Catholicos of the East
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Catholicos of the East is an ecclesiastical title used by Eastern Churches. The title Catholicos, or "universal leader", is used in several Eastern Christian churches and implies a degree of sovereignty and autocephaly. The designation "Catholicos of the East" originated in the see of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, the capital of Persia, center of the Church of the East since the early days of Christianity in Persia.
In the Church of the East, also known as the Nestorian Church, "Catholicos of the East" was one of the titles borne by the Bishop of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, who was the designated Patriarch of the Church of the East. It is still used in two successor churches, the Assyrian Church of the East and the Ancient Church of the East, the heads of which are known as Catholicos-Patriarchs.
Later, in 7th century, the minority 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 Nestorian-dominated Persia. This office ranked second in the Syriac Orthodox church hierarchy after the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, until it was abolished in 1860.
In the 20th century the title "Catholicos of the East" was resurrected in the context of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, the ancient Indian church founded by the Apostle St. Thomas which is in communion with other Oriental Orthodox Churches. Contention over the foreign Patriarch's secular authority over the Indian Church, its dioceses and parishes led to a rift in the community, leading the Malankara Metropolitan along with prominent clergymen and laymen to request the deposed, yet legitimate Patriarch Ignatius Abdul Masih II to arrive at Malankara in 1912. The Patriarch consecrated the Metropolitan Paulose Mar Ivanios as Baselios Paulose I, Catholicos of the East on the Apostolic Throne of St. Thomas. The events divided the church into two factions, the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, led by the Catholicos, and the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church, who supported the Patriarch. In 1934, the Malankara Syrian Christian Association, which is the parliament of Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church decided that the titles Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan should be vested in the same person. Ever since, the Supreme Head of Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church hold the title Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan.
In 1958, the church was reunited when the Supreme Court of India approved the legitimacy of the Catholicos of the East, and ruled that the church should be administered in accordance with the Church Constitution of 1934. Following the Supreme Court verdict, the dissident faction which supported the Patriarch received the Catholicos of the East His Holiness Baselios Geevarghese II as the supreme head. In 1964, after His Holiness Baselios Geevarghese II passed away, the Patriarch of Antioch His Holiness Ignatius Ya`qub III, as an expression of friendship, accepted the invitation of the united Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and arrived in India. The Patriarch then consecrated Metropolitan Augen Mar Themotheos as Baselios Augen I, Catholicos of the East. However, in 1973, the Patriarch sent an encyclical to the Catholicos, questioning the priesthood of Apostle St. Thomas. The Patriarch even dared to excommunicate the Catholicos, stating that St. Thomas could not be considered as an apostle. Following this provocative action, the Catholicos of the East His Holiness Baselios Augen I was left with no choice, but to excommunicate the Patriarch. The split survives to this day, with the faction supporting the Patriarch being known as the Jacobite Syrian Church. The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church has a view, that the church should separate and take over all churches in malankara , while the Jacobite Syrian Church has always taken the stand that the church should unite.
Note: The title Catholicos of the East held by the Supreme Head of Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church & also by heads of Assyrian & Chaldean Church of East and is not to be confused with the title Catholicos of India held by the local head of Malankara Archdiocese of Syriac Orthodox Church , also known as the Jacobite Syrian Church.
- 1 The Title Catholicos of the East during the Early Centuries of Christian Era
- 2 The Catholicate in India
- 3 Authority of the Catholicos of the East (Malankara Orthodox Church)
- 4 Autocephaly associated with The Catholicate - Historical perspective
- 5 The unification of 1958 and the Schism during early 1970s
- 6 Lineage of Catholicos of the East
- 7 Other Churches employing the title Catholicos
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
The Title Catholicos of the East during the Early Centuries of Christian Era
The Catholicos of the East is the head of the Eastern Syriac Churches. Eastern Syriac Church includes the Assyrian Churches of Persia, the Chaldean Catholic Church , and the Orthodox Syrian Church of India, which is also known as the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church or the Indian Orthodox Church. It is a tradition for these Churches to believe that Apostle St. Thomas was the first in succession of Catholicoi of the East. The Syriac Orthodox Church claims to have "established" the Catholicate in 410, to administer to the spiritual needs of Christians in the area. The minutes of the Council of Seleucia-Ctesiphon (also known as Synod of Mar Isaac), however, tell a different story. This synod was convened in 410 AD, under the presidency of Mar Isaac, the Archbishop of Seleucia-Ctesiphon. It conferred the title "Catholicos" on the Archbishop of Seleucia-Ctesiphon and made him the head of the bishops of the east.
