Extrapolations - Syrian Orthodox relation with Catholicate at the occasion of the departure of Syrian Orthodox Patriarch
First and foremost, let me share Memory Eternal - HH Patriarch Ignatius Zaka
HG Ignatius Zaka was the Patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch which is in communion with the Malankara (Indian) Orthodox Church. One of his quotes which is important to us is "Prayer is not an attempt to subdue the will of God for our desires, but is always an attempt to subjugate our will to the will of God,"
Having said that , some are using HH demise to tout him as a Child of peace for unity of Malankara and no way can peace and unity happen without the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch and their patriarchate special honor and the Catholicate as a subdivision or chota child/brother of the Syrian Patriarchate. Obliged to work towards the Catholicate , praying that thoughts of this common man will be understood as intended for posterity and available to reflect by future generations.
Unity is not by concession to Syrian Orthodox Church. First of all in our hearts, we must acknowledge that Syrian Orthodox Church is, as much equal, and in no way any superior as the Malankara (Indian) Orthodox Church. Just as there is a Coptic Patriarchate and Antiochene Patriarchate, the Catholicate of Malankara Orthodox Church exist and we are its members be we Laity, Priest or Bishop.
Yes, the representatives of Catholicate should represent and visit and be there at the burial just as they had represented the burial of Pope Shenouda. The Syrian Orthodox Church should be special to the Catholicate not because of some document or 1995 alliance which totally was used as a hoast by the fundamentalists to divide the One Holy Catholic Church that has the potential under the Catholicate to witness and continue the mission started by St. Thomas .
It should be with clear understanding:
1. When the heretic Roman Catholicism came with armadas to subdue us to them that we sought help from all that by God's providence the Syrian Orthodox Church sent help
2. When the Syrian Orthodox came in more numbers from 17h Century, it took almost two centuries for us to complexly adopt their West Syrian Liturgy and translated to Malayalam and even now in 2014 , not all of their tradition have been translated to Malaylam and not many within the Catholicate have understood or making use of that tradition which took almost 16 centuries to develop in Antiochene tradition.
3. We because of our relation with them could understood the Theology and Faith that St. Diascoros of Egypt and St. Severus of Antioch defended and now stand as one of the Six Oriental Orthodox Churches that share same faith (Egypt, Syrian, Armenian, Ethiopian, Eritrean and Indian)
4. We in 17th and 18th never fully took on the course of Martyrdom and defended our faith but used/ depended atleast partly on the name or allied with the Syrian Church to face against Protestant Roman Catholic heretic teaching.
5. The Syrian Church and its prelates in the history of time in 18th and 19th Century, because they had helped us in the past, when it faced problems started assuming and demanding:
Malankara Church as a subdivision with Syrian Orthodox and our parishes in India should provide money to help the Syrian Patriarchate to pay off Turkish authorities. The response by the community took them by surprise. This led in time to ex-communicating the Chief shepherd of our Church HH St. Dionysius , the community rise up to establish the Catholicate in Malankara in 1912 with the blessing of the Syrian Orthodox Bishop and senior Patriarch of Syrian Orthodox Church . It should be noted also that history has shown that this Syrian Patriarch was not the ruling Patriarch and the ruling Patriarch has paid off the Turks and secured his position. I believe, it was prudent that a Senior Syrian official of the Syrian Church was present to show and explain to our own people who have a high regard when a foreigner or a White Bishop is present. More importantly from 1912 this Catholicate was established as the gift of God to the Church and available to those in Kerala / Malayalam language speaking people to whom St. Thomas the Apostle came to preach to work towards for the Glory of God.
6. From day one, the mission of Catholicate was thwarted by evil from within and externally. This will continue as long as Catholicate exist. Right from 1912, there was a group who felt that the doom of the Catholicate is imminent as they have fought against the people of God from the land of our God Jesus Christ. There were also selfish parties from within and the Syrian Church who felt their importance will be lost and must remain under the Syrian Patriarchate.
