Malankara World

Faith of the Church

Malankara's Mythical Minefields

Myth 6: The Catholicos of the Jacobite faction in India is the no. 2 in the universal Syriac Church.

Fact: by Georgy S. Thomas, Bangalore:

There's no Catholicos in the real sense of the term in the Syriac Church. The Indian wing of the church is actually headed by a Maphryan/Maphryono. This is because although the head of the Indian wing of the Syriac Church takes the title Catholicos, Damascus envisages the arrangement as one of a Maphryan presiding over a Maphryanite. In the Syriac Church, the terms 'Maphryan/Maphryono' and 'Catholicos' are used interchangeably, but the two are conceptually different. The Catholicos was a title used by the independent Persian Church right from the time it was undivided. After a majority in the church accepted the Nestorian heresy, it should be assumed that both the Nestorian and monophysite Persian churches continued to use the title for their prelates. The weakened monophysite Persian Church increasingly gravitated towards the Syriac Church for spiritual support. It was a relationship that blew hot and cold, with the Persians occasionally reasserting their will to signal their independent traditions in the face of provocations from the Syriacs. Somewhere in between, the Syriacs started using the term Maphryan for the Catholicos. In the Maphryan, they saw only a regional prelate obedient to the diktats of the Antiochian Church. The relationship continued to be a troubled one (please refer to the Catholicate History which was serialized in this forum by Rev. Fr. Thomas P Mundukuzhy), and finally in 1860 the Syriac Synod abolished the Maphryanite. And thus was forcefully ended a tradition in the Syriac Church which was constantly perceived as a thorn in the flesh because these Christians used to assert their independent heritage occasionally and considered themselves St Thomas Christians. It should be mentioned here that all Persian Churches, be they Catholic or Nestorian, consider St Thomas as their founder.

Why The Jacobites Use The Title Catholicos For Their Prelate?

When the Catholicate was relocated from Tikrit (actually Mosul) to India in 1912 under the authorization of Patriarch Abdul Masih II, Malankara was embarking on a well thought out path to self-actualization. What was envisaged was not the transfer of the moth-eaten Maphryanite obeying the diktats of the Syriacs, but the independent Persian Catholicate with all its rights and privileges. Its tradition of being a church founded by St Thomas was also identical to our own. There was logic and beauty in this scheme of arrangement. The Persian Church of Tikrit accepted the monophysite doctrine of the Syriacs, but they had their own independent traditions of being St Thomas Christians as well. Malankara too was similarly placed. The Constitution that the Church formulated in 1934 clearly demarcated the boundaries between Malankara and the Syriac Church - no temporal authority for the Patriarch in Malankara, but he continues to be spiritually superior.

Even though they had their own supporters in India, the Syriacs who considered the Indian Church as their colony were alarmed and didn't want this notion to be left unchallenged. They realised that in course of time, all of Malankara would gravitate towards the Church, drawn by the sense of self-respect and pride it would instill in its members. Therefore, they forced the hand of their supporters to initiate litigation against the Catholicate.

The series of litigations initiated by the Patriarchal faction which began with suit No.111 of 1113 filed on March 10, 1938*, at the District Court of Kottayam and which finally ended with the Supreme Court judgement of September 12, 1958, had one goal as its main objective - declare the Catholicos and his supporters as heretics. The honorable Supreme Court saw the injustice in this and delivered a comprehensive verdict denying their contentions. This verdict had the salutary effect of ushering peace once again in Malankara. But it was not a peace that would last. When the Church split once again, the Patriarch consecrated a rival prelate for his wing and conferred the title Catholicos on him forgetting the fact that Damascus had continuously opposed the concept of Catholicate all along.

Our Jacobite brothers, who too had consistently opposed the concept of a Catholicate in Malankara from 1912 onwards, and had just ended an uneasy unity under a Catholicos in a bitter manner, suddenly jettisoned their rancorous, often violent opposition to the idea, and accepted Damascus' gift of the title of Catholicos for their own prelate. Surely, we labored and they too profited?

They then went one step further and named the prelate so consecrated as Baselios Paulose II. Any idea who was Baselios Paulose I? No prizes for guessing.

Further Value Erosion For The Maphryanite

But it would seem that the Syriacs are not satisfied with even this weakened Maphryanite. While technically, the Maphryono is the No.2 in hierarchy within the Syriac Orthodox Church, his name is mentioned in the diptych (toob-den) during the Holy Qurbana only in India, while the name of the Patriarch is mentioned in all the Syriac churches of the world (See article 'The Concept of Jurisdiction and Authority in the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch' by His Grace Mor Gregorios Johanna Ibrahim, archbishop of Aleppo), available at this link.

