Syro Malabar Catholic Church

Hi All,

I was going through some other post and had to mention about Syro Malabar Catholic Church.

Then I was wondering, Do people in this forum know anything about Syro Malabar Catholic Church other than that it is one of the Suris Juris Churches.

I do not want to explain much here, I belong to Syro Malabar Church. I want to know if this is heard of in any part of the world other than in India ? Does anyone know about it? If yes, what do you know about it.

I am curious to know how it is viewed , looked at or perceived by others.

Bless you,

the newest parish in the diocese is the Divine Mercy church of this rite. There is a growing community of folks of Indian heritage or extraction in the Valley most of whom are CAtholics of this rite and their Indian priests in SoTex, some of this rite, some bi-ritual, and they have had a priest celebrating this liturgy regularly in another parish from several years. They got the chance to purchase the Presbyterian Church in town which has been vacant and did so with the bishop’s blessing. The liturgy is beautiful and even if you do not understand a word you will be left in absolutely no doubt as to the Real Presence of Christ should you be so fortunate as to attend. And yes it fills your Sunday obligation.

I realize that the Archdiocese of Kottayam was established as for the Knanaya Catholics, and that even within the Syro-Malabar Diocese of St Thomas (Chicago) there are several parishes designated Knanaya. One thing that might be interesting would be to know what, if any, liturgical differences there are between the Knanaya and the Syro-Malabar Church in general. Google searches seem to yield a lot of historical, etc background on the Knanaya, but precious little regarding liturgical practices.

I for one have known about the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church for a long time. It’s often mentioned in connection to St. Thomas, the story that he traveled as far as India and founded local churches there.

I was surprised and impressed when about a year ago I did some research and found out it is the second largest of the Eastern Catholic Churches and that it has clerical celibacy.

Though I hate to mention it, another context in which the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, or native Indian Christianity in general, comes up is when Radical Traditionalists or anti-Catholic Protestants make the claim that Bl. John Paul II was ordained a priest of Shiva during a visit to India or otherwise blessed by a priestess of Shiva. Catholic apologists counter that while he did receive a mark on his forehead by a woman in traditional Indian dress at a liturgical event in India, it was a traditional greeting common among Indian Catholics, sometimes specifically for the celebrant of the mass, called “aarti,” which though Hindu in origin no longer has any pagan significance to the Christians of India.

Yes it is ture that Catholics still retain the local customs and traditions. It is impossible to completely forgo 1000s of years of traditional values and customs . It is very common to make that “mark” on the forhead and put a garland on your neck if you are the guest. It is very common that I don’t even remember if Bl JP 11 was welcomed in the same way …

The Claim by the Knanaite Community of Kerala to be pure descendants of some Jewish migrants from Persia in the 4th century AD is highly exaggerated, at best. There is no evidence (except for rumors and unsubstantiated claims by the Knanaites) that a bishop, priests and 72 families under the leadership of Mr. Thoma of Kana came to reinvigorate the Malabar Nazrani Church in the 4th century. Rather there is evidence of Christians fleeing Persia in 4th century to escape severe persecutions at the hands of Shapur II, (see the much acclaimed historical book “The Church of the East” by Archbishop Mar Bawai Soro) and some of whom definitely came to Malabar as refugees to accept the hospitality of the friendly Mar Thoma Nazranis. These migrants got mixed with the local population and became part of one Malabar Nazrani Church. (Otherwise how do you explain the fact that the appearance and personal features of these Knanaites are not any different from the rest of the Christian population in Malabar? I understand that a DNA study was conducted by a Knanaite group, some years back, and their claim of any Jewish racial purity was proved to be a myth). There is written historical evidence to show that Persian bishops were taking care of the Malabar St Thomas Nazrani Church from as early as 2nd century AD. It is only during the last over a hundred years that this (Knanaite) Jewish racial purity myth got such a prominence. Also, there have been Armenian Christian immigration into various parts of India, including Malabar, to escape persecution in West Asia. The Armenian Archives in Bombay has records showing that a wealthy Armenian merchant by the name “Thomas of Kana” visited Malabar in the 8th century AD and was instrumental in getting 72 special privileges granted by the King to the local Christians on a copper plate. (By the way Armenians are non Jewish Christians). The Malabar Nazranis, as a whole, are a mixture of Jewish, Dravidian and other stock. The Knanaites are a part of it: not a different race. In any case to claim and maintain a racially separated Christian community is very un-Christian. It is high time that the Knanaites get themselves emancipated and drop their mythical claim of racial purity, or else prove it by scientific means. God bless you.

I had a friend in graduate school (in the USA) who was a Catholic from Kerala, and I presume a Syro-Malabar Catholic. Anyway, he told me about the founding of his church by St. Thomas the Apostle, which I thought was incredibly cool. Prior to that, I had not imagined that the apostles had ranged that far.

