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Malankara Metropolitan is an ecclesiastical title given to the head of the Malankara Syrian Church.
The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church traces its origins back to 52AD when the Apostle St Thomas arrived Kerala, India. After the arrival of Portuguese Catholic missionaries in Kerala in 1498 inaugurated the colonial period, many local Christians started to connect with the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch. After much debate and litigation, in 1912 the Catholicosate was established and an Indian Orthodox metropolitan was elected as the head (Catholicos) of the Malankara Church.
The Catholicos of the East is the title of the Primate of the East whose succession is to the See of St. Thomas the Apostle. He has a spiritual primacy and is the supreme head of the Indian Orthodox Church. His full title is the Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan.
In 2023, the current Catholicos of the East & Malankara Metropolitan (the Supreme Head of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church of India) is Baselios Marthoma Mathews III. He is the 92nd Primate on the Apostolic Throne of St. Thomas and was enthroned on October 15, 2021. He succeeded Baselios Marthoma Paulose II, who died in July 2021.
The Metropolitan was born in 1949 in Vazhoor, Kerala. He has studied in India, Singapore, Russia and Rome. He was ordained in 1976 and has served as a priest, a teacher at the Orthodox Seminary Kottayam and a secretary in the Holy Episcopal Synod, as well as writing devotional books.
The Prime jurisdiction regarding the temporal, ecclesiastical and spiritual administration of the Malankara Church is vested in the Malankara Metropolitan. The Malankara Metropolitan is the legal custodian of the Kottayam Old Seminary, interest of Vattipanam and Other Common Community properties of Malankara Church.
After 1877, every denomination in the Malankara Church started claiming their prelate as Malankara Metropolitan. Among them, the head of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church was affirmed by the Supreme Court of India.
Historically the primate or leader of St Thomas Christians was known as Jathikku Karthavyan (leader of Community), Malankara Moopen[dubious ](Elder of the Community), Archdeacon or Arkadiyakon (High Priest). This office was traditionally held by the Pakalomattom family. In the 16th century, the arrival of the Jesuits led to changes in the structure of the St Thomas Church.
In 1653 the Archdeacon position was elevated to Bishopric and the Metropolitan Bishop assumed the honorific ecclesiastical title Mar Thoma. This title was used from 1653 to 1815. Later a regular 'Bishopric' was established in Malankara with the help of Gregorios Abdal Jaleel.
Title of Malankara Metropolitan
Prominence of Malankara
The position of the Malankara Metropolitan in the 19th century is an upgrowth from the position of the previous Thomas and Archdeacons. The power and authority of the Malankara Metropolitan received more recognition than the power and authority of the previous Archdeacons' and Marthomas' because the British Residents of Travancore were favorably disposed towards the Malankara Church.
In 1815, during Col. John Munro's time as the British Resident of Travancore, Pulikkottil Joseph Ittoop Ramban was ordained as a bishop by Geevarghese Philexenos II (Kidangan) (1811-29) of Malabar Independent Syrian Church (Thozhyoor Church). He was given the episcopal title Dionysius II. After the death of Thoma VIII, he was made the head of the Malankara Church by a Royal proclamation issued by the King of Travancore and later by the King of Cochin. This enabled him to dethrone Mar Thoma IX. The proclamation insisted every Malankara Syrian Christian of Travancore-Cochin obey the Malankara Metropolitan. From then onwards, the head of the Malankara Church legally came to be known as Malankara Metropolitan.
Reform movement and church splits
From 1816, Dionysius II, Dionysius III, Dionysius IV and Mathews Athanasius were successive Malankara Metropolitans. Athanasius was inspired and encouraged by the Anglican missionaries at the old seminary in Kottayam, Mathews Athanasius wanted to reform the traditional Syrian church. A parallel group under Dionysius V was working against his reformational schemes. Dionysius V invited and brought Ignatius Peter IV of Antioch to Malankara in 1875. The Patriarch divided the Malankara church into seven dioceses; Dionysius V was declared as the Malankara Metropolitan and was given charge of Quilon Diocese in the synod of Mulanthuruthy (27 to 30 June 1876). Neither the incumbent Metropolitan Mathews Athanasius nor the Churches favoring him participated in the synod.
