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  1. The Church of St.Thomas
  2. The Synod of Udayamperoor and the Coonan Cross Oath.
  3. Reformation Movement and the Mulanthuruthy Synod
  4. Split of the Church and the Re-unity of 1958

5.      Differences Again, Hopes of Unity

Reformation movement


The English displaced the Dutch from Cochin in 1795. The arrival of the English and their domination of India also had its effects on the History of the Malankara Church. The first Anglican mission (CMS) started to work in Kerala in 1816. They stayed at the "Old Seminary" at the invitation of the Malankara Metropolitain. They were very instrumental in the priniting and publishing of the 'Malayalam Bible'. Even though they were Anglican protstants they respected the Orthodox faith of the Malankara Church. The Metropolitans Pulicottil Mar Dionysius II (Valiya Mar Dionysius 1815-16) and Punnathara Mar Dionysius III (1817-25) were highly pleased with the services rendered by the CMS. Over a period of time the focus of the CMS missionaries changed. They wanted to reform the Malankara Church in lines with their protestant beliefs. Even from the beginning Cheppat Mar Dionysius IV (1825-55), the Malankara Metropolitan of that time did not take kindly to the Anglican Protestant reforms. Metropolitan called a Synod of the Church at Mavelikara in 1836, in which it was resolved not to accept the reforms suggested by the CMS Missionaries. In the resolution known as the Mavelikara Padiyola, the Malankara Church reiterated its Orthodox faith and beliefs and allegiance to the Patriarch of Antioch. Thus the relationship between the Metropolitan and the Missionaries was sundered. It is worth noting here that the preface of the Mavelikara Padiayola has the following verbage (…. And the vicars , priests and parishioners of Angamali and other churches…..).


In spite of the decisions of the Mavelikara Synod some Malankara Christians came under the influence of Anglican reforms. They remained with in the Malankara Church and tried to change its beliefs from with in.  Leadership for this reform group was provided by Palakunnath Abraham Malpan and Kaithayil Geevarghese Malpan, the two professors of the Old Syrian Seminary at Kottayam (Pazhaya Seminary).  Abraham Malpan started celebrating the Holy Qurbana (Divine Liturgy)at Maramon Church, making his own alterations to the original liturgy of the Malankara Church. All prayers remembering  the blessed Virgin Mary were omitted from the Liturgy. Any reference to prayers for the departed and invocation of Saints was also removed.  Metropolitan Chepat Mar Dionysius was not prepared to accept such distortions to the orthodox beliefs of the Malankara Church. So he refused to ordain the deacons who had undergone training with Abraham Malpan. He also excommunicated Abraham Malpan


To consolidate the Reformers’ position Malpan Abraham despatched his nephew, Decon Palakunnath Mathan, to Syria for consecration as Metropolitan in 1842. Patriarch Elias II first ordained him a priest and then   consecrated him as Mathews Môr Athanasius and sent him back to India as Metropolitan .


The Patriarch appears to have realised too late that he had been the victim of "a fabricated letter purporting to be one from the Syrian Church people in Malayalam … having misrepresented facts and given false name." Appeals from both parties led to Patriarch Elias II sending his secretary, Yoyakin Môr Koorilos, with plenary powers (and blank papers bearing the Patriarch’s seal) to resolve the crisis in 1846. He supported Chepat Môr Dionysius against Mathews Môr Athanasius and, in order to strengthen his position, Chepat Môr Dionysius abdicated in his favour. It was now the turn of the Reformers to appeal to the Travancore Government to have the appointment of Môr Koorilos set aside and he was duly expelled by the Royal government of Travancore, leaving Palakunnath Mathews Môr Athanasius triumphant. In 1849 Patriarch Yacoub II sent Mutran Athanasius Stephen as his delegate but he was unable to prevail against Mathews Môr Athanasius whilst the latter retained the support of the British Resident and the Travancore government. It should be noted that the Anglican, British Resident to Travancore and Cochin was not just the ambassador of the Queen to these kingdoms but had considerable political influence in the governance of these princly states.


Chepat MarDionysius IV sent Rev Pulikottil Joseph, great-nephew of Môr Dionysius II, to Mardin to get him consecrated by the Patriarch. In April 1864 he was consecrated as Pulikottil Joseph Môr Dionysius V (1864-1909) by Patriarch Yacoub II at Diyarbakir and sent back to India with the Patriarch’s Staticon giving him authority over the Malankara Church. Nevertheless he was equally unable to dislodge the reformist from the leadership of the Malankara Church. Meanwhile Palakunnath Mathews Mar Athanasius consecrated his cousin, and Abraham Malpan's son, as Palakunnath Thomas Mar Athanasius in 1868


Unable to prevent the Reformers taking control of the Malankara Church and tampering with its age old Apostolic and Orthodox beliefs Pulikottil Joseph Môr Dionysius invited H.H Ignatius Mar Peter IV the new Patriarch of Antioch, to India. On 14 August 1874, accompanied by Môr Gregorios Abdullah (Sattuf), Metropolitan of Jerusalem the Patriach set sail. Patriarch showed remarkable sagacity in deciding to visit England beforehand so that he should be seen to bear the greater authority when he finally descended on India.He was received by the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, and met Queen Victoria twice. She even likened him to the Biblical patriarch Abraham. She promised him assistance in providing letters of introduction to officials of the British Raj. On 17 May, 1875 the Patriach arrived at Bombay. He excommunicated the reformist Metran Mathew Mar Athanasius. In March 1876 the Travancore government withdrew its recognition of Mathews Môr Athanasius as Malankara Metropolitan. Mathews Mar Athanasius died in 1877.


