Jacobite Syrian Christian Church

The Jacobite Syrian Christian Church ,[8][9][10][11] or [12] the Syriac Orthodox Church in India,[13][14] is a Maphrianate of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch based in Kerala, India and part of the Oriental Orthodox Church. It recognizes the Syriac Orthodox patriarch of Antioch and All the East as supreme head of the church. It functions autonomously within the church as an Archdiocese, administered by the Malankara Metropolitan, Gregorios Joseph, and comes under the authority of the Catholicos of India, Baselios Thomas I. Following schism with the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, it is currently the only church in Malankara that is under the administrative supervision of Syriac Orthodox Church. The church employs the West Syriac Rite Liturgy of Saint James.[15][16][17]

Syriac Orthodox Church Under the Holy See of Antioch and All East
Jacobite Syrian Church
Patriarch Ignatius Zaka I Iwas Centre
Patriarch Ignatius Zaka I Iwas Centre in Cochin
ClassificationOriental Orthodox Church
OrientationEarly Christianity
Eastern Christianity
Syriac Christianity
Vishudhagrandham (Malayalam Translation)
PolityEpiscopal polity
Patriarch of AntiochIgnatius Aphrem II
Catholicos of IndiaBaselios Thomas I
Maphrian of the Syriac Orthodox Church
Malankara MetropolitanJoseph Mor Gregorios
AffiliationSyriac Orthodox Church of Antioch[1]
CommunionOriental orthodox Church
RegionIndia and Nasarani Malayali Diaspora
LanguageMalayalam, English, Hindi, Syriac, Tamil, Kannada
LiturgyWest Syriac Rite
Divine Liturgy of Saint James
HeadquartersPatriarch Ignatius Zaka I Iwas Centre (Patriarchal Centre)
Puthencruz Kochi India
Origin52 AD by tradition[2][3]
1665 (Introduction of Oriental Orthodoxy in India)
1876 (as Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church)
2002 (as Catholicate of India)[4][5]
Branched fromSaint Thomas Christians
Malankara Church[1]
SeparationsMalankara Orthodox Syrian Church (1912)[6]
Members480,0000 in Kerala[7]
Official News PortalJ.S.C.


In the aftermath of the Council of Chalcedon, Emperor Justinian I who supported the Chalcedonians, exiled Patriarch Severus of Antioch to Egypt, for refusing to accept the council, and professing Miaphysitism. The Syriac Orthodox Church is the church of Antioch that continued to accept Severus as patriarch until his death and died in 538 AD. During this turbulent time for the church, Jacob Baradaeus was consecrated as bishop with the support of Empress Theodora and he led and revived the church.[18] The term "Jacobite" was originally used as a derogatory word for Miaphysites from the church of Antioch, but were later embraced by the church.


Puthencruz is the headquarters of the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church in India. It is registered as a society under the Societies Act of the Government of India. Its headquarters are named after Ignatius Zakka I. The property was bought and built under the leadership of Baselios Thomas I after the church faced difficulties in continuing its operations in Muvattupuzha after Baselios Paulose II's death.


History and evolution of the Malankara church.

It is believed that Saint Thomas Christians of Malabar were placed under the jurisdiction of the patriarch of Antioch since AD 325 as per Canon 6 of the Council of Nicaea.[19][20] They received episcopal support from Syriac bishops, who traveled to Kerala in merchant ships along the spice route, while the local administrative leader of the Saint Thomas Christians held the rank of archdeacon, which was a hereditary office held by the Pakalomattam family. In the 6th century, the churches outside of the Roman Empire(in Persia towards the East), were arranged under the catholicos of Seleucia, who after conflicts with the patriarch (leading to the Council of Capharthutha), joined the Church of the East, causing a further split in the Malankara Church.[21] In the 16th century, the overtures of the Portuguese Padroado to bring the Saint Thomas Christians into the Latin Church of the Catholic Church led to the first of several rifts in the community due to Portuguese colonialists, and the establishment of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. Since then, further splits have occurred, and the Saint Thomas Christians are now divided into several factions.

Saint Thomas Christians were administratively under the single native dynastic leadership of an archdeacon (a native ecclesiastical head with spiritual and temporal powers, deriving from the Greek term arkhidiākonos) and were in communion with the church in the Middle East from at least 496 AD.[22] The indigenous Church of Malabar/Malankara followed the faith and traditions handed over by the apostle St. Thomas. In the 16th century, the Portuguese Jesuits deliberately attempted to annex the native Christians to the Catholic Church, and in 1599 they succeeded through the Synod of Diamper. Resentment against these forceful measures caused the majority of the community under Archdeacon Thomas to swear an oath never to submit to the Portuguese, known as the Coonan Cross Oath, in 1653.

