A little known fact about Kottayam Knanaya Archdiocese (Syro Malabar Catholic Church) is that it is the only diocese in Kerala and one of the few diocese in the world that is permanently dual-ritual. All Christian diocese whether Catholic, Orthodox, etc generally follow a single liturgical tradition. For example all diocese of the Syro Malabar Church follow the East Syriac or Chaldean liturgical tradition while the Syro Malankara Church follows the West Syriac or Antiochean liturgical tradition. Uniquely however, Kottayam Knanaya Archdiocese though apart of the Syro Malabar Church, is given the special permission of following both the East and West Syriac liturgical rite.
Due to their minority status among the St. Thomas Christians of India, the Knanaya were erected their own ethnic diocese by Pope Pius X in 1911 as an East Syriac Diocese under the Syro Malabar Church. However in the early 20th century, a number of Knanaya Jacobites (Syriac Orthodox) converted to Catholicism and joined Kottayam Archdiocese but wanted retain their West Syriac liturgical tradition. To keep all Knanaya Catholics united under one diocese, Kottayam Archdiocese was given the special permission to follow both the East and West Syriac liturgical tradition in 1921. This special status is still held in the modern day and the Knanaya Malankara Rite Catholics (West Syriac) have a vicar general, priests, and churches under Kottayam Knanaya Archdiocese which administer distincly to them. Additionally, the East Syriac bishops of Kottayam regularly take care of their Malankara flock and are often seen switched into West Syriac vestments, leading the Qurbono as well as dispensing rites and customs.
This system of having a West Syriac vicar general to administer to the minority Knanaya Malankara Catholics continued until last week when Pope Francis appointed a West Syriac auxiliary bishop to Kottayam. In an interesting yet peculiar situation, the archdiocese has an East Syriac Archbishop and auxiliary bishop, and now a West Syriac auxiliary bishop as well. This is rather unique scenario of liturgical unity and it appears that the Syro Malabar Church now has a West Syriac synod member. The Knanaya Malankara vicar general Fr. George Kurisummoottil has been elected with the name Geevarghese Mar Aprem and is pictured on the right below with the other bishops of Kottayam. I’ve also shared some images of this unique status, with the bishops of Kottayam in the Antiochian liturgical vestments.
Bishops of Kottayam
Mar Mathew Moolakkatu, East Syriac Archbishop of Kottayam administering the Malankara rite.
East Syriac Kottayam with it’s West Syriac clergymen