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Jacobite Syrian Christian Church

Holy Jacobite Syrian Christian Church
Syrian Church Emblem
Founder St.Peter the Apostle
Independence Apostolic Era
Recognition Oriental Orthodox
Primate Catholicos Baselios Thomas I (under the authority of Supreme Patriarch Ignatius Aprem Karim)
Headquarters Kerala, India
Territory Universal
Possessions India, Middle East, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, North America
Language Malayalam, English, Hindi, Syriac
Members 4.7 million

The Jacobite Syrian Christian Church or Malankara Jacobite Syriac Orthodox Church commonly and erroneously referred to as the Jacobites or the Patrigeese Church, is an integral part of the Syriac Orthodox Church, located in Kerala, India. The Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, currently Ignatius Aphrem II, is its supreme head. It functions as a largely autonomous Indian church within the universal church with a provincial episcopal synod, under the authority of the Catholicos of India, ordained by and accountable to the Patriarch of Antioch, currently Baselios Thomas I. Its members are part of the Saint Thomas Christian community, which traces its origins to the evangelistic activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century.[1][2][3][4]

Historically, the Saint Thomas Christians were united in leadership and liturgy, and were part of the Church of the East centred in Persia.[5][6] From the 16th century the Portuguese Jesuits attempted to forcefully bring the community fully into the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church. Resentment of these measures led a part of the community to join the archdeacon, Thomas, in swearing never to submit to the Portuguese in the Coonan Cross Oath in 1653. The part of the church that followed Thomas is known as the Malankara Church.

Following the arrival of the Bishop Syriac Orthodox Church and gradually adopted West Syrian liturgy and practices. Over time, however, relations soured between the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchs and the local hierarchy, particularly after Patriarch Ignatius Peter IV (reigned 1872—1894) demanded registered deeds for the transfer of properties. In 1912, a synod led by the Patriarch Ignatius Abdul Masih II, who had been controversially deposed by the Ottoman government,[7][8] consecrated Evanios as Catholicos of the East, under the name Baselios Paulose I. The faction that supported Baselios Paulose became what is now the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, while those who supported the new Patriarch, Ignatius Abded Aloho II, who opposed that consecration, became the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church. The two groups were briefly reunited between 1958 and 1975, but attempts by church leaders and two Supreme Court decisions were unable to resolve the contention, and the two churches operate independently today.

As part of the Syriac Orthodox communion the church uses the West Syrian liturgy and is part of the Oriental Orthodox group of churches. It has dioceses in most parts of India as well as in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Western Europe, and the Persian Gulf nations. In 2003 it was estimated that the church has 2,000,000 members globally.[9] The members of the Church are known as Nazaranis.

Part of a series on
Saint Thomas Christians
St. Thomas Cross
Alternate names
Nasrani · Mar Thoma Nasrani · Syrian Christians
Saint Thomas · Thomas of Cana · Mar Sabor and Mar Proth · Tharisapalli plates · Synod of Diamper · Coonan Cross Oath
Monuments · Churches · Shrines · Liturgical language · Church music
Prominent persons
Abraham Malpan · Paremmakkal Thoma Kathanar · Kuriakose Elias Chavara · Varghese Payyappilly Palakkappilly · Kariattil Mar Ousep · Gheevarghese Mar Gregorios of Parumala · Geevarghese Mar Ivanios · Saint Alphonsa · Euphrasia Eluvathingal · Thoma of Villarvattom

Margam Kali · Parichamuttukali · Cuisine · Suriyani Malayalam


  • Name 1
  • History 2
    • Divisions among Saint Thomas Christians 2.1
  • Lineage of Catholicose of India 3
  • Dioceses 4
    • Archdioceses (Autonomous) 4.1
    • Dioceses in Kerala 4.2
    • Dioceses in Rest of India 4.3
    • Dioceses in Outside India (Autonomous) 4.4
    • Other Dioceses (Autonomous) 4.5
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


The Church is sometimes referred to as the "Patriarchal faction" or "Bava faction", because of the disputes with the Methran Faction.

In 2000, a Holy Synod ruled that the name of the church in English should be the "'Syriac Orthodox Church". It had been, and often still is today, called the "Syrian Orthodox Church". The church in India uses the term "Jacobite" or 'Bava Faction' as a way to distinguish themselves from the other group known as Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (Indian Orthodox Church) or Methran Faction.

Syriac liturgical calendar is used to mark the observations of fasting and prayer and the preparation for the Eucharist. However, the Malayalam Calendar is used to make the more recent religious events such establishment dates of churches, houses and gravestones. This practice is increasingly superseded by the standard Western Gregorian calendar. The Malayalam numbering of calendar years is 825 years less than the standard.


