within the community. Despite these challenges, the church persisted and eventually established the Catholicate in 1912, ushering in a new era of organizational structure and leadership.

Today, the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church uses the West Syrian liturgy and adheres to the doctrines established by the three Ecumenical Councils of Nicea (325 A.D.), Constantinople (381 A.D.), and Ephesus (431 A.D.). The church is part of the Oriental Orthodox tradition, which includes communion with other churches such as the Syriac, Alexandrian, Armenian, Eritrean, and Ethiopian Orthodox Churches. It maintains positive ecumenical relationships with the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant Churches.

The church has a global presence, with approximately 2.5 million members spread across the world. However, the majority of its followers reside in the state of Kerala in southwestern India, where the church’s headquarters is located in Kottayam. The current Catholicos and Supreme Head of the Church is H.H. Baselios Marthoma Mathews III. The church is divided into 30 dioceses, each led by a bishop responsible for both administrative and spiritual oversight.