Malankara World

Faith of the Church

Malankara's Mythical Minefields

Myth 3: The demand for co-equal status between the Catholicos and the Patriarch cannot be entertained because it is an exclusively Byzantine concept.

Fact: by Georgy S. Thomas, Bangalore:

The Byzantine Church is composed of the four ancient sees of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, and 11 other autocephalous churches. (Source: encarta) The heads of all these churches are considered equals with only the primacy of honor granted to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople (Istanbul)*. In other words, he is considered the first among equals and exercises only moral authority over the 14 other autocephalous churches in the Byzantine communion. The Metran faction of the Malankara Orthodox Church wants the same concept adopted in the relationship between the Syriac Patriarch and the Catholicos of Malankara. Our Jacobite brothers counter it by saying that the concept of first among equals does not exist among the Oriental Orthodox communion. This contention is not based on a correct interpretation of the facts on the ground:

a.) Let me quote from articles 1 and 2 of the protocol signed between the Eritrean Orthodox Church (EOC) and the Coptic Orthodox Church.

Article 1: The Church of Alexandria recognizes the autocephaly (independence) of the Eritrean Orthodox Church

Article 2: His Holiness, the Pope of Alexandria, being the successor of St. Mark the Apostle, has the first position of honor, in accordance with the Church traditions and the resolutions of the canonical ecumenical councils confessed by the two Churches and also due to the historical links between the two Churches, in a manner that does not belittle the independent status of the EOC.

This protocol clearly states that for the EOC, the status of the Patriarch of Alexandria is that of first among equals. It also makes it clear that such an honor does not take way from the independent status of the EOC. Here's a link for those interested. (I thank Thomas Paul for bringing this page to my notice. I wouldn't have located it on my own.)

b.) Let me also quote from the history page on the website of the Catholicate of Cilicia at Antilyas (Lebanon), narrating the relationship between the Catholicate of Cilicia and the Catholicate of Ejmiadzin: "Therefore, since 1441, there have been two Catholicates in the Armenian Church with equal rights and privileges, and with their respective jurisdictions. The primacy of honor of the Catholicate of Etchmiadzin has always been recognized by the Catholicate of Cilicia."

This makes it clear that both the Catholicoi at Antilyas and Ejmiadzin enjoy "equal rights and privileges", but the Catholicos at Ejmiadzin enjoy the honor of being first among equals. Here's a link.

Conclusion: The concept of first among equals is generally associated with the Byzantine Church. But the examples of the Armenian Church and the Eritrean Church show that it's not non-existent among the Oriental Orthodox communion. Our Jacobite brothers should at least be willing to discuss the issue calmly for arriving at a meeting of minds.

Note: *Present incumbent Bartholomew I (since 1991).
 

Response by Very Rev. Kuriakose Moolayil, CorEpiscopa:

The 'Primacy of Equals'

The Protocol of primacy between the Patriarch and the Catholicose in the Syrian Orthodox Church is the next issue dealt by our friend Georgy. He defines first his 'myth' as follows. I quote, "Conclusion: The concept of first among equals is generally associated with the Byzantine Church."

He claims in his Myth that 'someone' says that this concept of 'co equality' is 'exclusively' Byzantine and after his detailed explanations, he concludes by saying that it is 'generally' associated with the Byzantine Church. Here his own difference of concept is identifiable in his two words, 'exclusively and generally'.

Let us see the facts of the concept of 'equality' of the Patriarch and the Catholicose in the Syrian Orthodox Church. Before entering into the details I invite you all to read again the fact reported by Georgy on the concept of terms 'primacy of honor and first among equals'.

"Fact: The Byzantine Church is composed of the four ancient sees of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, and 11 other autocephalous churches. (Source: http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761572657_2/Orthodox_/Church.html). The heads of all these churches are considered equals with only the primacy of honor granted to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople (Istanbul)*. In other words, he is considered the first among equals and exercises only moral authority over the 14 other autocephalous churches in the Byzantine communion. The Metran faction of the Malankara Orthodox Church wants the same concept adopted in the relationship between the Syriac Patriarch and the Catholicose of Malankara."

He acknowledges these features as exclusively a Byzantine concept and also demands by himself for the MOC the same to be adopted in the relations between the Patriarch and Catholicose of Malankara.