Since then, my in-laws had a visiting priest from India who was of the Syro-Malabar church, who one Sunday celebrated the Syro-Malabar liturgy for everyone. I wasn’t able to go, but they kept the program that described the liturgy. I would love a chance to attend such a liturgy, but it’s not too likely here in Arkansas. I found little details like the use of the curtain in front of the altar and the recitation of the Our Father early in the Mass to be pretty interesting.

Since that time, I read up on the history of the Church of the East in a book by Samuel Moffett (A History of Christianity in Asia). He includes significant material on the Malabar church and its relationship with the Church of the East. This helped explain how the liturgies of these churches were similar.

Overall, I would say I am in awe of the Syro-Malabar church and its history and customs, and I would love to learn more.

I’m trying to figure out why you bothered to make a post denigrating the Knanaites, backed up by unsubstantiated statements as to their historical origin. The seemingly unfettered willingness of some in the Churches of the Saint Thomas Christians to bash their fellow St Thomas Christians amazes me - and not in a good way.

That the Knanaites are permitted, within the Churches to which they belong, to serve according to a form of liturgical praxis overlaid on that of the parent Churches, should be evidence enough that - regardless of origins - they are considered and accepted as persons of faith within those parent Churches. That their communities are endogenous is, or should be, of little to no consequence to any outside of those and, frankly, cannot be considered that out of the ordinary in a larger society that has a history based on rigid rules associated with castes that effectively created endogenous pockets of its own.

The further diversity that their presence affords to the Churches, Catholic and Orthodox, of which they are faithful, if anything, adds to the glory that the diverse Oriental Christian Communities bring to their liturgical worship.

Hi gferrer,

It is interesting to know about the word of mouth publicity that we Syro Malbarians Get . lol. Normally we attend the Syro Malabar rite mass in Malayalam. But two weeks ago I came to know about the little chapel just two minutes away from my house where every Tuesday and Thursday the mass is conducted in English ie the English literal translation of the Malayalam liturgy. I noted during the first ever English version of Syro Malabar version of the mass that I attended that the changes that are brought in Roman rite recently in terms of the literal translation of consecration words by the priests and certain response from the congregation were indeed followed faithfully in Syro Malbar rite since the beginning of the formation of Syro Malabar Liturgy! I felt great and just adored when the priest said in English " for many" instead of for all “and with your spirit” by the congregation etc. of course these are just few.


kandisa alaha-syro malabar mass

Anuthapageetham or song of remorse is sung to the last of the syro malabar qurbana just before receiving the Eucharist. The song asks the Lord for forgiveness of sins of the community. It calls for forgiving others’ trespasses and living with love and harmony.This song in syriac is set to one of popular old tunes. It can be seen that female voice is prominent which is unusual.Also many of the traditional instruments such as violin, harmonium, triangle, drum have been replace with the electronic organ.

Halleluia-syro malabar syriac mass.

Hallelujah or Halleluia or some times ‘Hallel loyya’ in Malayalam is a melodious song sung just before the reading of the gospel.While the song is being sung the celebrant blesses the incense and goes to the altar for taking the Holy Gospel.He returns covering his face with it and blesses the congregation.The tune used here is old and well remembered…

syro malabar syriac mass-onisa drase

The song" is sung during the syro mabar mass when the celebrant prepares the host and wine before its actual consecration later in the mass.The song here is the Syriac original and the tune is still used by many priests while singing the song in Malayalam.The congregation praise the Lord as holy thrice during this song.It also call for great fear and respect for the body and blood of Christ…

This is one of the most melodious songs in the syro Malabar qurbana.This is the Syriac original of the song.The song invokes the memory of Mother Mary,Mar Thoma,all blessed souls on the altar during the qurbana.The song extorts the congregation to lead a life of prayer and repentance. The tune used here is still used by many priests while singing the song in Malayalam.The syro Malabar qurbana was entirely said in Syriac until 1954 when the church started to phase it out in favor of Malayalam.Now only a handful of old priests and laymen can remember it or sing along.This video is tribute to great liturgical traditions of the Syrian Christians…

Thank you for posting those links. :slight_smile: The Syriac pronunciation is a little different than I’m used to, but with a little effort I was able to follow, even without an actual text.

One thing that strikes me is that they’re all “old” and reflect the actual Syriac versions of the various parts, but as I understand it, hearing anything at all in Syriac in the Syro-Malabar Church is quite a rarity these days, with the possible exception of Changanassery diocese.