In other words, most Suryoyo laity of the Syriac Orthodox Church has no conception of the existence of a Maphryono in his/her church. If the church claims to be universal, why this discrimination?

Matters don't seem to end there. It seems that even the No.2 position granted to the Maphryono in the Syriac Church cannot be taken for granted. The archbishop of Istanbul in the Syriac Church, Mor Filiksinos Yusuf Cetyn, for instance, thinks he is the Deputy Patriarch.

Does the Deputy Patriarch outrank the Maphryono? Damascus needs to clarify instead of insulting our people any further.

Catholicoi Head Independent Churches

Here is a list of the prelates of various Christian churches who take the title Catholicos. The listing is in no particular order:

1.) Catholicos Dinkha IV (born 1935, elected 1976)
Full Title: Catholicos-Patriarch of the Church Of The East
Place of Residence: Morton Grove, Illinois, US
Name of Church: Assyrian Church of the East

2) Catholicos Mar Addai II (born 1948, elected 1973)
Full Title: Catholicos-Patriarch of the East
Place of Residence: Baghdad, Iraq
Name of Church: Ancient Church of the East

3) Catholicos Karekin II (born 1951, elected 1999)
Full Title: Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians
Place of Residence: Ejmiadzin, Armenia
Name of Church: Armenian Apostolic Church

4.) Catholicos Aram I Keshishian (born 1947, elected 1995).
Full Title: Catholicos of Cilicia
Place of Residence: Antilyas, Lebanon
Name of Church: Armenian Apostolic Church

5.) Catholicos Ilia II (born 1932, elected 1977)
Full Title: Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia
Place of Residence: Tbilsi, Georgia
Name of Church: Georgian Orthodox Church

6.) Catholicos Baselios Marthoma Didymos I (born 1920, elected 2005)
Full Title: Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan
Place of Residence: Kottayam, India
Name of Church: Indian Orthodox Church

As you can see from the above list**, the Catholicoi head churches of different traditions ranging from Nestorian to Greek Orthodox to Oriental Orthodox. But if there's one factor connecting all of them, it's the fact that all of them head independent churches and are answerable to only their respective synods. The only exception to this model is the Jacobite faction in India, which is envisaged as a regional prelate position within the Syriac Orthodox Church. I consider this as compelling evidence to the fact that the Jacobite faction in the Malankara Sabha is headed not by a Catholicos, but by a Maphryan.

Conclusion:

An overview of the history of the Catholicate in Persia and India, and the consistent hostility which the Jacobite faction displayed against the Catholicate concept right through its inception in India, leads us to conclude that their present adoption of the title for their prelate in India is based on a different point of view. World over, the Catholicoi of Christian Churches enjoy independence in decision-making and are answerable only to their synods. Here too, the weight of evidence leads us to conclude that the head of the Jacobite Church in India is not a Catholicos in the real sense of the term, and is actually a Maphryan.

Note:

*Known as the Samudayam suit. The original suit was first initiated by the Patriarchal faction on August 21, 1928 (O.S.2 of 1104) in the District Court of Kottayam against Vattasseril Thirumeni and the then Catholicos Baselios Geevarghese I. After they lost and appealed to the High Court, they "allowed it to be dismissed for non-prosecution". Subsequently, they instituted the Samudayam suit in 1938. Therefore, in 1928 and 1938, it was our Jacobite brothers who slapped suits on us asking the courts to declare us as heretics. This gives the lie to the Jacobite internet urban legend that we are vexatious litigants.

** The Roman Catholics have counter-churches (uniates) for entry nos. 1, 3, and 6 in the above list. They are the Chaldean Catholic Church, Armenian Catholic Church, and the Syro-Malankara Church respectively. The heads of the first two churches take the title Patriarch and not Catholicos. In the case of the third, its prelate Archbishop Cyril Mar Baselios recently made an attempt to assume the Catholicos title. But thanks to the intervention of the Indian Orthodox Church through HG Eusebios, Vatican itself has disowned the move. Hence the church doesn't find an entry in the listing.

Response by Very Rev. Kuriakose Moolayil, CorEpiscopa:

The Catholicate vs. Mafrianate

The next issue Georgy takes up in his sojourn is the myth he creates to see the Catholicate and the Mafrianate in the Syrian Church as two different ecclesial institutions. I quote Georgy's statement of fact under ''myth' caption and his 'myth' described as 'fact'. Please read him below,

"Myth: The Catholicos of the Jacobite faction in India is the no.2 in the universal Syriac Church.

Fact: There's no Catholicos in the real sense of the term in the Syriac Church. The Indian wing of the church is actually headed by a Maphryan/Maphryono. This is because although the head of the Indian wing of the Syriac Church takes the title Catholicos, Damascus envisages the arrangement as one of a Maphryan presiding over a Maphryanite. In the Syriac Church, the terms `Maphryan/Maphryono' and `Catholicos' are used interchangeably, but the two are conceptually different."

