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India: Ecumenical agreement between Eastern Catholics, other ‘St. Thomas Christians’

December 18, 2009

The bishops of Kerala-- the home of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church-- have reached an agreement with Syrian Jacobite and Syrian Orthodox leaders to share churches outside Kerala for Sunday Mass and to consider sharing cemeteries and the use of priests at funerals. All four churches trace their origin to the evangelization of St. Thomas the Apostle.

Underscoring the agreement’s ramifications beyond India, the Catholic delegation was led by Bishop Brian Farrell, LC, the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity since 2002.

Although the sacred liturgy in both the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church is celebrated in Malayalam, the former uses the Chaldean rite, while the latter uses the Antiochan rite. The Syrian Jacobite Church and the Syrian Orthodox Church are not among the Eastern Orthodox churches that ceased communion with the Holy See in 1054; rather, they are among the Oriental Orthodox churches that ceased communion with the Holy See following the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451.

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