The Catholicate in India
Christianity has had a significant presence in India since its inception in the early centuries. Church tradition holds that St. Thomas the Apostle initially brought Christianity to India in 52 AD and was martyred in Mylapore, a place in current Tamil Nadu state. Tradition holds that priests were ordained in seven localities. Pantaenus, the leader of the Alexander Theological school, visited India and found an active Christian Community there in 190 AD.
The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church believes that Apostle Thomas founded the Church in India, a tradition strongly held by the Church from ancient times. The Church is in the Oriental Orthodox family following the Orthodox faith of the three Ecumenical Councils of Nicaea, Constantinople and Ephesus.
The chief primate of the Indian Orthodox Church is called "the Catholicos of the East, Catholicos of the Apostolic throne of St. Thomas, and the Malankara Metropolitan": two titles with separate spiritual and secular responsibilities, but always held by the same individual in accordance with the constitution of the Church adopted in 1934.
Authority of the Catholicos of the East (Malankara Orthodox Church)
As Catholicos of the East, the Supreme Head of The Indian Orthodox Church consecrates bishops for the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (the Indian Orthodox Church), presides over the synod, declares and implements its decisions, conducts the administration on behalf of the synod, and consecrates the Holy Mooron (oil).
As Malankara Metropolitan, His Holiness is the head of the Malankara Church, the President of the Malankara Syrian Christian Association and the Managing Committee. The prime jurisdiction regarding the temporal, ecclesiastical, and spiritual administration of the Indian Orthodox Church is vested in the Malankara Metropolitan subject to the provisions of the Church constitution adopted in 1934.
Autocephaly associated with The Catholicate - Historical perspective
The Catholicate was originally instituted the Synod of Markabata, presided over by Catholicos Dadyeshu, confirmed the Independence of the Persian church, dispelling any doubts. The Synod proclaimed:
"By the word of God we define: The Easterners cannot complain against the Patriarch to western Patriarchs; that every case that cannot be settled in his presence must await the judgement of Christ...(and) on no grounds whatever one can think or say that the Catholicos of the East can be judged by those who are below him, or by a Patriarch equal to him. He himself must be the judge of all those beneath him, and he can be judged only by Christ who has chosen him, elevated him and placed him at the head of his church".
The church does recognize that the Catholicate was briefly brought under the Patriarchate of Antioch, during the Nestorian Persecution and reduced to the position of a 'Maphriyan', roughly similar to an Arch-Metropolitan, or the Catholic post of "Major Archbishop".
Even after such reduction of the see, the conflicts between the Patriarch and Maphriyan resulted in the Council of Capharthutha in February 869 AD. This assembly codified 8 canons dealing with the Patriarch and the Maphrian of Tigris. The canons are given below:
- The bishops and the monks in the Mar Mathai's Monastery, should submit to and obey the Maphrian whose seat is in Tigris.
- The Patriarch should not interfere in the administration of the Church in Tigris, unless when invited. In the same way the maphrian should not interfere in the Patriarchal See.
- When the Maphrian is present along with the Patriarch of Antioch he should be seated immediately at the right hand side of the Patriarch. The name of the Maphrian shall be mentioned immediately after that of the Patriarch, in the liturgy; and he should receive the Holy Qurbana after the Patriarch.
- When a Maphrian is alive, a Patriarch should not be installed without his concurrence, otherwise, the orientals shall have the right to install the Maphrian by themselves. The question of who should perform the laying on of hands on the new Patriarch — i.e., the Maphrian or the President of the Synod, shall be decided by four bishops, two each elected by the orientals and the westerners (Antiochean) respectively.
- The Archdiocese of Kurdu, Beth-Sabdaya and also Najran, provided, the Arabs agree to it, shall vest with Tigris administration.
