Reunion Attempts by Mar Thomas VI (Mar Dionysius I) and Mar Joseph Cariattil (1765-1786)

Early Efforts by Mar Thomas VI

Mar Thomas VI (later Mar Dionysius I), born Joseph Parampil in 1728 in a Catholic family at Kuravilangad, became a priest in the non-Catholic community under his uncle Mar Thomas V's influence. In 1761, Mar Thomas V elevated him to “episcopal dignity,” and upon Mar Thomas V's death in 1765, Joseph succeeded him as Mar Thomas VI. His reconciliation efforts with the Catholic Church started in the same year, initially seeking to align with Bishop Florence of Jesus OCD, the vicar apostolic of Malabar.

Proposals and Consecration

The Propaganda Fide considered granting Mar Thomas VI the dignity of Protonotary Apostolic or Knighthood, depending on his choice to be an ecclesiastic or remain lay. However, before these proposals could be conveyed, Mar Thomas VI was consecrated bishop by the Antiochene Bishop Gregorios in January 1772, assuming the name Mar Dionysius I.

Continued Reconciliation Efforts

Mar Dionysius I pursued reconciliation through various channels, including Florence of Jesus, Archbishop Salvador dos Reis of Cranganore, and Visitor Apostolic Fr Lawrence Justiniani. Despite multiple requests, these authorities resisted integrating Mar Dionysius I and his followers into the Catholic Church.

Regarding his attempts through the vicar apostolic of Malabar and the archbishop of Cranganore, in his petition addressed to Pope Pius VI, Mar Dionysius I stated:

Several times I earnestly requested and prayed with sighs through the presbyters of the orthodox faith (Catholics), Msgr Salvador dos Reis, the metropolitan of Cranganore and Florence of Jesus, the Bishop of Aeropolis and the vicar apostolic of Malabar and Cochin, to aggregate me with all my people to the unity of the body of the Catholic Church by giving absolution from the excommunication that has fallen on us since the time of our forefathers, and if they were unable to do this, to send my petition to the Apostolic See of Rome. But they refused and kept away. 1)

Propaganda Fide's Stance and Bishop Francis Sales' Role

Propaganda Fide maintained a stance against granting Mar Dionysius I ordinary jurisdiction, offering him an annual subsidy instead. Instructions to Bishop Francis Sales, the new vicar apostolic, emphasized converting Mar Dionysius I without granting him spiritual authority or encouraging the notion of a native bishop for the St Thomas Christians.

On 6 August 1774 the Congregation also gave the following instruction to the new vicar apostolic Bishop Francis Sales concerning the reunion of Mar Dionysius I, who was then a validly consecrated bishop with jurisdiction over his people:

Regarding the conversion of the mitred layman Mar Thomas, and of the schismatic bishop who intruded himself into that mission, the vicar apostolic with his zeal and prudence should employ all those means, which he believes opportune and practical. And as regards the first individual, whose conversion would be more important, besides the primary and most appropriate means of exhortation and persuasion, you can make use of some offer in disposing him more readily to acknowledge the truth, for example, you may permit him to exercise some supervision over his subjects in the administration of temporal goods, but never in anything of spiritual matters. In order to assist him in his indigence, it will not be far from the mind of the Sacred Congregation to grant him an annual allowance of 100 scudi or less according to the decision of the vicar apostolic, who should be very careful not to encourage talk about the nation's desire to have its own bishop or head of its rite because if this were conceded to the people, there would be evident danger of the same nation separating itself abruptly, or at least gradually, from its dependence on the vicar apostolic which is considered necessary to maintain such a large and excellent flock in the faith and in union with the Catholic Church.2)

Rome's Perception and Obstacles to Reunion

Rome, perceiving the St Thomas Christians as converted heretics and schismatics, was apprehensive about a native bishop's impact on their faith and communion. Mar Dionysius I's attempts at reunion were not supported by Bishop Francis Sales, reflecting the broader conflict between the archdiocese of Cranganore (Portuguese Padroado) and the vicariate apostolic of Malabar (Carmelite vicars apostolic of Propaganda Fide). The primary obstacle remained the retention of episcopal jurisdiction, which both authorities viewed as a threat to their control over the St Thomas Christians.

Vatican City, Historical Archives of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Scritture riferite nei Congressi: India Orientale e Cina, vol. 39, f. 14; English trans. The Varthamanappusthakam, 140; see also The Travancore State Manual, vol. 2, 209.
Vatican City, Historical Archives of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Scritture Originali riferite nelle Congregazioni Generali, vol. 839, f. 222; also in Ambrosius a S. Theresia, Hierarchia Carmelitana, 277. In tis citation simply Mar Thomas is used to refer to Mar Thomas VI, who assumed the name Mar Dionysius I at the time of his valid episcopal consecration.
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