Short-Lived Reunion With The Catholic Church by Mar Dionysius I Following Cariattil's Death (1786-1799)

Background and Ecclesiastical Administration Changes

After Archbishop Cariattil's death in 1786, the ecclesiastical landscape in Malabar was unstable. Thomas Paremmakkal was appointed administrator of the archdiocese of Cranganore (1787-1799) by Archbishop Emmanuel of St Catherine, but he faced challenges in furthering Mar Dionysius I's reunion efforts, partly due to the negative attitude of local missionaries.

Attempts to Secure a Bishop from the Chaldean Patriarchate

In November 1796, a delegation was sent to the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Joseph IV requesting a bishop, following the traditions predating the 16th century. However, this request was left unanswered by Propaganda Fide. Eventually, Mar John Hormez, Archbishop of Mosul, consecrated Paul Pandari as Bishop Abraham for Malabar in response to the community's needs.

Bishop Pandari's Arrival and Opposition

Arriving in Malabar in March 1798, Bishop Pandari faced opposition from Thomas Paremmakkal, who prevented him from exercising jurisdiction. However, after Paremmakkal's death, Fr. Abraham Kattakayam, the new administrator, supported Bishop Pandari, leading him to assert his jurisdiction and ordain priests.

Mar Dionysius I's Continued Efforts and New Agreement

Mar Dionysius I pursued reunion with the Catholic Church, navigating the complex dynamics between Propaganda and Portuguese Padroado jurisdictions. In May 1799, an agreement was reached at the Holy Cross Church in Alleppey between Mar Dionysius I, Bishop Pandari, and representatives from both Catholic and non-Catholic communities. This agreement, aligning with Propaganda Fide's conditions, led to Mar Dionysius I and some followers accepting the Catholic faith at St Michael's Church, Thathampally.

The agreement reads:

By the Grace of God and by the order of the Holy Roman Church, Mar Dionysius, Metropolitan ofMalabar, with the representatives of the churches under his jurisdiction; Mar Abraham (Paul Pandari), Bishop appointed by His Excellency the Most Reverend Patriarch of the Chaldeans in obedience to the Holy Roman Church; the Governor (administrator) who governs the Archdiocese of Cranganore with the representatives of the churches under his jurisdiction; and the Presbyter Hormisdas, Deputy of the Patriarch, assembled in the Holy Cross Church at Alleppey and having heard and disposed of all the controverted points of both parties, made under oath this document of solemn contract that all future might be united together (sic).
[ … ] And now we of both the parties unitedly agree on oath to join together as our forefathers did, submitting ourselves to the Holy Father, the Pope, celebrating the Mass, reciting the breviary, observing the fasts and other rites as they were prescribed by the Synod of Diamper and to report accordingly to the Holy Father, the Pope, with the view of obtaining the permission to conduct all ceremonies according to the Syro-Chaldean rite of those who are submissive to the Holy Roman Church. Moreover, we agree that those who observe at present the Jacobite creed and rites shall abjure them and make the profession of faith prescribed by Pope Urban VIII for the Orientals and submit to the orders of His Holiness the Pope. And so agreed on oath on this 20th day Edavam (May) 1799 AD we both of the parties have declared and signed this contract at the Church of Holy Cross at Alleppey, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.1)

Short-lived Union and Reversion to Schism

The union at Thathampally was short-lived, primarily because the authorities involved lacked recognition from Rome. Mar Dionysius I, realizing the insufficiency of the union, reverted to schism after six months, paying a fine to the Travancore Government as per the agreement.

Mar Dionysius I's Death and Legacy

Mar Dionysius I passed away on May 13, 1808, his dream of reuniting all St Thomas Christians within the Catholic Church unfulfilled. He was buried at the Puthenkavu Church in Kerala.

Original Malayalam text in M. 0. Joseph, Thachil Mathu Tharakan, Ernakulam 1962, 233-235; English translation in C. J. Cathanar George, Ille Catholicity of the St Thomas Christians, Trivandrum 1994, 19-21; the present English text is reproduced as found in P. J. Podipara, The Eflorts for Reunion in Malankara, 226-227.
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