Meanwhile, the Dutch East India Company defeated the Portuguese and gained supremacy over the spice trade in Malabar in 1663. The Malankara church used this opportunity to escape from Catholic persecution with the company's help. At the church's request, the Dutch brought Gregorius Abdul Jaleel of Jerusalem, a bishop of the Syriac Orthodox Church, aboard their trading vessel in 1665. The Malankara Church consolidated under Archdeacon Thoma welcomed Gregorios Abdal Jaleel, who regularized the canonical ordination of Thoma as a bishop. The Malankara Church gradually adopted West Syriac liturgy and practices.

As part of the Syriac Orthodox Church, the church uses the West Syriac liturgy and is part of the Oriental Orthodox Communion. It has dioceses in most parts of India as well as in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Western Europe, the Persian Gulf, Australia, and New Zealand. In 2003 it was estimated that the church had 1,000,000 (including Knanaya) members globally.[23]


The highest rank in the ecclesiastical hierarchy is the patriarch of Antioch, head of the Syriac Orthodox Church, who became the first among equals of the Diocese of the East as stated by the Council of Nicaea (Canon 6). The second among equals is the maphrian, also known as the catholicos of India, and is the head of the Jacobite Syrian Church in India, and first among the Syriac Orthodox bishops in India. There are also archbishops, and bishops.

Three ranks of hierarchy

There are three ranks of priesthood in the Syriac Orthodox Church:

The Church

Thomas of Cana and the Knanaya depart for India

The Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church of India established by Thomas the Apostle believes in apostolic succession within the hierarchy of the Syriac Orthodox Church, within the Oriental Orthodox communion. The Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church, as a part of the Syriac Orthodox Church, rejects the Council of Chalcedon along with the rest of the Oriental Orthodox Church.[24]

The Church believes in the faith as proclaimed by the three Ecumenical Councils of Nicaea, Constantinople, and Ephesus. It is under the Holy See of Antioch, established by Saint Peter, which was confirmed as a patriarchate in the Council of Nicaea, along with the Holy See of Alexandria, and the Holy See of Rome.


The Syriac Orthodox Church respects the relics of Saint Mary, and the saints. The most notable of these relics, are the Holy Girdle of the Theotokos and the relics of the Thomas the Apostle. The Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church kept some of these relics and celebrates them on occasions.[25] The church of India also has relics from other saints including St. George the Martyr, St. Cyricus the Martyr, as well as other saints.


Traditional baptismal font with indigenous sculptural elements at Akaparamb Mor Sapor Mor Prod Church.
Nasrani Cross with the traditional food of Saint Thomas Christians

The liturgical service is called Holy Qurbono in the Syriac language. The Liturgy of Saint James is celebrated on Sundays and special occasions. The Holy Eucharist consists of Gospel reading, Bible readings, prayers, and songs. Apart from certain readings, prayers are sung in the form of chants and melodies. Hundreds of melodies remain preserved in the book known as Beth Gazo.[26]

Holy Bible

The official Bible of the church is the Peshitta or its Malayalam translation, Vishudhagrandham(വിശുദ്ധ ഗ്രന്ഥം) translated by Fr. Kurien Kaniamparambil.


The Jacobite Syrian Christians pray from the Shehimo during canonical hours in accordance with Psalm 119. In 1910, Reverend Konattu Mathen Malpan translated the prayer book of the Syrian orthodox church into Malayalam, known as Pampakuda Namaskaram, with permission from Ignatius Abded Aloho II.[27][28] It is the common prayer book of Syrian Orthodox Christians in India.


