By Fr. Augustine A. Mangalath
The Church in India, more precisely the Church in Kerala, traces its origin to the preaching of St. Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ. The community was known as St. Thomas Christians and the Church as Malabar Church. It was an autonomous Church under the Pope of Rome, having its own Syrian liturgy, customs, traditions and structures.
St. Thomas Christians had close relations with Churches of Edessa, Babylon and Persia and the Chaldean liturgy was in use with some elements of local culture and tradition. At the request of the Malabar Church, the persian Church, especially the Catholicose of Selucia-Ctesiphon was sending bishops to Malabar.
The Church was harmoniously one till the 17th c. Due to the intervention of the missionaries into the liturgy and traditions, a schism occurred and a good section of the community broke away from the Church. To protect the autonomy of the Church and the indigenous character and its Syrian liturgy, the separated faithful sought help from the Jacobite Patriarch of Antioch and eventually became Jacobites.
Ever since the division in the Church, attempts were being made to regain the original Catholic Communion. For nearly 300 years there were no success in these attempts. The attempts of reunion successfully materialized only in this century, viz: Sept 20, 1930, with the reunion of Archbishop Mar Ivanios and Bishop Mar Theophilus with a group of faithful. Holy See received us into the Catholic communion as a new rite with its liturgical traditions.
At present our Malankara Church has 4 dioceses, 6 bishops, and nearly half a million faithful. Outside its ecclesiastical boundaries the Church has many faith communities in various dioceses in India, Germany and North America.
The Syro-Malankara liturgy is under the umbrella of Antiochean Liturgy. Antioch occupied an eminent position in the apostolic tradition, doctrine and culture. The Antiochean liturgy is rich in expression and radiant with God's awe inspiring presence. The liturgical prayers are the articulated expression of salvific plan and above all scriptural and theological.