My observations are as follows:

1.The protocol of primacy in the Syrian Orthodox Church should be discussed in the light of the historical settings of facts in the Syrian Church. The Patriarch of Antioch is the spiritual Supreme of the Church of Antioch and all the East by virtue of the canonical decision of the General Council of Nicea. This was really a canonization on the basis of the prevailing factual situation in the Church. There also was another dignitary in the Syrian Church titled 'Great Metropolitan of the East', created for the smooth functioning of the Eastern part of the church in the 3rd century. This Great Metropolitan was given the title of the 'Catholicose' by another canonical decision of the Council of Nicea. It is again mentioned there about the protocol of seating and mentioning of his name etc. This is the basis of all concepts of the protocol and primacy of the Patriarch and Catholicose in the SOC. If we are thinking about these posts outside the Syrian Church there we can see many other models like that of the Byzantines or the Armenians where they have a Patriarch(titular) under their Catholicose or there are double titled posts as among the Georgians, known as Cathicose-Patriarch.

2.When this Catholicose embraced Nestorianism they proclaimed themselves autocephalous and equalled him to the supreme head of any other Church. So they claimed equality with the Patriarch. Because their immediate rival was the Patriarch of Antioch and so they equalled the Catholicose with him. Again this situation arose outside the Syrian Orthodox Church. The former post of the Catholicose as per the protocol of the Nicean canon was continuing there in the East as the Maphrian. So here the protocol of primacy should be judged on the basis of the Nicean canon and the ecclesial relations as seen between the Patriarch and the Maphrian. This can be seen in the History of Bar Ebroyo.

3.Now let us see what happened in Malankara: The unchallenged catholicate in Malankara was established in 1964. What was the protocol then? The famous statement by Augen Bava to Vettikkunnel achan,Manarcadu, explains by itself. When Achan invited Augen Bava to Manarcadu to participate in the reception along with Yacoob 111 bava, Augen Bava replied, 'Thalayullidathu Valum Undu'( Where the head is there will be the tail). The pledge of Augen Bava at the time of his installation is also another pointer to this. Every act and word of Augen Bava from 64-70 disproves the claims of Georgy. I request here to read the documents I have collected and compiled in my book, 'Perumpilly Thirumeni:Malankara Sabhayude Kal Noottandu' to know more about this.

4.What happened in 1912? What was Mor Abdul Messiah doing in 1912? Was he creating a new post equal in rank to him in Malankara? His circular says that he was transferring the Maphrianate of Tigris to Malankara.(I am not going here into the inaccuracies of his act here. Those interested can read my book ' Pourathya Catholica Sthapanathinte Yadhartha Nila')We are all told that the Catholicate in Malankara is the continuation of the Catholicate/Maphriante in the Syrian Orthodox Church. The installation and related issues of the 1912 Catholicate prove to this effect. Then where comes the status of equality or primacy of honor, etc.? Georgie's ideas are really a misfit to the history of the Catholicate of the SOC and the documents related to the transferring of it to Malankara where it be in 1912 or in 1964.

5. Eritrean example of the protocol signed with the Alexandrean church is not a model to the historical settings of the establishment in the SOC for 17 plus centuries. It is a very new establishment and as I mentioned earlier it is the aftermath of an autocephalous declaration of a church on 'national' spirit. If the MOC catholicate is accepted as a Catholicate similar to the Eritrean hierarchy formed by the separation from its mother church, then we will have to think of such a protocol to be made to differentiate with the lineage of the Catholicate/Maphrianate that was in existence in the SOC. In my opinion it is not the model for the canonically bound Catholicate , but it may be useful for the peaceful coexistence of the 'national' Catholicate with the Catholicate of SOC lineage. I am only happy to accept such a catholicate in India because it is a fact and none could revert it. Just as the formation of the independent Ethiopian or the Eritrean church and its autocephalous hierarchy, the IOC autocephalous Catholicate is a reality. It should be accepted as its with its own claims. I think we must jointly work to get it accepted among both factions and should try to get it accepted mutually. My humble plea in this context will be to invite my IO friends also to reciprocate by trying to uphold our views and concepts of the lineage of the Catholicate in the traditions and history of the SOC. Respecting our views and allowing our people and parishes to continue in their concepts will evolve new 'protocols' in the Eritrean model and it will settle all litigations and strives at parish levels.

Next: Myth 4: Even if the concept of autocephaly exists within the Oriental Orthodox tradition, it would serve no purpose in Malankara, and on the contrary, would only help to divide the church.

Previous: Myth 2: Autocephaly is an exclusively Byzantine (Greek Orthodox) concept and is alien to the Oriental Orthodox

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