Ruling Hierarchs of the Syriac and Malankara Orthodox Churches
His Holiness Ignatius Aphrem II – Patriarch of Antioch and All East on the Apostolic Throne of St Peter – Primate of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church (L), His Holiness Baselios Marthoma Paulose II – Catholicos of the East & Metropolitan of Malankara on the Apostolic Throne of St Thomas – Primate of the Indian Orthodox Malankara Church (C), His Beatitude Baselios Thomas I – Catholicos & Metropolitan Trustee & Chief Metropolitan of the Angamaly Diocese of the Jacobite Syriac Orthodox Church in India (R)
The strong conciliar relationship between the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch and the ancient Orthodox Church in Malankara was crucial in establishing two Western Rite Orthodox Churches. Prelates and leaders of the Orthodox See of St. Peter in Antioch and the Orthodox See of St. Thomas in Malankara took mutual efforts in fostering Western Rite Orthodoxy. The relations between Antioch and Malankara was based on Orthodox conciliarity, mutual respect, love, understanding, and brotherhood.
Today we have three Churches that were involved with the two historic Western Rites – The Universal Syriac Orthodox Church (Patriarchate of Antioch and All East), the Indian Orthodox Malankara Church (Catholicate of the East), the Jacobite Syriac Orthodox Church of India (Patriarchate of Antioch and All East).
The Universal Syriac Orthodox Church (Patriarchate of Antioch and All East)
Roots of the Syriac Orthodox Church can be traced back to the very dawn of Christianity, to the church of Antioch, where the disciples were first called Christians (Acts 11: 26). It is the first established church in Christianity gathering converted Jews and Gentiles in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the second church after that of Jerusalem. Ecclesiastical history and traditions tell us that St. Peter the Apostle established a church in Antioch (+ 37) and became its first bishop. After his martyrdom, he was succeeded by Euodius for the converted Jews and St. Ignatius Noorono (the Illuminator) for the converted Gentiles. Later on, the bishopric of Antioch was recognized in the ecumenical Synod of Nicea (+ 325) as one of one of the Patriarchates of Christendom (along with that of Alexandria and Rome). Antioch’s bishopric produced a line of succession beginning with Apostle Peter and continues to this day in the Syriac Orthodox Church. In the mid of the 5th century, Bishops of Antioch, Alexandria, Byzantium, and Rome, would be called patriarchs. The Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch used to be known by his own name; however, since 1293 the patriarchs of Antioch adopted the name Ignatius (after the Illuminator). The See of Antioch continues to flourish till our day, with H.H. Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, being the 123rd Patriarch in the line of legitimate patriarchs. The patriarchate was forced to move from Antioch, which was the capital of the Roman province of Syria at the time of Christ, in 518, after a period of turbulent history, to different locations in the Near East until it settled in the Saffron monastery (Az-Za’faran or Dayro dKurkmo) in Mardin, Turkey, during the 13th century. After another period of heinous violence during and after World War I (which took the lives of about a half million Syriac Orthodox faithful), the patriarchate was transferred to Homs, Syria, in 1933, and later to Damascus in 1959. The Syriac Orthodox Church has produced several illustrious saints whose lives and works have a huge influence, not only on the Syriac tradition but on Christianity as a whole. The Syriac church employs in its liturgy, which is one of the richest and most ancient, the Syriac language, an Aramaic dialect akin to the Aramaic spoken by Christ and the Apostles. The Syriac Orthodox Church followers today are around four million; the majority of them reside in India and the rest are spread mainly in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, Europe, North and South America, and Australia. The Syriac Church is a member of the World Council of Churches which she joined in the year 1960, and is one of the founding members of the Middle East Council of Churches. It is also a member in the Council of Local Churches and collaborates with the other Christian Churches, and takes part in the ecumenical and theological dialogues at official and non-official levels.
The Indian Orthodox Malankara Church (Catholicate of the East)
The Indian Orthodox Malankara Church, also known as the Malankara Orthodox Church or the Orthodox Church of the East or the Orthodox Syrian Church of the East, is an autocephalous Oriental Orthodox Church. It is the largest Orthodox Church in India. The Church has around 2.5 million faithful worldwide. The Church traces its origin to the apostolic mission of St. Thomas. The imperial domination of the Roman Catholic Church and its devastating effects led the Church to come into contact with the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch. It uses Syriac liturgy, though translations have been made into the Malayalam language. The Catholicate of the Church was established in 1912. The Primate of the Church is addressed by the title ‘Catholicos of the East on the Apostolic Throne of St. Thomas and Metropolitan of Malankara’ and resides at Develokam, Kottayam, Kerala, India. The world-famous Orthodox theologians, Paulose Mar Gregorious, Fr. V.C. Samuel and the first canonized Indian saint, St. Gregorious of Parumala, belongs to this Church. The Church also owns two Churches originally founded by St. Thomas the Apostle (Niranam and Thiruvithamcode). The Thiruvithamcode is considered one of the oldest Church buildings in the world. The Indian Church has made commendable contributions in the field of education and social change. It manages a large number of educational, spiritual and social institutions.
The Jacobite Syriac Orthodox Church in India (Patriarchate of Antioch and All East)
The Jacobite Syriac Orthodox Church, also known as the Syriac Orthodox Church in India, is an autonomous entity under the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All East. The Primate of the Church is Patriarch of Antioch and All East and is the successor of St. Peter. It has a membership of over one million people and is the second largest Orthodox Church in India. The local primate of the Church in India is addressed by the title ‘Catholicos of India and Metropolitan Trustee’ and is responsible to the Patriarch of Antioch and All East. The headquarters in India is located at Puthenkurishu Patriarchal Centre, Ernakulam, Kerala. It operates several well-established spiritual and educational institutions. Manjanikkara monastery in Kerala holds the mortal remains of St. Ignatius Elias (Patriarch). Many people from all over the world make an annual pilgrimage to the monastery. There are numerous dioceses under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Antioch such as the diocese of Middle East, Australia and New Zealand, the Archdiocese of Europe (which includes the Patriarchal Vicariate of Ireland and the Patriarchal Vicariate of Germany and Central Europe) and the Malankara Archdiocese of North America. Simhasana Churches, Evangelical Association of the East and autonomous Knanaya Archdiocese also fall under the direct jurisdiction of the patriarchate. The Jacobite Syriac Orthodox Church in India is engaged in several missionary works through the St. Paul’s Mission of India. Large numbers of missionary and philanthropic activities are taken care by this organization.