Relationship of the Nasrani (Saint Thomas Christians) groups

Thomas the Apostle is credited by tradition for founding the Indian Church in 52 AD.[10][11][12] This "Nasrani" faith had many similarities to ancient Judaism, see also Jewish Christianity, and owing to the heritage of the Nasrani people, developed contacts with the Nestorian religious authorities of Edessa, Mesopotamia.

The local church maintained its autonomous character under its local leader. When the Portuguese established themselves in India in the 16th century, they found the Church in Kerala as an administratively independent community. Following the arrival of Vasco de Gama in 1498, the Portuguese came to South India and established their political power there. They brought missionaries to carry out evangelistic work in order to establish churches in communion with Rome under the Portuguese patronage. These missionaries were eager to bring the Indian Church under the Pope's control. They succeeded in their efforts in 1599 with the Synod of Diamper. The representatives of various parishes who attended the assembly were forced by Portuguese authorities to accept the Papal authority.

Following the synod, the Indian Church was governed by Portuguese prelates. They were generally unwilling to respect the integrity of the local church. This resulted in disaffection which led to a general revolt in 1653 known as the "Coonan Cross Oath".Under the leadership of their elder Thomas, Nazranis around Cochin gathered at Mattancherry church on Friday, January 24, 1653 (M.E. 828 Makaram 3) and made an oath that is known as the Great Oath of Bent Cross. The following oath was read aloud and the people touching a stone-cross repeated it loudly. By the Father, Son and Holy Spirit that henceforth we would not adhere to the Franks, nor accept the faith of the Pope of Rome.[13] This reference from the The Missionary Register of 1822 seems to be the earliest reliable document available. Those who were not able to touch the cross tied ropes on the cross, held the rope in their hands and made the oath. Because of the weight it is believed by the followers that the cross bent a little and so it is known as "Oath of the bent cross" (Coonen Kurisu Sathyam). This demanded administrative autonomy for the local church. Since it had no bishop, it faced serious difficulties. It appealed to several eastern Christian churches for help. The Antiochene Syrian Patriarch responded and sent metropolitan Mar Gregorios of Jerusalem to India in 1665. He confirmed Marthoma I as the bishop and worked together with him to organize the Church.

Divisions among Saint Thomas Christians

A protest took place in 1653 with the Coonan Cross Oath. Under the leadership of Archdeacon Thomas, the Thomas Christians publicly took an oath that they would not obey the Jesuit bishops.[14]

Rome sent Carmelites in two groups from the Propagation of the Faith to Malabar headed by Fr. Sebastiani and Fr. Hyacinth. Fr. Sebastiani arrived first in 1655. He began to deal directly with the Archdeacon, Mar Thoma I. Fr. Sebastiani gained the support of many, especially with the support of Parambil Mar Chandy, Alexandar Kadavil and the Vicar of Muttam. These were the three councilors of Mar Thoma I, who were reconciled with Gracia (SJ) before the arrival of Sebastaini, according to Jesuit reports.[14]

Between 1660 and 1662, out of the 116 churches, the Carmelites reclaimed eighty-four churches, leaving Archdeacon Mar Thomas I with thirty-two churches. The eighty-four churches and their congregations were the body from which the Syro Malabar Church has descended. The other thirty-two churches and their congregations represented the nucleus from which the Syriac Orthodox (Jacobites & Orthodox), Thozhiyur, Mar Thoma (Reformed Syrians), Syro Malankara Catholics have originated.[15]

In 1665 Mar Gregorios, a Bishop sent by the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, arrived in India. The group under the leadership of the Archdeacon welcomed him.[16] Though most of the St. Thomas Christians gradually relented in their strong opposition to the Western control, the arrival of the Bishop Mar Gregory of the Syriac Orthodox Church in 1665 marked the beginning of a formal schism among the St. Thomas Christians. Those who accepted the West Syrian theological and liturgical tradition of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch of Mar Gregory became known as the Jacobite, The Syrian Catholics remained in communion with Rome and later came to be known as the Syro Malabar Church.[16]

Lineage of Catholicose of India

  • 1. Baselios Augen I (before 1975) – (Catholicos of United Malankara Church. After schism, Baselios Augen I continued as Catholicos of Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church in 1975)
Also known as Catholicos of India


The Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church has the following dioceses

Archdioceses (Autonomous)

There are Archdioceses under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Antioch:

  1. Knanaya Archdiocese
  2. Region of Chingavanam
  3. Region of Kallisseri
  4. Region of Ranni
  5. Region of USA, Canada and Europe
  6. Malankara Archdiocese of North America
  7. Malankara Archdiocese of Europe
  8. Patriarchal Vicarate of Ireland
  9. Patriarchal Vicarate of UK
  10. Patriarchal vicarate of Germany & Central Europe
  11. Dioceses in Kerala

