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Syro-Malankara Church to hold 1st general assembly

September 20, 2011

The Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, an Eastern Catholic church with 420,000 faithful, is holding the first general assembly in its history.

The church’s history reaches back to the apostolic age. In AD 52, St. Thomas the Apostle preached the Gospel in what is now the southwestern Indian state of Kerala. The St. Thomas Christians in time adopted the Chaldean liturgical tradition, now used by the Chaldean Catholic Church and the separated Assyrian Church of the East. When Portuguese explorers encountered the St. Thomas Christians in 1498, the latter professed the primacy of the Pope.

Latin-rite Catholicism established a firm foothold with the arrival of St. Francis Xavier; using Goa as his base, he preached in western India from 1542 to 1545. In time, the Portuguese Latin rite hierarchy angered many St. Thomas Christians down the coast by imposing changes on the ancient Chaldean liturgy.

In 1653, thousands of St. Thomas Christians left the Catholic Church and sought communion with the Syrian Orthodox Church, forming the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, which now numbers 2.5 million members. A Malankara Orthodox Syrian monk and bishop, Geevarghese Mar Ivanios, was reconciled with the Holy See in 1930, leading to the formation of the Syro- Malankara Catholic Church, which now has celebrates the sacred liturgy according to the Antiochan tradition.

The cause of beatification of Archbishop Mar Ivanios--hailed by G. K. Chesterton as the “Newman of India” when the two met at a Eucharistic congress in Dublin--was opened in 2007.


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