St Thomas Christians and the Catholic Church

A friend of mine is considering leaving the Church for Protestantism because he doesn’t believe most of the Catholic teachings, including the ecclesiology.

When I asked him which Church Christ founded, he first said none, then all of Christendom. I continued the argument with Ignatius of Antioch to show the Catholic Church was the first one. Since my friend has a degree in Indology, he was aware of the so-called Saint Thomas Christians. He says they never heard of the Catholic Church until the colonisation.

So my question is, if Thomas the Apostle was a Catholic, and he would have preached the Church, then why didn’t the Christians in India know of it until the colonisation?

Perhaps you can help. Thanks.

At that very early time in the Church the entire idea of Church was still in formation. What St. Thomas the Apostle would have been preaching/teaching was Jesus and the necessity to follow him. At first the faith was simply called “The Way” (which doesn’t really bring up the idea of a Church, as such). It wasn’t until other groups began to attack the faith (verbally and physically) that the concept of Church began to take form. Us vs. “them”.

There is no other church (little “c”) that can trace its history back to Jesus. The Catholic Church is the only one. So if Thomas was teaching folks about Jesus he was doing it as a Catholic Bishop. He might not have used the term but that is what he was.

The same thing happened in Ireland. St. Patrick went to the island thinking he was the first Christian missionary. He was met by a Christian queen and a sympathetic king.

Historians now believe that Christianity reached Ireland a century and a half before Patrick (around 400 AD), probably from Roman-occupied Britain. Whomever introduced Christianity to Ireland was obviously Catholic (there were no other Christian religions). But the Irish church had lost all ties to Rome. There were no Bishops, so there were no active Holy Orders, so there were no Sacraments other than Baptism. Rome obviously didn’t exert any leadership influence (Rome didn’t even know they were there).

Those ancient Irish were evangelized by Catholics (nobody disputes that), but they later had no knowledge of the Catholic Church.

It happens.

  1. because we didn’t have telephones, Internet or even UPS. :smiley:

  2. I think people confuse the Catholic Church with the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church. Christ founded the Catholic Church. He did not found the Roman Rite. Christ founded the Papacy, but Christ didn’t directly dictate where the Papacy should be located.

The Church in India was part of the Church of the East. Which separated from the rest of the Church after the First Council of Ephesus in .

Start here in Wikipedia and then read more credible sources:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Thomas_Christians
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_the_East
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nestorian_Schism
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Council_of_Ephesus

The Church in India was cut off from the Papacy (and the rest of Christianity) for a very long time. It’s quite possible that they may have thought that they were the only Christians in the whole world at that point. After all, for 400 years, the Vatican didn’t know that the Maronite Catholics were still existed. Then, when they were discovered by the Crusaders, they were reconnected with the Pope and confirmed their communion with the Pope (which from the Maronite’s point of view was never broken).

The Church in India didn’t know they Chair of Peter still existed. And even if they did, the Church of the East broke from the West after the First Council of Ephesus.

Hope this helps and God Bless.

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