THROUGH THE PAGES OF HISTORY
From the Roots of the Church
The St. Thomas Christian Community, founded in India by the year 52 AD., was further strengthened by a group of Christians immigrated from Persia in 345 AD., paving the path for further relationships with the Churches in the Persian Empire, some of which were founded by close disciples of St. Thomas. Hence both the Church in India and those of Persia were in close relationship with each other and in communion with other early apostolic communities.
This situation continued till the 16th century, when the Church in the West began to come in contact with the Indian Church through the Portuguese merchants and missionaries. These contacts were cordial in the beginning, but conflicts of different natures ensued later, as a result of which the early community of Indian Christians in 1653 broke off their relationship with the Portuguese missionaries. The majority of them restored ecclesial relationship with the Portuguese hierarchy (Malabar-Church) and the rest formed themselves into an independent ecclesial community and gradually got into an ecclesial relationship with the ancient Christian Church of Antioch (Malankara-Church).
The Reunion Movement
From the Malankara Church there had always been attempts to restore communion with the Holy See of Rome and after 300 years of strenuous efforts, they, were crowned with success only in the first half of the 20th century.
In 1926 the Episcopal Synod of the Church of the "New Party" held at Parumala delegated Metropolitan Mar Ivanios to enter into negotiations with Rome in order to effect a reunion with the Catholic Church under the condition that the ancient and venerable traditions of the Malankara Church would be retained and kept intact. Pope Pius XI graciously accepted the conditions and welcomed the reunion.
Accordingly, on September 20, 1930 a representative group, headed by Archbishop Mar Ivanios and followed by Mar Theophilos, Rev. Fr. John Kuzhimepurath OIC, Deacon Alexander (later Fr. Seraphion OIC) and Mr. Chacko Kilileth, made their Profession of Faith and were duly received into the Catholic Communion by His Excellency Most Rev. Dr. María Benziger, Bishop of Quilon, who was especially delegated by the Holy See for this purpose. The following day two Rembans, Most Rev. Joseph Pulikottil and Most Rev. Philipose Cheppad, also made their Profession of Faith and were likewise received into the Malankara Catholic Church.
The Re-united Malankara Church in Her initial Stage
In 1932 His Garce Mar Ivanios made his official visit to the Holy See of Rome and His Holiness Pope Pius XI invested him with the Sacred Pallium. With the Apostolic Constitution "Christo Pastorum Principi" of June 11, 1932 Pope Pius XI erected the Syro-Malankara Catholic Hierarchy comprising the Metropolitan Eparchy of Trivandrum and the Eparchy of Tiruvalla.
The Metropolitan Eparchy of Trivandrum was inaugurated on May 11, 1933 and His Grace Mar Ivanios was installed as its first Metropolitan. The Eparchy of Tiruvalla was inaugurated on November 6, 1933 and Most Rev. Jacob Mar Theophilos was appointed as its first Bishop.
The reunion of Archbishop Mar Ivanios with the Catholic church was a historical event in the Church, which inspired many of the Malankara Thomas Christians including many bishops of the Orthodox Church. On November 29, 1937 Most Rev. Joseph Severios of the Orthodox Church and on November 12, 1939 Most Rev.Thomas Dioscorus, Metropolitan of the Knanaya Jacobite Church, were reunited with the Catholic Church.
The Growth of the Malankara Catholic Church to a Major-Archiepiscopal Church
Under the spiritual, intellectual and pastoral leadership of Archbishop Mar Ivanios the Malankara Catholic Community was greatly strengthened in India and abroad. After a period of 22 years of strenuous and exhausting service to the Malankara Catholic Church Mar Ivanios fell sick for more than one year. During this time he consecrated His Excellency Most Rev. Benedict Gregorios as his auxiliary on January 29, 1953. Mar Ivanios, the pioneer of the reunion movement, passed away on July 15, 1953.