Another thing that is striking is, that while the old photos show Latin vestments, it’s clear that the altar was used. The modern photos in the videos all show Syriac-style vestments, but all also show the versus populum table being used in Novus Ordo fashion. :frowning:

hopefully things are changing Now :thumbsup:

Hopefully so but from what I understand, not at all in the US diocese. Maybe in Changanassery, but I hear that the Novus Ordo is alive and well in most of the other dioceses in Kerala.

ya its true but we canot blame the people for that because the reason is more historical:(

Metropolitan Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly.(Most latinized)
Metropolitan Archeparchy Changanassery.(Oriental)
Metropolitan Archeparchy of Kottayam.(Southist(Knanaya)Oriental)
Metropolitan Archeparchy of Tellicherry.(Oriental)
Metropolitan Archeparchy of Thrissur.(Partially Latin&partially oriental)

*Even Metropolitan Archeparchy of Thrissur were oriental up to AD 1850 .The Chaldean Patriarch Mar Joseph Audo sent two bishops. Mar Thoma Rocos came in 1861 and was sent away in 1862. Mar Yohanon Elia Mellus reached Trichur on 1874 and was compelled to leave in 1882.They resided in Trichur church(Marth mariam) that was built in 1814.

Upon his arrival in Kerala, Bishop Rocos applied himself to persuading the local Catholics of the regularity of his mission, saying that the Chaldean Patriarch had been ordered by the Holy See to consecrate him for the care of the Patriarch’s Christian communities. His fallacious claims weakened the faithful and were a source of great divisions. Soon, the majority of Syro-Malabar parishioners had left their rightful shepherd of the Latin rite, the Apostolic Vicar of Verapoly, in order to place themselves under the authority of the intruder bishop. Indeed, faithful and priests alike were very happy to welcome a bishop of their rite, whom they had hoped for for some time, and they supported Bishop Rocos’ aims and behavior as best they could. Of 154 Syro-Malabar parishes, 86 joined Bishop Rocos completely and another 30 partially; only 38 remained faithful to the legitimate authority.
Later, Patriarch Joseph VI Audo himself wrote from Rome to Bishop Rocos to request his return to Mesopotamia.

One Priest Anthony Thondanat had approached the Chaldean Patriarch Mar Joseph Audo, consecrator of Mar Thoma Rocos, to consecrate him as a metropolitan. The Latin authorities in Mosul did not permit the Patriarch to consecrate a bishop for India. That is the reason why he went to the mountains of Kurdistan, north of Mosul and requested Mar Ruwel Shimun Patriarch(Asyrian) to consecrate him. Priest Anthony was consecrated by the name Mar Abdisho in Mar Shallitha Cathedral in Kochanes (spelt Qudshanis).

But this created confusion among the Syro Malabar Christians and later some of the Syro Malabar Catholics(Less than 30,000 now) Accepted Priest Anthony as their bishop and became The Chaldean (Asyrians) church in India. And a series of court case started regarding the possession of churches between Catholics and Assyrians(Chaldean’s in India). Catholics won all the churches except one in Thrissur.So Catholics build a new church(Dolours basilica) near to their old church (Martha mariam church).This is the reason why Archeparchy of Thrissur is against the adoption of oriental(Chaldean) practices(To avoid any future claim by Assyrian or Chaldean patriarch over the the church in Malabar).

Although I’m not convinced that it fully explains the wholesale adoption of so many Novus Ordo-inspired neo-latinizations, that is most interesting. :slight_smile:

I noticed mention made of Kottayam and the Knanaya. As I mentioned earlier in this thread, it would be interesting to know what, if any, liturgical differences there are between the Knanaya and the Syro-Malabar Church in general.

Also, I’ve been listening to the Raza and it’s quite striking. One question that comes to mind is where was it recorded? In the pre-Novus Ordo days, how common was the Raza? How much does it differ from the standard Qurbana? And although I fear I know the answer already, the last question is can such a Raza still be found anywhere?

Here are some quick facts and a brief history of the Syro Malabar Church:
The Syro-Malabar Church is an Oriental (Eastern Rite) Catholic Church, one of the 21 Oriental Catholic Churches worldwide. The 21 Oriental Churches and the Latin Church together form the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, a Communion of 22 individual Churches under the Pope.

With a population of approx 4 million, we are a very vibrant church and are the second largest eastern rite church, being second only to the eastern rite Ukrainian Church. In 1992, Pope John Paul II raised us to the level of a Major Archiepiscopal Church. We have 26 dioceses (and expanding), of which five are Archdioceses. We are currently headed by Major Archbishop George Alencherry, who succeeded Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, who passed away recently.

The term “Syro-Malabar" refers to the East Syrian or Chaldean tradition we follow and to the Malabar Coast where Apostle Thomas landed in AD 52. It is believed that he came to India and landed at Kodungallur on the Kerala (south west India) coast. He preached the Gospel to the high caste families of Kerala, many of whom received the faith. He established several churches and moved on to the East coast of India. He was martyred near Little Mount, Madras (now Chennai) and his body was brought to Mylapore (Near Madras) and was buried there.