Patiach Peter IV  summoned the Mulanthuruthy Synod to meet at Mar Thoman Church, Mulanthuruthy from 29 June until 1 July 1876. Representatives from 103 parishes (130 priests and 144 lay men) participated in the Synod. It is worth mentioning that the the first signatory to the decisions of the synod was the representative from Angamal-Akaparambu Parish. The Synod adopted eighteen canons for the administration of the church. The reformers were faced with certain defeat as the traditionalists received the full support of the Patriarch. On August 17, 1876 the Mulanthuruthy padiyola was registered.Through the canons approved at the Synod of Mulanthuruthy, the relation between the Malankara Church and the Syrian Patriarchate grew closer than ever before. Parishes and bishops executed bonds declaring their loyalty to the Orthodox faith and to the Patriarch.


The Patriarch also divided the Malankara Church into seven dioceses, consecrating a further six Metropolitans to preside over them. The Metropolitans and the dioceses are: Kadavil Paulose Mar Athanasios(Kottayan), Konat Geevarghese Mar Julios(Thumpamon), Ambat Geevarghese Mar Coorilos(Ankamaly), Chathuruthy Geevarghese Mar Gregorios (Niranam), Murimattim Paulose Mar Ivanios(Kandanad) ,Karot Simon Mar Dionysios(Cochin). Pulikottil Joseph Môr Dionysius V was allocated the diocese of Quilon, but retained the rank of chief Malankara Metropolitan and President of the newly constituted Suriani Christiani Association, with the Patriarch as its patron. Patriarch Peter IV sailed back from Bombay on 16 May 1877.



Seated from left to right are:

Alvaris Mar Juliose (Goa),  Pulikottil Joseph Môr Dionysius (Quilon),  Kadavil Paulose Mar Athanasios(Kottayan) ,  Ambat Geevarghese Mar Coorilos (Ankamaly) ,Chathuruthy Geevarghese Mar Gregorios(Niranam) ,  Murimattim Paulose Mar Ivanios(Kandanad)



Mar Thoma Chuch


Court cases were filed, for the possession of the Old Seminary and Church property. Now Palakunnath Thomas Mar Athanasius of the reform camp and Pulikottil Joseph Mar Dionysius of the orthodox faith were both claiming to be the Malankara Metropolitan. In 1889 high court decreed that Pulikottil Joseph Mar Dionysius was the rightful Metropolitan of the Malankara Church as he expressed allegiance to the Patriarch of Antioch. With help of the CMS, the reform group with in the Malankara Church organized a new Church - the "Mar Thoma Church" Palakunnath Thomas Mar Athanasius, the second Metropolitan of the Reformation group died suddenly and another son of Palakunnath Abraham Malpan by name Titus was consecrated as the Metropolitan of the Mar Thoma Church in 1893. It is interesting to note that it was the Metropolitan of the Independent Church of Thozhiyoor which holds the same orthodox faith as that of the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church who consecrated Titus I . In 1899, Titus I assisted by Metropolitan Mar Coorilos of Thozhiyoor, consecrated his nephew Titus II as his Suffragan Metropolitan. Titus II worked with Titus I as his Suffragan Metropolitan.


Metrapolitans for Mangalore and USA


Many Christians who were Roman Catholics joined the Syrian Orthodox Church. Father Alvarez was the leader of these people. He was professed as Ramban by Mar Gregorios. On 29 July 1889, Kadavil Paulose Mar Athanasius (Kottayam), Murimatton Paulose Mar Ivanios (Kandanad), and Chaturuthil Geevarghese Mar Gregorios (Niranam) consecrated Ramban Alvarez as Metropolitan Alvaris Mar Julius at Kottayam. He took charge as the Metrapolitan of Goa Mangalore and Cylone. A sizeable group of people in the United States of America had joined the Syrian Orthodox Church.The Church decided to consecrate Fr. Reny Vilathy as Metropolitan for the United States. In accordance with the Patriarchal Bull of Moran Mor Ignatius Peter III dated 29 December 1891, Parumala Thirumeni,Kadavil Mar Athanasius of Kottayam and Ankamali Dioceses and Alvaris Mar Julius of Goa ordained Fr.Vilathy as Ramban on Ascension Day in 1892 at St.Mary's Church Colombo and after three days consecrated his as Metropolitan Mar Timotheus I . He was appointed as Metropolitan of the United States. The American Ambassador in Colombo received the metropolitans warmly and he shared the expenses of the consecration ceremony.

On May 30, 1892, an agreement was drawn up between Alvarez Mar Julious and Vilatte Mar Timotheus, in which the latter acknowledged the Confession of Faith, the canons and Rules of the Syrian Jocobite Church, and rejected all the doctrines which are declared heretical by said Church. Vilatte promised that he would be subject and obedient to the Patriarch, and to his successors in the Apostolic See of Antioch. In return for this he would receive from Antioch, the necessary supply of holy oil (mooron) which the Patriarch alone is allowed to consecrate. Vilatte also promised to remit to the Annual Peter's Pence Collection. He also stated that if he ever severed relations with the Monophysite Churches of the Antiochian Rite or diverted from their canons or rules, he would be subject to dismissal from the dignity of Metropolitan. Mar Julius signed the certificate of consecration June 5, 1892, which conferred upon him the title of the Old Catholic Bishop of America, together with the power to consecrate churches, chancels, cemeteries and all functions appertaining to Metropolitan rank. The witness to this document was Dr. Lisboa Pinto, USA Consul for Ceylon.

This was a prestigious event for the Malankara Church. While the western nations were sending missionaries to India, the Malankara church was ordaining a Metrapolitan for the Americans