Draft Proposal for a Protocol between the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch and All East (SOCA) and the Malankara Orthodox Church (MOC)

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, 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, His Beatitude Baselios Thomas I - Catholicos & Maphriyano -Metropolitan Trustee of the Syriac Orthodox Church in India. 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, 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, His Beatitude Baselios Thomas I – Catholicos & Maphriyano -Metropolitan Trustee of the Syriac Orthodox Church in India.

 

Department of Church Research and StudiesIntroduction

THE MALANKARA ORTHODOX CHURCH was founded in AD 52 by St Thomas, one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ. At least from the fourth Century, the Church accepted Catholicos of Seleucia – Ctesiphon (Patriarch of Babylon) as the Spiritual Head. At least from the 17th Century, the Church followed the West Syriac Liturgy and gradually the Patriarch of Antioch was accepted as the Spiritual Head. In these periods East & West Syriac Bishops were present in Malankara. But the local Archdeacons (upto 1653), Mar Thoma Methrans (1653 – 1815), Malankara Metropolitans (1815 – 1934) spiritually and temporally administered the Church.

The Catholicate of the East was established in 1912. After adopting the Constitution in 1934, the Catholicos of the East cum Malankara Metropolitan is administering the Church spiritually and temporally. In 1975, the name “Marthoma”, the traditional title of Malankara Metropolitan was reinstated in the name of Catholicos of the East.

Udayamperoor Synod (AD 1599) and Coonan Cross Oath (AD 1653) are the major events in the history of Christianity in India. Under the Portuguese political power during this period helped the intervention of Rome in the affairs of the Malankara Church and in certain instances it resulted in a literal subjugation of the Church at least in certain areas and parishes by the Roman Pope. It was however not unanimously accepted by the Malankara Church.

Mar Gregorios Abded Jaleel, Syriac Metropolitan of Jerusalem, sent by Patriarch of Antioch arrived Malankara in AD 1665. The two Churches (Antioch & Malankara) were linked by very intimate relations since then as both are Orthodox Churches in the West Syriac (Antiochian) liturgical traditions and practices.

HH Mar Ignatius Pathros III (IV), Patriarch of Antioch visited Malankara during 1875 – 1877. He convened a Synod at Mulanthuruthy, consecrated Holy Mooron, consecrated six Bishops and divided the Church into seven Dioceses for administrative purposes.

Two rival Patriarchs of Antioch viz., HH Mar Ignatius Abdalla II and HH Mar Ignatius Abded Masiha II visited Malankara during 1909 – 1913. Abdalla II excommunicated Malankara Metropolitan Vattasseril Geevarghese Mar Dionysius VI in 1911. Abded Mesiha II declared the excommunication invalid and reinstated Mar Dionysius VI.

Unfortunately, the Church was split into two factions, viz., the Bava group (later Patriarchal Party) and the Methran group (later Catholicos Party). On 15th September 1912, HH Mar Ignatius Abded Masiha II installed HH Mar Baselius Paulos I as the first Catholicos of the East in Malankara. Excommunication on Mar Dionysius VI was withdrawn by Patriarch HH Mar Ignatius Elias III in 1931. Church Constitution was adopted on 26th December 1934.

Litigation started in 1913 ended in a Supreme Court Verdict in 1958. On 16th December 1958, the two factions united and became one Church. Patriarch and Catholicos accepted each other and 1934 Constitution was adopted in the unified Church. HH Patriarch Mar Ignatius Yacob III was invited by the Holy Synod of Malankra Church as the Chief Celebrant for the installation of HH Mar Baselius Augen I as the fourth Catholicos of the East in Malankara on 22nd May 1964.

1960s can be considered as the Golden Age of the Church. The unified Malankara Church honoured the HH Patriarch of Antioch with the Primacy of Honour as the First among Equals and gave him all the privileges mentioned in the Constitution of 1934 (Articles 1, 101, 114, 118).

Both Antioch & Malankara Churches participated in the Oriental Orthodox Heads of Churches Conference held at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 1965, as two independent, interdependent and autocephalous Churches. Both Churches are members of WCC in this status. The Catholicos ordained three bishops (1966) and consecrated Holy Mooron (1967) during this period. The honorofic titles “His Holiness” & “Moran” were used for the Catholicos.