A connection to the East Syrian Church (Chaldean) was established after the arrival of another Thomas and several families from Cana (Knai Thomman) in the 4th century. This infused new blood to the sagging old church established by St.Thomas and the church began to be ruled by East Syrian (Chaldean) bishops… The Indian church however, did not join the East-Syrian Church or priests from India were not made bishops. This situation lasted for about eleven centuries.

With the arrival of the Portuguese explorer, Vasco De Gama to Calicut on the Kerala Coast in 1498, a Latin connection began to take shape. The Portugese were happy to discover the St.Thomas Christians on the West coast of India, but did not like their connection to East-Syrian Church. Pointing out some expressions in their liturgical texts, the Portugese alleged that St.Thomas Christians believed in the Nestorian Heresy. The Synod of Diamper (Udayamperur) in 1599 convened by the Latin Archbishop Menezes of Goa brought an end to the connection between St.Thomas Christians and East-Syrian Church. St.Thomas Christian Church, thus became a colonial Church of the Portugese.

The Latin connection also brought division to the St.Thomas Christians. The Coonan Cross Oath in 1653 at the Church of Our Lady of Life at Mattanchery was the culmination of several years of latinization by the Portuguese, and the crowd gathered there took an oath that they would not be subject to the Portuguese Archbishop of Goa, Francis Garcia. This revolt eventually split the Church into two: one group continued to recognize the prelates appointed by Rome and the other broke away from Rome and joined the West-Syrian Jacobite Church of Antioch. This group came to be known as the Jacobites (Puthankootukar) or Syrian Orthodox Church of India. The Marthomites separated from the Jacobites in the 19th century due to Anglican Church influence. The Jacobites were further divided into two groups: Methran Kakshi or the Bishop’s group (Syrian Orthodox Church of India) whose Catholicos or supreme head resides at Devalokam, Kottayam and the Bhava Kakshi or Patriarch’s Group (Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church of India) whose head is the Antiochene Jacobite Patriach.

After the Coonan Cross Oath, Rome began to take an active interest in the Kerala Christians. Several Carmelite monks were sent to Kerala and Carmelite Vicar Apostolics were residing at Varapuzha. Also, the Portuguese nominated administrators or archbishops for Malabar who were stationed at Kodungallur. This dual jurisdiction also was cause for complaints to Rome. In 1787, Representatives from 84 churches assembled in Angamly and drew up a document called Angamaly Padiyola which made a strong demand to Rome for native bishops, citing the sins of omission and commission of the foriegn missionaries. In 1861, the arrival of a Chaldean Catholic bishop, Thomas Rokkos sent by the Chaldean patriach created more problems. He was excommunicated on his arrival by the Vicar apostolic of Varapuzha, and a schism followed. Another Chaldean bishop, Elias Melus arrived in 1874 and he too met the same fate. The Syrian Christians, popularly known as the Surais, in and around Thrissur who owe allegiance to the Syrian Nestorian patriarch are the followers of the schism Melus created.

Finally in 1887, Pope Leo XIII decreed the separation of Rite of St.Thomas Catholics from that of the Latins.

There is no liturgical differences between the Southist(Knanaya) catholics and the Syro-Malabar Catholics.

Southist(Knanaya)[Around 200,000 people]

50% with Syro Malabar Catholic.====following East Syrian rite
50% with Jacobite (Syrian orthodox in India)==Following West Syrian rite

This is the Syriac version of the “current” Syro Malabar qurbana recorded in 2006 (From Changanachery).

Description by the priest at the starting…

This is the Syriac version of the revised Syromalabar Raza qurbana approved by Rome.The full version published from Rome in 2003 as yedisho tipica?.

Before 1960 our qurbana was fully in Syriac &and heavily latinized:(.After Vatican 2 We are using this revised(or restored?) version of qurbana inMalayalam(Our native language).

About the difference from the standard version .this is our standard version but the latinized diocese’s use their own version(facing people.addition of latin type prayers,removal of some part etcc ) :mad::mad:

Now we use this Syriac qurbana on special occasion’s only

Thank you for clearing that up for me. :slight_smile:

I thought it might have been from Changanassery. :wink:

Anyway, from listening to it, and judging by the liturgical flow, it sounds to me to be more of a restoration. I don’t have access to it right now, but I have (somewhere) an English translation of the pre-1960 version. Is there an on-line source for an English-language version of the current one? That would be helpful for comparative purposes. (Best, of course, would be comparing the two versions in Syriac, but since I doubt they exist (at least online), I’ll have to settle for second-best.) I wonder if anyone has posted a video of the whole Raza (in Syriac)?

Well, special occasions are better than never. :slight_smile: It’s nice to know that the Syriac hasn’t been discarded completely, at least in a few dioceses. :wink: :smiley:

Here is a very informative website I found about the Syro Malabar Church

I like the photo gallery of churches:

Are these the traditional style for Malabar churches?

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