A series of court cases followed thereafter. The Travancore Royal court, by order on 14 July 1889 declared that Dionysius V was the rightful Malankara Metropolitan and Thomas Athanasius had no rights or claims to that office. The reformed faction separated and organized themselves as the independent Mar Thoma Syrian Church. The majority faction that kept Oriental Orthodox faith came under the leadership of the new Malankara Metropolitan Dionysius V, under the spiritual guidance of the Patriarch of Antioch is known as the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (Malankara Church).
In 1911, the church was divided into two factions due to internal disputes. Since then the faction that supported the Patriarch of Antioch was known as Bava Kakshi (Patriarch faction) and Methran Kakshi (bishop faction) or Malankara orthodox who supported Vattasseril Thirumeni(bishop) later Methran Faction(Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church) ordained Catholicos in 1912 by excommunicated Patriarch Ignatius Abded Mshiho II creating fear in the Malankara Church that he would attempt to take control of the church, reversing the decisions of the Council of Mulanthuruthy in 1876. There were several years of litigation between the two factions, the Metran faction, and the Bava faction. The Supreme court of India declared that the Patriarch has no power in Malankara Church and his spiritual power had also come to vanishing point since the establishment of Catholicate. This caused the Malankara Church to split again. Patriarch faction under the Patriarch of Antioch who still believes in the spiritual powers of the Patriarch and remains under the Maphrian / Catholicos of the Syriac Orthodox Church, later established Catholicos of India.
- Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church: Headed by Malankara Metropolitan and Catholicos of the East seated on the Apostolic See of Saint Thomas[peacock prose]
Electing Catholicos Geevarghese II as Malankara Metropolitan
After the death of Malankara Metropolitan Geevarghese Dionysius VI of Vattasseril (1934), the Malankara Association held at M.D Seminary Kottayam elected Catholicos Baselios Geevarghese II as the Malankara Metropolitan and passed a constitution for Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church popularly known as 1934 CONSTITUTION or Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church Constitution.
Since 1934, the Catholicos of the East has held the Office of Malankara Metropolitan.
Malankara Association 2002 at Parumala
According to Supreme Court order, the Malankara Syrian Christian Association (Parliament of the Malankara church) was conducted under the observation of Supreme Court of India in order to set right the position of Malankara Metropolitan Catholicos Baselios Mar Thoma Mathews II.
The Association Meeting held on 20 March 2002 at Parumala Seminary elected Baselios Mar Thoma Mathews II as the Malankara Metropolitan. The secret ballot voting was conducted at the Seminary and the result was declared by the Supreme Court Observer Justice V.S. Mulimud. The total polling was 3483 votes. Out of these, 3464 votes were cast in favour of Baselios Mathews II, 10 voted against and 9 were invalid. The total delegates registered for the Association was 3528. "The supreme authority of the Malankara Syrian Christian Association has been unambiguously approved by the Supreme Court. The factions no longer exist and there is only one official Malankara Church." The election was held as per the Supreme Court's 1995 judgement on the dispute in the Malankara church.
From 1653 to 1815, the See of Malankara Metropolitan was located at individual churches of the incumbent's preference. These include primarily Niranam Church, along with Kandanad Church, Kadampanad Church, etc. at various times during that period. As the headquarters of the Malankara Metropolitan was moved to Kottayam with the establishment of the Orthodox Theological Seminary, Kottayam in 1815, the thronal cathedral was also relocated to the most prominent church in Kottayam at the time, Kottayam Cheriapally. Since then, Kottayam Cheriapally has remained the thronal cathedral of Malankara Metropolitans.
Similar to the thronal cathedral, the headquarters of the Malankara Metropolitan was also located at individual churches of the incumbent's preference from 1653 to 1815. With the establishment of the Orthodox Theological Seminary, Kottayam in 1815, the headquarters was permanently relocated to the Seminary.
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