    1. Trivandrum
    2. Kollam Diocese[17]
    3. Thumpamon Diocese[18]
    4. Niranam Diocese[19]
    5. Kottayam Diocese[20]
    6. Idukki Diocese[21]
    7. Kandanad Diocese[22]
    8. Kochi Diocese[23]
    9. Angamaly(Largest Diocese)
    10. Thrissur Diocese[24]
    11. Kozhikode Diocese[25]
    12. Malabar Diocese[26]

    Dioceses in Rest of India

    1. Mangalore DIocese
    2. Bangalore DIocese
    3. Mylapore DIocese[27] (formerly Chennai Diocese)
    4. Bombay Diocese
    5. New Delhi Diocese[28]

    Dioceses in Outside India (Autonomous)

    1. Middle East Diocese - -Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Yemen
    2. Australia & New Zealand
    3. Singapore & Malaysia

    Other Dioceses (Autonomous)

    There are dioceses under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Antioch.

    1. Honavar Mission[29]
    2. EAE (Evangelical Association of the East) Churches[30]
    3. Simhasana Churches

    The last two had been formed as autonomous bodies in the early 20th century, to escape from the onslaught of civil court cases arisen from disputes with the rival Orthodox Church of India(Malankara Orthodox Church).

    See also



    • Holy Mass of the Jacobite Syrian Church

    Complete video of the Holy Mass [Holy Qurbano] of the Jacobite Syrian Church:

    • Part 1
    • Part 2
    1. ^ Menachery G (1973) The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopedia of India, Ed. George Menachery, B.N.K. Press, vol. 2, ISBN 81-87132-06-X, Lib. Cong. Cat. Card. No. 73-905568; B.N.K. Press – (has some 70 lengthy articles by different experts on the origins, development, history, culture... of these Christians, with some 300 odd photographs).
    2. ^ Leslie Brown, (1956) The Indian Christians of St. Thomas. An Account of the Ancient Syrian Church of Malabar, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1956, 1982 (repr.)
    3. ^ Thomas Puthiakunnel, (1973) "Jewish colonies of India paved the way for St. Thomas", The Saint Thomas Christian Encyclopedia of India, ed. George Menachery, Vol. II., Trichur.
    4. ^ NSC Network (2007) St. Thomas, India mission- Early reference and testimonies
    5. ^ Frykenberg, p. 93.
    6. ^ Wilmshurst, EOCE, 343
    7. ^ Vadakkekara, p. 95.
    8. ^ Tamcke, p. 214.
    9. ^ Fahlbusch, Erwin; Lochman, Jan Milic; Mbiti, John S.; Vischer, Lukas; Bromiley, Geoffrey William (2003). The Encyclopedia Of Christianity (Encyclopedia of Christianity) Volume 5. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. p. 285.  
    10. ^ Medlycott, A E. 1905 "India and the Apostle Thomas"; Gorgias Press LLC; ISBN 1-59333-180-0.
    11. ^ N.M.Mathew. St. Thomas Christians of Malabar Through Ages. CSS Tiruvalla. (2003). ISBN 81-7821-008-8.
    12. ^ Origin of Christianity in India - A Historiographical Critique by Dr. Benedict Vadakkekara. (2007). ISBN 81-7495-258-6.
    13. ^ The Missionary Register for M DCCC XXII. October 1822, Letter from Punnathara Mar Dionysious (Mar Thoma XI)to the Head of the Church Missionary Society. [1] For a translation of it out of Syriac, by Professor Lee, see page 431- 432. Only the English text is published.
    14. ^ a b Eugene Cardinal Tisserant, "Eastern Christianity in India"
    15. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia profile of "St. Thomas Christians" - The Carmelite Period
    16. ^ a b Thekkedath, History of Christianity in India”
    17. ^ Kollam Diocese
    18. ^ Thumpamon Diocese
    19. ^ Niranam Diocese
    20. ^ Kottayam Diocese
    21. ^ Idukki Diocese
    22. ^ Kandanad Diocese
    23. ^ Kochi Diocese
    24. ^ Thrissur Diocese
    25. ^ Kozhikode Diocese
    26. ^ Malabar Diocese
    27. ^ Mylapore Diocese
    28. ^ Delhi Diocese
    29. ^ Honavar Mission
    30. ^ *Evangelical Association of the East

    External links

    • Jacobite Syrian Christian Church
    • Online Community and News Site of Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church
    • News Site Of Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church
    • Indian Christianity
    • Malankara Syriac Orthodox Resources
    • Malankara Jacobite Syriac Christian Network
    • Nazranies/Thomas Christians/Syrian Christians
    • News portal of Malankara Jacobite Syriac Christian Network
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