Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan

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Catholicos is the title used by head bishops of regions within the Patriarchate of Antioch having self ecclesiastical and autonomous status from the ancient period. The word "Catholicos" means "Universal" - the same word from which the name of the Catholic Church also derives.

The four ancient catholicates are:
1. Catholicate of Echmiadzin (Armenian Church)
2. Catholicate of East (Oriental Church)
3. Catholicate of Iberia (Georgian Church)
4. Catholicate of Caucasian Albania (Albanian-Udi Church)

'Catholicos of the East' was/is the head of the Syrian Church which comprised the region once formed Persian Empire and to the East of that empire. Syriac Churches which includes the Assyrian Churches of Persia, the Chaldean Church and the Orthodox Syrian Church of India, which is also known as the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church or the Indian Orthodox Church claims the lineage of this Catholicate. These Churches believe that Apostle St. Thomas was first in the succession of Catholicoi of the East followed by Saint Mari and then Saint Addai. Later this bishopric was elevated as a Catholicate by the Patriarchate in 410 AD.



Christianity has had a presence in India since its inception in the early centuries. Church tradition holds that St. Thomas the Apostle initially brought Christianity to India in AD 52 and was martyred in Mylapore, now in the modern state of Tamil Nadu. 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 A.D.

In 431, the Council of Ephesus condemned the teachings of Nestorius, who was the Patriarch of Constantinople. After the council, a significant portion of the Church in Persia nevertheless 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, Mar 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.


The Indian Orthodox Church holds that the Catholicate was originally instituted by St. Thomas the Apostle, en route to India. The Synod of Markabata, presided over by Catholicos Dadyeshu, confirmed the independence of the Persian church.

Council of Capharthutha[edit]

The conflicts between the Patriarch and Maphriyan resulted in the Council of Capharthutha in February 869. This assembly codified eight canons dealing with the Patriarch and the Maphrian of Tigris that the bishops and the monks in the Mar Mathai's Monastery, should submit to and obey the Maphrian whose seat is in Tigris, that 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.

Also, 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 (Antiochan) respectively.

Other articles include agreement that the mutual excommunications between the orientals and the Antiochans shall be withdrawn, and that a bishop excommunicated by the Maphrian shall also be considered as excommunicated by the Patriarch.

Middle Ages[edit]

In 1238 the West Syrians installed Mar Philexnos as Patriarch without the concurrence or participation of Mar Gregorios Bar Ebraya (Bar Hebraeus; one of the Maphriyans).

Modern history[edit]

The Church believes that this Catholicate, which is in the succession of Apostle Thomas, was re-located to India in 1912 due to the efforts of Ignatius Abdul Masih II, the Patriarch of Antioch and Vattaserill Mar Dionysius, the Malankara Metropolitan. Since the Indian church was under the Ancient Catholicate of Persia, 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 six 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.

As of 2014 the Catholicos of the Indian Orthodox Church was Catholicos Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II.


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 responsibilities, but always held by the same individual in accordance with the constitution of the Church adopted in 1934.

As Catholicos of the East, he consecrates bishops for 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, he 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.

Lineage of Catholicos[edit]

Refer to List of Catholicos of the East.


External links[edit]