- The mutual excommunications between the orientals and the Antiochans shall be withdrawn.
- A final decision was taken about the three bishops consecrated by the Patriarch in the see of the Maphrian.
- A bishop excommunicated by the Maphrian shall also be considered as excommunicated by the Patriarch.
One can see just how much authority the Patriarch had over the East Syriac Church from these canons, even though the Maphrian probably swore allegiance and obedience to the Patriarch at the time of his ordination. Such oaths were interpreted in the context of these canons. There was no way the Patriarch could practically exercise authority over the Maphriyan's see.
According to one of the most famous Maphriyans, Mar Gregorios Bar Ebraya (Bar Hebraeus), Apostle Thomas is the first in the Apostolic succession of the East. Bar Ebraya did believe that the Eastern Church was an integral part of the Antiochian Church, due to the historical context of the time in which he lived. He did, however, vigorously defend his rights, as dictated by the church canons.
In 1238, the West Syrians installed Mar Philexnos as Patriarch without the concurrence or participation of Bar Ebraya. When Patriarchal delegates arrived at his monastery with apologies, he refused to receive them, rebuking them for their neglect of the canons. The Church in India and the Syriac Church of the East in Persia remained in one faith for many years. In 431, the Council of Ephesus condemned the teachings of Nestorius, who was the Patriarch of Constantinople. After the Ecumenical council of Ephesus, a significant portion of the Church in Persia adopted Nestorian teachings concerning the nature of Christ.
In 544, Theodosius, the Patriarch of Alexandria, ordained Bishop Mar Jacob Baradaeus for the expansion of a Syriac Church weakened by Byzantine persecution subsequent to the Council of Chalcedon. In 559, Jacob visited the east and consecrated a Catholicos for Orthodox Christians who accepted the Council of Ephesus and rejected the Council of Chalcedon. Mar Jacob himself was ordained a general bishop by Patriarch Theodosius of Alexandria.
This Catholicate, which is in the succession of Apostle Thomas, was re-located to India in 1912 due to the efforts of deposed PatriarchMor Abdul Masih II, of Antioch and Vattaserill Mar Dionysius, the Malankara Metropolitan. Since the Indian church was under the Ancient Catholicate of Persia (until forcibly cut-off from that jurisdiction by the notorious Synod of Diamper), and can be seen as the only remaining part of the Persian church, it is logical for the Catholicate to reside in India.
There have been eight Catholicoi in direct succession since establishing the Catholicate of the East in India. The Catholicos has jurisdiction over the dioceses and churches in most parts of India as well as in the USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Europe, South Africa, Persian Gulf nations, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. The current Catholicos of the Indian Orthodox Church is Catholicos Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II
The Catholicate of the East is autocephalous and in the legitimate succession of St. Thomas the Apostle. The term "throne of St.Thomas" used by the Catholicos is a reference to the church's apostolic origin and heritage. It is not a title that was recently coined by the church. Indian prelates have used it for centuries. For example, the Vatican codex 22 written in Cranganore, 1301 AD mentions "Mar Jacob, Bishop Metropolitan, prelate and ruler of the Holy See of the Apostle St. Thomas, namely, our ruler and (the ruler) of the entire Holy Church of the Christians of India". Again, in 1830, when Chepaud Mar Dionysius gave Mar Coorilos of Thozhiyur an Encyclical, it proclaimed that it was "From Metropolitan Philipose, known as Dionysius, shepherd to the lambs and ewes of Christ in Malayalam under India, father to the Jacobite Christian community, and seated on the throne of our blessed apostle St Thomas..". In light of such evidence, claims that the Thomasine title was "recently fabricated" by Indian Orthodox leadership is ridiculous. Indeed, it is amazing to see to what lengths the Syrian Orthodox Leadership went to crush this title, which in itself demanded the Malankara Church's autocephaly.
The unification of 1958 and the Schism during early 1970s
In the brief peace and unity of 1958, letters of mutual acceptance were exchanged between the Patriarch and the Catholicos. When the church was unified, all Metropolitans of the Patriarchal group handed in letters of obedience to the Catholicos of the East. The letter of one of them, Paulose Mar Philexinos, mentioned that "I solemnly submit that I will follow the canons of the Church, the Constitution in force, and the directions of Your Holiness.".