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/IndianOrthodox/message/11325

I have no hesitation to reaffirm that the Catholicose in the Syrian Church is the second in rank in the Syriac Orthodox Church. Georgy tries to see this as a Myth. It is not at a myth as any genuine member of the church can investigate through documents and events in the church. Georgy in his pursuit of degrading the rank of the SOC Catholicate holds on one side the Nestorian hierarchical definition and on the other side holds the Syriac hierarchical system. You have to set your foot at one base. Are you defining the hierarchical position in the Syrian Church or are you mixing the definitions of the posts in the Syrian Church with the traditions of the Nestorian or of any other church.

I have dealt with the Catholicate/Mafrianate issue in one another posting. Anyone interested can go to this link and read that.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SOCM-FORUM/message/7059

Here I will confine only to say that when the Catholicate in Selucea, Persia fell into the Nestorian heresy the SOC had to create the post with the same authority and function in Tigris, Persia under the title Mafrian. This two titles were for differentiation purpose and were used as synonyms. The famous Catholicose Bar Ebraya testifies to this. He says of himself with satisfaction as the second in rank in the Syrian Church. In the 1912 Kalpana of the deposed Patriarch Abdul Messiah it is referred that he is transferring the Mafrianate (of Tigris) to India. (I am not going into the de facto question whether a Patriarch can by himself - here a deposed patriarch- without synod do such an act of establishing a post that was abolished by a synod decision in 1860 referred by Georgy.) The title Catholicose was taken in India in 1912,1964 and again in 1975 by SOC too, because all the reasons for the change of name became irrelevant in the new context in India. The jurisdiction, authority and ecclesial position of Catholicate is equivalent to the Mafriate. That is the reason why Dr.Neale stated that the 'Catholicose means the Mafrian and the Mafrian means the Catholicose'. A look at the photo gallery of the recent patriarchal jubilee celebrations or the consecration of the Patriarch in the year 1980 under the leadership of the late Basilius Poulose 11 will prove the status of the Catholicose/Mafrian in the SOC. There is no conceptual difference between the Catholicose and the Mafrian in the Syrian Church.

2.The next statement to be noted in this thread by Georgy is the following:

"What was envisaged was not the transfer of the moth- eaten Maphryanite obeying the diktats of the Syriacs, but the independent Persian Catholicate with all its rights and privileges."

I don't know why Georgy says this with closed eyes? The 'authorization' letter as described by Georgy of Kumbhom 8, 1913 admonishes that Abdul messiah has ordained a 'MAFRIAN that is the Catholicose' according to their request and never to slacken the Petrine faith upon which holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church is built. By stating that he envisages the MAFRIAN THAT IS THE CATHOLICOSE it is crystal clear that he refers to the 'moth- eaten' Mafrianate of Tigris.The establishment here in 1912 was the real 'diktat' of M.A.Achan and associates! All know even the Kalpana of this helpless deposed Patriarch is another example of the 'diktats' in the 1912 spisode. Archbishop Mor Ivanios testifies to this. The so called Abdul Messiah document has mentioned nothing as authorization connecting to the Persian Catholicate. We are sure that he has no right to do this as well. Nevertheless we are accepting this as an 'accomplished fact' because of the later developments and acceptance followed it in the peace process in the church.

But what is your authority to say the above statement connecting to the Persian Catholicate? Moreover how can you say that he or anyone else can establish an institution within a church with the ecclesial privileges in another church? Can a bishop be ordained in the IOC in accordance with the constitution of the Marthoma Church or the CSI? Any ordination or definition of a position in the hierarchy in the church can only be made in accordance with the canonical settings, theology , synodal decisions and practices of that particular church.

3. I want to ask Georgy how he can co relate the above statement with the following sentence below. In the above, you say that the Catholicate was established in India as independent in the model of the Persian Nestorian church and now you say that the 1934 constitution provides for spiritual primacy of the Patriarch in Malankara.

"The Constitution that the Church formulated in 1934 clearly demarcated the boundaries between Malankara and the Syriac Church- no temporal authority for the Patriarch in Malankara, but he continues to be spiritually superior."

How can an autocephalous independent church with all 'conceptual clarity' with its de facto credentials of antiquity and prestige' can afford to have such a 'humiliation' of a 'foreigner' be its spiritual head. To keep myself brief to the point I am not going into the details of the demarcating lines between the spiritual and temporal authority or whether this temporal authority over the properties are awarded upon the basis of the distance between Kottayam and Damascus or is it on the basis of the citizenship or is it granted in accordance to the validity of the election procedures or on the basis of the acceptance by the people?