The Jacobite Syrian Christian Church officially accepted Miaphysitism per pictorial evidence in St. Mary's Knanaya Church of Kottayam, Piravom Church, and Mulanthuruthy Church since the first millennium.[29]

In punishment by the cross (was) the suffering on this one; He who is true Christ and God above, and Guide ever Pure

— Inscription of St. Mary's Knanaya Church, Kottayam[30]

Nasrani Cross

The Nasrani Cross (Persian cross) is used by Syrian Christians of India, which spread in the early fourth century.[31]

Dispute with Malankara Orthodox

The JSC and MOSC regularly engage in disputes over the former's staunch allegiance to the Syriac Orthodox Church. The latter proclaims the general agreement of territorial jurisdictions integral to the Orthodox Churches around the world and alleges that the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate illegally interferes in the temporal matters of the Malankara Church. The JSC lost many of its prominent churches to the Malankara Orthodox after the Supreme Court of India's verdict, despite having absolute majority in many of those churches.[32] After the long struggle for talks on churches that were dismissed by Malankara Orthodox, the Jacobite Syrian Church decided to end their sacramental relationship with them in 2022.[33]

Cemetery ordinance

As per Supreme Court Order 2017, the Syrian Church disputed its rights to attend holy mass and rituals and took the proposed ordinance for cemeteries. The ordinance gives the right for every person to attend rituals and laws passed on by the majority votes with the support of the chief minister, ministers and other Assembly members.[34]

Sacramental relationships

Catholic Church

According to the Agreement of Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I and Pope John Paul II, the Catholic Church and Syriac Orthodox Church have a relationship between sacraments of Penance, Eucharist and Anointing of the Sick for a grave spiritual need.[35][36]

Marthoma Syrian Church

The Mar Thoma Syrian Church also known as Malankara Mar Thoma, or Reformed Syrian church of Malabar and Jacobite Syrian Church attend prayer meetings and marriage ceremonies together. They continue their synods in recognition of theological acceptance and Holy Communion from their understanding. The Holy Myron was given by Ignatius Elias II in 1842. The Mar Thoma church does not use the ecclesiastical title of Ignatius and Baselios to honor the Syriac Orthodox Church.[37]


Tomb of Baselios Yeldo Maphrian of the East (Catholicos) in the Marthoma CheriyaPally

By the fourth century, the bishops of Antioch, Alexandria and Rome became the heads of the regional churches, and were known as patriarchs In the seventh century, the Syriac Orthodox Christians who lived outside the Roman Empire began using the title for its maphrian, for their head. This office ranked right below the Patriarch of Antioch in Syriac Orthodox church hierarchy, until it was abolished in 1860 and reinstated in 1964 in India.

Catholicos of India

The Maphrian of India(Catholicos) is an ecclesiastical office of the Syriac Orthodox Church and the local head of the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church. He is the head of the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church, which is a part of the Syriac Orthodox Church. The jurisdiction of Catholicos is limited to India so to avoid disambiguation and avoid legal issues. The Syriac Orthodox Church uses the title Catholicos of India, distinct from Catholicos of the East.[38]

Fathers of the Church

The following saints from Malankara are included in the 5th Diptych(Canon of the Church Fathers):


Dioceses in Kerala

Dioceses outside Kerala

  • Mangalore Diocese
  • Bangalore Diocese
  • Mylapore Diocese[49] (formerly Chennai Diocese)
  • Mumbai Diocese
  • Delhi Diocese[50]