In a speech thereafter, the same Mar Philexinos said "We shall remain under the banner of the Catholicate till the moon and stars last. This Catholicate will exist for all time to come. May God Almighty be pleased that we all will stand united under the leadership of this Catholicos who graces the throne. I do not mean political or temporal matters. We have now the privilege of witnessing for our Lord unitedly under the stewardship of one Head. May this unity serve as a signal to all other Churches of India to fall in line under this common Father. We, Metropolitans, will hand in hand serve under the Holy throne of the Catholicate".
Mar Philexinos later led the schismatic Jacobite group that again broke away from the unified church, and was ordained as Paulos I, the first rival Catholicos.
In the exchange of letters, His Holiness Baselios Geevarghese II stated that he was "seated on the Throne of the East of Apostle St. Thomas". Patriarch Ignatius Ya`qub III made no objections at that time. Later, during the reign of His Holiness Moran Mar Baselios Augen, the Catholicos attended the Oriental Orthodox Conference in Addis Ababa, at which the same Patriarch Ya'kub III was present. The Catholicos was addressed as "The Catholicos of the Ancient See of St. Thomas". Again, there was no objection from Patriarch Yakub. Later, after fifteen years since the reconciliation of 1958, when Catholicos His Holiness Augen sent a letter to the Patriarch, in which His Holiness named himself as "Catholicos of the Apostolic Throne of St. Thomas", the Patriarch responded:
"...Sometime before your communication I was astonished to read another letter carrying the title 'the throne of St Thomas'. Truth be told, ever since the Catholicate was established in the 4th century CE, no catholicoi or Maphryan has ever used such a title. Second, the apostle St Thomas has never founded any throne that can be referred to as the throne of St. Thomas. As is clear from the Gospel according to St John (20: 21-24), St Thomas had not been ordained a priest. Without being even a priest, how did he become a high priest? Without being a high priest, how did he establish a throne?..".
The Indian Church felt the Patriarch had defied the very Priesthood of St. Thomas in his efforts to deny the Indian church it's Apostolic heritage. It is to be noted that the various sources within the Syriac Church have claimed afterwards that the Patriarch did not necessarily reflect the views of the church in that statement.
According to the view of the Malankara Orthodox Church, the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church (Malankara Jacobite Syrian Church) is a schismatic group which separated in 2002 with a new constitution adopted in the same year against the constitution of 1934. The head of the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Church was elected without the permission of the Malankara Association, the largest assembly of the Malankara Church which consisted primarily of lay and priest representatives from Indian Orthodox parishes. The schism started as early as 1970 when Patriarch Ignatius Ya`qub III tried to intervene in internal administrative affairs of the Malankara Church and appointed a Syrian delegate which they held violated both the constitution and canons of the Church. A legal entity was organized as the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Church by the Syrian delegate and Jacobite bishops who did not accept the Indian Orthodox view.
The Indian Orthodox were disturbed when they felt they detected a new trend among Syriac scholars to address their primate as "Prince Patriarch of Antioch", and their Church as the "Universal Syriac Orthodox Church". The Indian Orthodox felt that this move suggested a move towards Roman Catholicism When the original Persian Catholicate was reduced to Maphriyana and brought under the 'jurisdiction' of the Syrian Patriarch, many Maphriyanas were ordained to the Patriarchate.
