Synod of Mulanthuruthy (1876) and the Syrian Orthodox Antiochene Patriarch's Supremacy

Prelude to the Synod

In 1865, opposition to Mar Athanasius led to Joseph Pulikkottil, a native priest of Malankara, being sent to the Orthodox Syrian Patriarch of Antioch. The Patriarch consecrated him as Mar Dionysius V and appointed him Malankara metropolitan, succeeding Antiochene Bishop Mar Koorillos. Mar Dionysius V returned in 1866 but faced challenges in replacing Mar Athanasius.

In 1868, Mathew Mar Athanasius, the officially recognized metropolitan by the Royal Court, nominated his cousin Thomas as his successor, who was consecrated on May 31, 1868, as Thomas Mar Athanasius by the bishop of the Jacobite sect of Thozhiyoor.

Patriarch Ignatius Mar Peter III’s Intervention

Mar Dionysius V’s appeal led to Patriarch Ignatius Mar Peter III traveling to London in 1874 to address his claims and counter Protestant influences in Malankara. He arrived in Malankara in 1875, garnering support from the Travancore government and British officials.

The Historic Assembly at Mulanthuruthy

From June 27 to 30, 1876, Patriarch Peter III convened an assembly or synod at Mulanthuruthy, where the supremacy and jurisdiction of the Antiochene Patriarch were unequivocally accepted by the Malankara Church. The assembly formed an association of the Malankara community, with the Patriarch of Antioch as its patron and the ruling metropolitan as the president. Financial arrangements, including the collection of money (Ressisa) for the Patriarch, were also established.

Declaration of Patriarchal Authority

The synod's final document affirmed the spiritual supremacy of the Patriarch of Antioch over the Malankara Church, recognizing his exclusive authority in appointing and deposing bishops. The synod pledged adherence to the “faith of the three councils” and all Antiochene canons and laws. It also requested the Patriarch to confirm the administrative decisions, including the commission of 24 members and the elected metropolitan, and to appoint an external metropolitan to ensure adherence to faith and obedience.

From ancient times the people of Malabar and their churches are under the spiritual supremacy of the Patriarch of Antioch. In this no one else has power. Since our bishops and priests receive (holy) Orders from you, you have power to appoint and depose them. Your Holiness (Jacobite Patriarch) has the spiritual care of the Syrian people and churches of Malabar and also the powers of nominating and deposing bishops.
We and our posterity will not, until death, deviate either to the right or to the left from the faith of the three Councils of our holy Church handed over or from the precepts of our religion of true faith and of Your Holiness who is the head. We, therefore, unanimously swear before God and Your Holiness touching the cross and the Bible that until the last breath there will not be any change for this.
Requesting Your Holiness to put into effect all canons and laws pertaining to religion, we pray to confirm the decisions as read now for the administration of our Church, to confirm on the commission of 24 members and the metropolitan elected to it as responsible without partiality in all things pertaining to religion and community, and to appoint a metropolitan from outside who shall watch that nothing may happen against faith or obedience.1)

Consolidation of the Antiochene Patriarchate's Control

This synod marked a definitive and complete subjugation of the Malankara Church under the Antiochene Patriarch's supremacy. The Malankara Church was essentially annexed to the Antiochene Patriarchate, with the Patriarch emerging as its supreme head.

Fontes Juribus Canonici Syro-Malankarensium (Fanti, II-IX), 29-30; C. Malancharuvil, The Syro-Malankara Church, 63.
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