Bishops of the church

See also


  1. ^ a b Brock (2011).
  2. ^ History of Jacobite Syrian Church
  3. ^ Malankara Church
  4. ^ "Syriac Orthodox Church". Jacobite Syrian Christian Church. Retrieved 20 June 2022.
  5. ^ "Jacobite Syrian Christian Church Constitution 2002 (in Malayalam) The official Constitution of the Church" (PDF).
  6. ^ Chaillot, Christine (2006). "The Ancient Oriental Churches". In Wainwright, Geoffrey; Westerfield Tucker, Karen B. (eds.). The Oxford History of Christian Worship. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 132. ISBN 978-0-19-513886-3.
  7. ^ K.C. Zachariah, "Religious Denominations of Kerala" (Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India), Working Paper 468, April 2016, p. 29
  8. ^ "JSC News - The Official News Portal of the Holy Jacobite Syrian Christian Church". Archived from the original on 7 October 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  9. ^ "Pastoral message of H.B Thomas I, Maphrian of India, Jacobite Church Head in India". Archived from the original on 17 September 2016. Retrieved 19 February 2023.
  10. ^ "Official Publication of Jacobite Syrian Christian Church". Archived from the original on 18 December 2019. Retrieved 19 February 2023.
  11. ^ "Jacobite Syrian Christian Church Constitution 2002 (in Malayalam) The official Constitution of the Church" (PDF).
  12. ^ "India – Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch". syrianorthodoxchurch.org. Retrieved 16 March 2022.
  13. ^ "Metropolitan's from the Syriac Orthodox Church of India Visits Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II". 21 October 2016.
  14. ^ Alexander, George (2018). The Orthodox Dilemma (3rd rev. ed.). OCP Publications. p. 56. ISBN 9781387922284.
  15. ^ "Saint Thomas Christians- Chronological Events from First Century to Twenty First Century". Nasranis.
  16. ^ Thomas, Abraham Vazhayil (1974). Christians in Secular India. Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press. ISBN 9780838610213.
  17. ^ Joseph, John (1984). Muslim-Christian Relations and Inter-Christian Rivalries in the Middle East: The Case of the Jacobites in an Age of Transition. SUNY Press. ISBN 9781438408064.
  18. ^ "Mor Ya'qub Burdono (St. Jacob Baradaeus)". www.syriacchristianity.info. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  19. ^ Joseph, Thomas. "Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church". Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition.
  20. ^ "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: First Council of Nicaea". www.newadvent.org. Retrieved 22 October 2023.
  21. ^ "Catholicate of the East". www.syriacchristianity.info. Retrieved 22 October 2023.
  22. ^ Frykenberg 2008, p. 93; Wilmshurst 2000, p. 343.
  23. ^ Fahlbusch, Erwin; Lochman, Jan Milic; Mbiti, John S.; Vischer, Lukas; Bromiley, Geoffrey William (2003). The Encyclopedia of Christianity (Encyclopedia of Christianity) Volume 5. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. pp. 285–286. ISBN 0-8028-2417-X.
  24. ^ Nicea Synod Canon 6
  25. ^ "St.Mary's Jacobite Syrian Cathedral, Manarcad". Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  26. ^ Patrologia syriaca: complectens opera omnia ss. patrum, doctorum scriptorumque catholicorum, quibus accedunt aliorum acatholicorum auctorum scripta quae ad res ecclesiasticas pertinent, quotquot syriace supersunt, secundum codices praesertim, londinenses, parisienses, vaticanos accurante R. Graffin ... Firmin-Didot et socii. 1926.
  27. ^ http://www.pampakudavaliyapally.com/details.php?page=1&id=4 [bare URL]
  28. ^ "Konatt Mathen Corepiscopo".
  29. ^ Kottayam Valiyapally Mural Painting
  30. ^ Burnell, Arthur Coke (1874). On some Pahlavī inscriptions in South India. p. 314.
  31. ^ "Nasrani Cross". www.seiyaku.com. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  32. ^ Explained | The Piravom church stand-off and the century-old rivalry among two Christian factions in Kerala
  33. ^ "Sacramental Relationship". Archived from the original on 1 November 2020. Retrieved 29 March 2021.
  34. ^ Cemetery Ordinance News
  35. ^ Agreement
  36. ^ Common Declaration
  38. ^ "Catholicate of the East". catholicose.org. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014.
  39. ^ "Kollam Diocese of Jacobite Syrian Church". Archived from the original on 25 March 2019. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  40. ^ "Official site of Thumpamon Diocese". Thumpamon Diocese. Archived from the original on 12 March 2015. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  41. ^ "Niranam Diocese of Jacobite Syrian Christian Church". Niranam Diocese. Retrieved 26 September 2017.
  42. ^ "Kottayam Diocese". Kottayam Diocese. Retrieved 26 September 2017.
  43. ^ "Official website of Idukki Dioces". Retrieved 26 September 2017.
  44. ^ "Kandanad Diocese - Jacobite Syrian Christian Church". Kandanad Diocese. Archived from the original on 22 February 2015. Retrieved 26 September 2017.
  45. ^ Kochi Diocese of Jacobite Syrian Church Retrieved 26 September 2017.
  46. ^ "Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church". Thrissur Diocese. Archived from the original on 10 August 2018. Retrieved 26 September 2017.
  47. ^ "Kozhikode Diocese - Jacobite Syrian Christian Church". Kozhikode Diocese. Archived from the original on 26 September 2018. Retrieved 26 September 2017.
  48. ^ "Official Website of Malabar Diocese, Jacobite Syrian Christian Church". Malabar Diocese. Archived from the original on 30 March 2018. Retrieved 26 September 2017.
  49. ^ "Mylapore Diocese - Diocese of Jacobite Syrian Christian Church". Mylapore Diocese. Archived from the original on 15 February 2015. Retrieved 26 September 2017.
  50. ^ "Delhi Diocese of Jacobite Syrian Church". Delhi Diocese. Retrieved 26 September 2017.