Lineage of Catholicos of the East
- St. Thomas the Apostle – (Founder) (35-72)
- Addai (Thaddeus of Edessa) (72-120)
- Aggai (Aggaeus) (120-152)
- Mari (152-185)
- Abrosius (185-201)
- Abraham (201-213)
- Yakoub (213-231)
- Ahod Abuei (231-246)
- Shahluppa (246-266)
- Pappa (267-336)
- Simun Bar Sheba (337-350)
- Shahoudolh (350-352)
- Bar Bosomin (352-360)
- Thomuso (360-368)
- Quoyumo (370-375)
- Ishaq (375-386)
- Oah (386-393)
- Vahb Allaho (393-398)
- Magina (398-400)
- Merbukhat (401-420)
- Daudesh (421-456)
- Babuyah (457-484)
- Joseph (552-556)
- Ahoudelle (559-577) (Cons. by Yakoub Burdana)
- Qoum Ycsu (578-579)
- Samuel (614-624) (Maphrianate at Tigris)
- Morooso (628-649)
- Denha-1 (650-659)
- Bar Yesu (669-684)
- Abraham (686-687)
- David (687)
- Youhanon Souba (687-688)
- Denha-ll (688-728)
- Paulos (728-757)
- Youhanon Keeyunoyo (758-788)
- Joseph (789-793)
- Sharbeel (794-810)
- Simun[disambiguation needed] (812-828)
- Baselios Bar Baldoyo (828-838)
- Daniel (838-847)
- Thoma of Tigris (848-856)
- Lo Asar (856-869)
- Sargis (872-883)
- Athanasius (887-904)
- Thoma Asthunoro (912-913)
- Denha-III (915-935)
- Baselios III (938-962)
- Kuriakos (964-982)
- Youhanan Darmascus (991-997)
- Ignatius Barkiki (997-1022)
- Athanasius of Edesa (1027-1141)
- Baselios of Tigris (1046-1069)
- Youhanan Sleeba (1075-1106)
- Dionysius Moosa (1112-1142)
- Ignatius Lo Asar (1143-1164)
- Youhanan Srugayo (1165-1188)
- Dionysius Bar Msah (1188-1204)
- Gregorios Yakoub (1204-1215)
- Ignatius David (1215-1222)
- Dionysius Sleeba (1222-1231)
- Youhanan Bar Madan (1232-1253)
- Ignatius Sleeba of Edesa (1253-1258)
- Gregorios Bar Hebraeus (1266-1286)
- Gregorius Bar Sauma (1289 -1308)
- Gregorius Mathai (1317-1360)
- Alhanasius Abraham (1365-1379)
- Baselios Bahnam (1404-1412)
- Dioscoros Bahnam (1415-1417)
- Baselios Barsauma (1422-1455)
- Baselios Asiz (1471-1487)
- Ignatius Nuh of Horns (1490-1494)
- Baselios Abraham (1494-1496)
- Baselios (1560-1589)
- Baselios Yaldo (1634-1685) (d. at Kothamangalam)
- Baselios Shakrulla (1751-1764) (d. at Kandanad)
- Baselios Elias (1838-1840)
- Baselios Bahnam in Malankara (1850-1860)
- Baselios Paulose I (1912–1914) (Catholicos of the East)
- Baselios Geevarghese I (1925–1928) (Catholicos of the East)
- Baselios Geevarghese II (Catholicos of the East, 1929-1964 & Malankara Metropolitan, 1934–1964)
- Baselios Augen I (1964–1975) (Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan)
- Baselios Mar Thoma Mathews I (1975–1991) (Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan)
- Baselios Mar Thoma Mathews II (1991–2005) (Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan)
- Baselios Mar Thoma Didymos I (2005–2010) (Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan)
- Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II (2010–present) (Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan)
Other Churches employing the title Catholicos
Besides the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church, other churches employ the title "Catholicos", most notably the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church, the Assyrian Church of the East, Ancient Church of the East, Georgian Orthodox Church, and Syro-Malankara Catholic Church
||This article's use of external links may not follow Wikipedia's policies or guidelines. (August 2010)|
- Indian Christianity
- Official Website of the Indian Orthodox Church
- Complete Website of the Indian Orthodox Church
- Catholicos His Holiness Baselios Marthoma Paulose II
- Catholicos of the East - St. Mary's Malankara Orthodox Cathedral of Philadelphia
- Official online news portal of Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church
- Indian Orthodox Herald: News about the Catholicate of the East
- ICON Indian Christian Orthodox Network - Catholicos of the East
- Complete Site of Catholicos of The East and Malankara Metropolitan
- Malankara Sabhadeepam: Church history and news in Malayalam
- Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church - Diocese of America
- Unofficial church-news portal : marthoman.tv