On January 27, 1955 Most Rev. Benedict Mar Gregorios was installed as the Metropolitan Archbishop of Trivandrum and the Head of the Syro-Malankara Hierarchy. At this time large numbers of people from other non-Catholic Malankara Curches reunited with the Catholic Church, and several parishes, missions, convents, schools, hospitals, orphanages and other institutions were established in different places. His Excellency Most Rev. Paulose Mar Philexinos, the Metropolitan of the Malabar Independent Church, was received into the Catholic Church as the Titular Bishop of Chayal on August 28, 1977. His Excellency Most Rev. Lawrence Mar Ephraem was appointed Auxiliary to the Metropolitan Archbishop of Trivandrum on November 6, 1980 and was consecrated on December 27, 1980.
The Syro-Malankara Catholic Church has been steadly growing and spreading throughout India. The Eparchy of Bathery was erected on October 28, 1978, bifurcating the Eparchy of Tiruvalla. Most Rev. Cyril Mar Baselios was appointed as the first Bishop of the new Eparchy.
After 41 years of dedicated service, Archbishop Benedict Mar Gregorios, Head of the Malankara Catholic Church, passed away on October 10, 1994. His Excellency Most Rev. Cyril Mar Baselios, the then Bishop of Bathery, became the Apostolic Administrator of the Church. On November 6, 1995 he was appointed Metropolitan Archbishop of Trivandrum and Head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. His installation took place on December 14, 1995.
Bifurcating the Metropolitan Eparchy of Trivandrum, the Eparchy of Marthandom was erected on December 16, 1996 and Most Rev. Lawrence Mar Ephraem, the then Auxiliary Bishop of Trivandrum, was appointed as its first Bishop.
Thus in 1930, a small community from the Malankara Church regained communion with the Holy See and was recognized as the Malankara Catholic Church. It has today One Major Archdiocese, one Archdiocese, 6 dioceses, one Exarcate, 14 Bishops, about 900 priests, 2200 Religious men and women and 6,00,000 of faithful, leaving about 3 million people still in the Malankara non-Catholic Church.
Since the Malankara Church had entertained ecclesial relationship with the Antiochen Church, it has adopted the Antiochene Liturgy and canonical traditions, which, in turn, are very ancient and rooted in the apostolic traditions of the early oriental Churches. On February 10, 2005, His Holiness Pope John Paul II has raised the Syro-Malankara Metropolitan Church sui iuris to the rank of Major Archiepiscopal Church and has promoted H.E. Cyril Mar Baselios Malancharuvil to the dignity of Major Archbishop.
The Diocese of Pathanamthitta
The Episcopal Synod of the Malankara Catholic Church held in December 2009, presided over by His Excellency Major Arch Bishop Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis Catholicos, decided to form the new Eparchy of Pathanamthitta. Thus the seventh Eparchy in Malankara Catholic Church, the Diocese of Pathanamthitta came into existence with the consent of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, on 25th January 2010. The Diocese is erected bifurcating the Major Archi Episcopal Eparchy of Trivandrum. Most Rev. Yoohanon Mar Chrysostom, Bishop of Marthandam has been appointed as the first Bishop of this new Eparchy.
The Eparchy of Pathanamthitta has been officially inaugurated in a solemn function witnessed by thousands of people at District Stadium (Cyril Baselios Catholicos Nagar), Pathanamthitta on Saturday, 20th March 2010. Most Rev. Yoohanon Mar Chrysostom took charge as the First Bishop on the same day in another function held at Sacred Heart Malankara Catholic Church at Mylapra near Pathanamthitta.
The new Diocese is mainly confined to the revenue district of Pathanamthitta. There are 100 parishes in the Diocese and as many as 89 Priests are serving in the Diocese. The Diocesan area is basically hilly in nature including a considerable number of tribal colonies. The people in the area are keeping their centuries old faith in Christianity. The Nilackal/Chayal Church which was erected by St. Thomas the Apostole is situated in the diocesan area. St. Peter’s Malankara Catholic Church, Pathanamthitta is the Cathedral Church of the new Eparchy. Perunadu-Mundanmala where the Servant of God Arch Bishop Mar Ivanios started the reunion movement is also within the Eparchy.