Delegation to Rome Led by Joseph Cariattil (1765-1786)

Initial Steps for Reunion

In response to Mar Dionysius I's persistent efforts, Bishop Francis Sales sent Fr Joseph Cariattil to Mar Dionysius I with comprehensive instructions. Cariattil, the first St Thomas Christian with a doctorate in philosophy and theology from the Propaganda Fide College and a professor at the Alangad seminary, met with Mar Dionysius I and committed to supporting his reunion efforts, even if it required traveling to Rome.

Interactions with Bishop Francis Sales

Cariattil discussed the matter with Bishop Francis Sales, who proposed either to offer Mar Thomas a non-episcopal dignity or to send him to Europe if he wished to retain his episcopal status.

Changes in Church Leadership

After Archbishop Salvador dos Reis's death in April 1777, and with Bishop Francis Sales's office being vacated, both the archdiocese of Cranganore and the vicariate apostolic of Malabar were effectively leaderless. This situation prompted the St Thomas Christians to form a delegation to Portugal and Rome for addressing the reunion of Mar Dionysius I and their community's needs.

Delegation's Journey and Challenges

Led by Fr Joseph Cariattil and accompanied by Fr Thomas Paremmakkal, the delegation aimed to address the reunion issue directly with higher authorities, bypassing local missionaries. Their journey to Lisbon in 1779, and subsequently to Rome in 1780, faced opposition from both Propaganda and Padroado missionaries. In Rome, they encountered rebukes and accusations from Cardinal Giuseppe Maria Castelli and Stefano Borgia, who were wary of losing ecclesiastical influence in Malabar.

Charles Payngott, former archivist of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches and a scholar of the Syro-Malabar Church, highlights the reason for such a negative attitude on the part of Propaganda Fide:

During their stay in Rome Cariattil and his companion had several meetings with Castelli and Borgia. Both these men, however, showed Pharaonic obstinacy in their unfriendly attitude towards the Malabarians. This hostility sprung from the fear that admitting Mar Thomas into Catholic Communion would bring an end to the apostolic vicariate of Malabar and in that way the Propaganda Fide might lose a part of its ecclesiastical empire. For this reason Castelli was trying to subdue the deputation by threats and insults.1)

Pope Pius VI's Reception and Portugal's Recommendation

Despite the difficulties, the delegation managed to present Mar Dionysius I's profession of faith and petition to Pope Pius VI. Portugal also endorsed Mar Dionysius I's petition, suggesting that the Padroado archbishop of Goa handle his reception into the Catholic Church.

Congregation of Propaganda Fide's Evaluation

The Congregation of Propaganda Fide, led by Cardinal Antonelli, found Mar Dionysius I's profession of faith lacking and his conversion questionable. Nonetheless, respecting Portugal's wishes, in September 1780, Cardinal Antonelli authorized Emmanuel of St Catherine OCD, the Padroado bishop of Cochin and administrator of Goa, to verify the validity of Mar Dionysius I's episcopal consecration and sincerity of conversion. Upon confirmation, Emmanuel was to receive Mar Dionysius I into the Catholic Church under certain conditions, restricting his episcopal functions and jurisdiction.

C. Payngot, “Mar Joseph Cariattil Archbishop of Cranganore”, 34-35.
history/reunion_efforts_post_coonan_cross_oath_among_st._thomas_christian_bishops/delegation_to_rome_led_by_joseph_cariattil_1765-1786.txt · Last modified: 2024/01/22 11:38 by smcc