Syromalabar History

From the very beginning of the Church, the Christian faith had expressed itself differently in various cultures. The culture and the circumstances of the history of early Christian communities have influenced not only the manner of celebrating the liturgy, but also their discipline, structure, theology, and spirituality of their Church. Thus various ‘Rites’ have been evolved in the Catholic Church. The Latin Rite Church is called the Roman Church. Besides the Latin Rite, there are twenty-one Eastern Rite Churches that are in communion with the Holy See having more than fifteen million Catholics around the world.
The presence of different Rites in the Church adds to the richness and the beauty of the Universal Church. We should take pride in the fact that though we are diverse in our expressions of faith, we are one. The Church exists on this principle of unity in diversity. Each Rite has taken its shape from its own traditions. There are five Eastern liturgical traditions that claim the Apostolicity in their faith. They are: Alexandrian, Antiochian (West Syrian), Armenian, Chaldean (East Syrian), Byzantine. The Syro-Malabar liturgy is part of East Syrian tradition.
The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council through the decree of ‘Catholic Eastern Churches,’ has highlighted the importance of Eastern Churches. The decree in its introductory part says: “The Catholic Church holds in high esteem the institutions, liturgical rites, ecclesiastical traditions and the established standards of the Christian life of the Eastern Churches, for in them, distinguished as they are for their venerable antiquity, there remains conspicuous the tradition that has been handed down from the Apostles through the Fathers and that forms part of the divinely revealed and undivided heritage of the universal Church. This Sacred Ecumenical Council, therefore, in its care for the Eastern Churches which bear living witness to this tradition, in order that they may flourish and with new apostolic vigor execute the task entrusted to them.”
The Syro-Malabar Church Catholics, who trace the origin of their faith from St. Thomas the Apostle who came to India around 52 A.D., are known as St. Thomas Christians or Mar Thoma Nazranikal. The Church of St. Thomas Christians in India was later named the ‘Syro-Malabar Church’ because they were using the ancient Syrian language for their liturgy, and the Church flourished mainly in the regions of southern India called Malabar.
Now, there are five archdioceses and twenty-nine dioceses in the Syro-Malabar Church worldwide. The growth of the Church is significant since the formal re-constitution of its hierarchy in 1923 by Pope Pious XI. In the light of Second Vatican Council’s teaching, Pope John Paul II has elevated the Syro-Malabar Church to the autonomous rank of Major Archiepiscopal Church on December 16th 1992. This Church is very dynamic and rich with priestly and religious vocations. The practice of their faith, rooted especially in family values, is very remarkable and admirable.
For more information about the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, please visit its official site: