Development of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (1876 Onwards)

Post-Synod Reorganization

Following the significant Synod of Mulanthuruthy in 1876, where the Antiochene Patriarch was affirmed as the head of the Malankara Church, the Church underwent notable changes. The Patriarch divided the Malankara Church, previously a singular unit, into seven dioceses and consecrated six additional bishops for their governance. During this time, Mar Dionysius V (1866-1909) continued to serve as the local head of the whole Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church.

Adoption of the Antiochene Rite

The implementation of the Antiochene rite and Syrian Orthodox faith in Malankara was a gradual process initiated with the arrival of Mar Gregorios in 1665. This transition was largely completed during Mar Cyril's tenure (1846-1866). The Antiochene liturgy was fully adopted and officially declared as the Malankara Church's liturgy in 1836. Mar Cyril finalized this evolution, leaving no space for other liturgical elements. The disciplinary system of the Malankara Church also underwent changes, though it retained many elements from various stages of its historical development. The “Nomo-Canon” of Bar Hebreus was formally adopted as the legal code, signifying the completion of the church's transition to Antiochene tradition.

Cyril Malancharuvil rightly observes:
The introduction of the Antiochene rite into the Malankara Church was a gradual process. Examining this process closely we see that the Antiochene liturgy with its rituals was fully adopted, though gradually, and declared officially in 1836 to be the liturgy of the Malankara Church. Later the Antiochene prelate Mar Cyril completed the evolution, leaving no room for other liturgical elements to exist in it. As for the disciplinary system, very few innovations were made, though a few elements that were properly Antiochene and intimately connected with liturgy and rituals were introduced at various stages. However, the discipline of the Malankara Church was declared formally and “de jure” Antiochene and the transition was complete as it had adopted the “Nomo-Canon” of Bar Hebreus as the code of law for it, although the church government was left to be regulated, for the most part, by the traditions and customs of the Malankara Church, drawn from different sources and developed through various stages of its history. 1)

Gradual Imposition of Patriarchal Jurisdiction

The Malankara metropolitans initially sought the Antiochene Patriarch's assistance for valid episcopal consecration and protection against Anglican influences. Over time, the Patriarch and his bishops worked to bring the Malankara Church under direct Antiochene jurisdiction, achieving complete authority at the Synod of Mulanthuruthy.

Irony of Antiochenization

In an ironic twist, the St Thomas Christians, who initially broke communion with the Catholic Church to preserve the Chaldean rite and their ecclesial autonomy, underwent a thorough Antiochenization. This led to the complete adoption of the Antiochene rite and Syrian Orthodox faith, placing them under the full supremacy of the Jacobite Syrian Patriarch of Antioch. This shift compromised the autonomy and original identity of the Malankara Church.

Future Challenges

The actions of the Patriarch, while consolidating the Antiochene tradition, also fueled further conflicts and attempts to assert autonomy within the Malankara Church. These efforts led to several decades of disputes, conflicts, and public litigation, profoundly impacting the church's stability and unity.

C. Malancharuvil, The Syro-Malankara Church, 95. Cyril Malancharuvil belonging to the Order of Imitation of Christ (OIC) was appointed as Bishop of Bathery on 28 October 1978 and he assumed the name Cyril Mar Baselios. He was promoted as the Metropolitan Archbishop of Trivandrum and head of the Syro Malankara Catholic Church on 6 November 1995. When the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church was raised to the status of a major archiepiscopal Church on 10 February 2005, he was appointed as the first Major Archbishop and he adopted the official title, Moran Mor Cyril Baselios Catholicos.
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