Conflicts started in 1970 and the Church again split into two factions viz., Orthodox and Jacobite in 1975. HH Patriarch Mar Ignatius Yacob III consecrated a subordinate Catholicos for the Jacobite faction.

After the Supreme Court verdict of 1995, negotiations started for reconciliation, but without success. In 2002, HH Patriarch Mar Ignatius Zakka I consecrated a new Catholicos (Maphrian) for the Jacobite faction renamed as the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church.

To attain peace, reconciliation and unity which is now a dream of the major portion of the faithful in both factions of the Church, this protocol was prepared and approved by the two Holy Synods of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch (SOCA) and the Malankara Orthodox Church (MOC).

Protocol between the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch (SOCA) and the Malankara Orthodox Church (MOC)
1. For the sake of recognition of the hierarchical succession of the Malankara Orthodox Church (MOC), and in accordance with this protocol, the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch (SOCA) recognizes the autocephally (independence) of the MOC.

2. His Holiness, the Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, being the successor of St. Peter the Apostle, has the first position of honor, in accordance with the Church traditions, and the resolutions of the canonical ecumenical councils confessed by the two Churches and also due to the historical links between the two Churches, in a manner that does not belittle the independent status of the MOC. (MOC Constitution Articles 1, 2).

3. The SOCA belongs to the SEE of SAINT PETER and MOC belongs to the SEE of SAINT THOMAS and confess one Orthodox Doctrine, in mutual Communion and each of them having its own independence.

4. In order to manifest and affirm the spiritual relations between the two Churches, HH the Patriarch of Antioch and HH the Catholicos of the East should be mentioned in all the Holy Qurbanas. The name of the Patriarch of Antioch to be mentioned first.

5. Each Church has her own Holy Synod to care for her affairs.

6. To assure the oneness in the Apostolic Orthodox faith and Tradition, a general Holy Synod of both Churches is desirable to be convened as and when the need arises.

7. Each Church has the liberty to chose its own Patriarch / Catholicos. But in order to manifest the close relations between the two Churches; the other Church will send a delegation to attend the election process as guests.

8. In any future consecration and enthronement of a Patriarch / Catholicos for either one of the two Churches, a delegation should be sent from the other Church. Patriarch / Catholicos of the other Church should be the Chief Celebrant. (Resolution 4 of the Kaphartuto Synod in AD 869 Hudaya Canon 7:1 and MOSC Constitution Article 101, 114)

9. It is desirable that both Churches invite each other to major occasions in order to strengthen mutual relations.

10. In meetings of official dialogues with other confessions, on matters of faith, which are not on the level of the Oriental Orthodox Family, each Church will invite the other Church to send at least one member of the Holy Synod to attend. The two Churches will consult each other on world wide ecumenical affairs.

11. A permanent joint committee is to be formed out of the members of the two Synods to monitor the implementation of this protocol and to promote the cooperation of the two Churches in different areas such as:

1- Exchange of visits of: Patriarchs, Catholicos, Metropolitans, Bishops, Priests, Monks, Professors, Students and Deacons should be encouraged.

2- Theological education.

3- Christian Education: Sunday schools. Youth and Family programmes.

4- Social services and Development projects.

5- Pastoral Care: Both Churches should be given the chance to extend their pastoral care to their people in a foreign country.

12. This protocol once approved by both Holy Synods and signed by the Primates of the two Churches, will make any previous agreement and/or protocol between the two Churches null and void.

13. The text of this protocol, being approved by both Holy Synods and signed by the Primates of the two Churches, has come into effect and should be publicized and circulated to all the dioceses and parishes of both Churches as well to the Heads of sister Churches.

14. Any addition or amendments of this protocol should be discussed and approved in the joint meeting of the two Holy Synods.

15. This protocol has been prepared in the Malayalam, Syriac, Arabic and English languages. If misunderstandings arise in matters of interpretation, the English version shall prevail.

The above protocol of 15 articles, together with the introduction, a total of 4 pages (in the English version), pursuant to article 13 of this protocol, it is hereby signed by the Heads of both Churches in 2010.

Introduction is prepared by Vipin K. Varghese (S. Pampady).

Protocol is prepared by Paulson P Varkey (Akapparambu) & Verghis John Thottappuzha on the basis of Coptic – Ethiopian and Coptic – Eritrean Protocols.

Verghese John
(OCP Associate and Director- Dept. Of Publications)

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