4. Georgy in this part has also very wittingly and with a spirit of sarcasm expressed his low estimation of the 'poor' Jacobites who were given the 'gifts' of the post of Catholicose by 'Damascus'. He also tried to limelight that the former litigations were initiated by the Jacobites before 1958. He has given an explanatory note to say that the starting of the litigation in the year 1928 followed by the one started in 1938 were all initiated by the Jacobites. He has emphatically mentioned the 'right' of the Catholicose group in this century to initiate litigations against the Jacobites because their forefathers started the former cases. It is really a very pathetic stoop to justify the unending litigations in this century. If this thread goes there will be no end to it and the net result will be nil. See Georgy's own acceptance of the fact that the litigations did not gave the much sought for 'autocephaly de jure' . He also suggests for the only possibility of the positive result by a consensus to create a peaceful co existance. He says about the Jacobites that they will one day will attain 'self respect' and 'pride' to gravitate with the IO people.

Georgy concludes for their satisfaction that the establishment of the 1975 Catholicate was a result of the 'forgetfulness' of the Patriarch. He says that they were opposing the cause of the Catholicate before. Please read the following words from Georgy himself;

"Our Jacobite brothers, who too had consistently opposed the concept of a Catholicate in Malankara from 1912 onwards, and had just ended an uneasy unity under a Catholicos in a bitter manner, suddenly jettisoned their rancorous, often violent opposition to the idea, and accepted Damascus' gift of the title of Catholicos for their own prelate. Surely, we laboured and they too profited?"

"They then went one step further and named the prelate so consecrated as Baselios Paulose II. Any idea who was Baselios Paulose I? No prizes for guessing."

Some may think that the author of the above statement is a very simple person who ignorantly wrote this. No! Georgy is a very well read person and is a very good researcher. So I am forced to think that he willfully hides some facts and tries to justify his partisan spirit. Georgy, you have to see the facts on the basis of the following points.

1. The Jacobites are not opposed to the concept of the Catholicate in Malankara. We were and is still opposing the illegitimate and uncanonical establishment of the Catholicate.

2. There are no synodal decrees effecting to the establishment or transferring this post.If the 1912 Catholicate is an insitution of the Syriac Church, the Transferring was not consulted with any authority of the church anywhere. If it is a Nestorian establishment, as Georgie says, who has the authority to do this? What is the role of the deposed Patriarch in this?

4.The deposed Patriarch before this installing had uncanonically consecrated a monk as a Metropolitan without following proper and canonical stipulations.

5. He used the same uncanonically consecrated bishop as the co celebrant to consecrate the (voluntarily retired) Murimattom thirumeni as the Catholicose.

6. Moreover after the immediate demise (lived only less than a year) of this old prelate nobody has succeeded in his post, even though the 1913 document known as the 'authorization letter', envisages a successor to be appointed in his place. He was continuing his retired life at Pampakuda evenafter receiving this post of ' self esteem, pride, autocephaly and independence'. Vattaseril Thirumeni was holding the helm of his faction.

7. Even there was no continuity to this uncanonical post for 13 long years.Malankara Metropolitan is proved to be having more powers than the Catholicose.

8. Vattaseril thirumeni never considered the Catholicose as the symbol of authority over church affairs.

9. He was reluctant to receive this post or even participate in the uncanonical installing

Dear Georgy, the Jacobites opposed only the uncanonical post. In 1958 Patriarch accepted the Catholicose 'for the sake of peace' and he came over to preside over the canonical installing of the catholicose in 1964. We the Jacobites welcomed the Catholicose when the post was accepted by a canonical Patriarch in a legal manner and accepted and fully co operated with the catholicose who was duly installed and who stood for the oneness of the Church. When he declared autocephaly we installed a canonical Catholicose in the legitimate lineage of the Catholicate/Mapfianate of the East. Georgie makes fun by asking for the identity of the Poulose 1, in the succession line to Basalius Poulose II, assuming wrongly that it is none other than Murimattom Bava. I cannot believe that Georgie has not read the canonical list of the Mafrians before raising this as an issue. This distortion of lineage was purposefully created in 1975 and the parrot writers are repeating it in our times. I myself had written about this in 1975 itself. Thomas Daniel has pointed it in the posting No.11395
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/IndianOrthodox/message/11395

We, the Jacobites want to continue this post of Catholicose not because of any pseudo 'self respect and pride', but because it was reconstituted in India in the canonical procedure and was created in the correct lineage of the church. So it will have to continue.

Next: Myth 7: The Patriarch enjoys only spiritual overlordship and has no temporal authority over the Indian wing of the Syriac Church.

Previous: Myth 5: The Indian Orthodox Church is legally an autocephalous entity.

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