7. Through the prayers and tears of innocent who wished to see eternal peace in Malankara, those who wanted to be under the Patriarchate and those under the Catholicate in 1958 agreed to be under the head of the Catholicate. Unfortunately the evil one use the law of the land and constitution by keeping the vision of foresight blind put in special concession of Syrian Orthodox Patriarch as Spiritual head and when a Patriarch is enthroned at Syrian Orthodox Church it should be at the blessing of the Chief shepherd of the Catholicate - the Catholicose of the East and vice versa. These concessions are the bane and failure of the Catholicate to trust in God but in men and their crafty ways. An example is when a senior priest of the Church in 19th Century went over to Antioch and got himself ordained as head of the Church in Malankara and returned to form the heretical alliance with Anglican faith and establish Marthoma church, instead of defending ourselves on the basis of our Orthodox Christian faith said in a Padiyola called Mavelikara Padiyola that we are members of Jacob Syrian Church and under the Patriarch.
8. From 1912, the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch’s and their followers had the opportunity to recognize the autonomy and autocephalous status of the Malankara Orthodox Church and its Catholicate. There were opportunities since then when we came so close.
9. In 1965, at the leadership conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches held in Addis Ababa,an issue that came up for discussion was about the number of the Oriental Orthodox Churches. One argument was that there were only 3 Churches while another view was that there were five. Those who supported the first view were the Antiochian Syrians and the Egyptians. The reason for their stand was that while the Syrians considered the Indians as part of their Church, the Egyptians considered the Ethiopians as their ‘subjects’. For them, language, race, culture etc were not relevant at all. But, the conclusion that was finally reached at the Conference, and accepted as its decision, was that Oriental Orthodox Churches were five in number, ie, the Indian Orthodox and Ethiopian Orthodox should be treated as separate Churches. What it meant was that none of these Churches were under another Church .Based on this decision, the Conference set up a Standing Committee comprising of two representatives from each of the five Oriental Churches. Fr.Dr.V.C.Samuel was one of them. This decision taken by the conclave of Oriental Orthodox Churches should put to rest any doubts about the independence and auto-cephalous identity of the Indian (Malankara) Orthodox Church.
At Addis Ababa in 1965, God deemed it to be that prelate representing the Catholicate was addressed such by other members of Oriental Orthodox family including the Syrian Patriarch "HH Moran Mar Baselius Mar Basils Augen I - Fourth Catholicos of the Ancient See of St. Thomas" since its restoration in 1912.
10. Right from 1959, that relationship of Catholicate and Patriachate was strained. At the Feb. 20, 1959 meeting of the newly elected Managing Committee, Paulose Mar Philexinos surprised everyone by griping about having to serve as the Assistant Metropolitan of Kandanad diocese. This prompted the Synod which met on Feb. 21 to appoint him as Joint Diocesan Metropolitan of Kandanad diocese alongside Augen Mar Thimothios. Though this bought temporary peace, Mar Philexinos was not to abandon his mission of wrecking the hard-won peace. As events later unfolded, he became the king-pin and leader of the rebellious ‘Antiochian Movement’. We know the 1965 incident was a terrible blow that added injury to the Syrian supporters to help fan the distrust in Malankara as well as in Syria. In fact it was the Syrian Patriarch of 1965 who questioned the validity of Priest hood of St. Thomas and using it to disclaim that St. Thomas established Church in India. .
11. In 1975 the Syrian Patriarch came down at the supporters of that stood grudgingly right from 1959 against the Catholicate came and appointed the Philexinos Paulose mentioned in Point #10and ordained as Catholicose Mor Baselios Paulose II.
12. 1995 - As usual the evil one use court cases and they continued , common man sigh and guess their prayers reached God who made sure to force the issue with a court order in 1995 that you need to get together and there should be one Orthodox Christian Church from Kerala. There was some hope and there was some hope this could pave unity and led some of those Bishops and priests from the supporters of the Syrian side to the Catholicate. While that shift occurred, many could still be harboring the teaching that they came over hoping to have the Catholicate under the Syrian Patriarchate and we can see the evil one sending breezes of confusion over through their words. Praying that God in time can and will change if any has such feelings remain. The hope for peace in 1995 did not last as the supporters who felt they will lose their authority under a united Catholicate appealed to the sensitivities of the Syrian Patriarch this departed HH Patriarch Ignatius Zaka. Unfortunately in a land surrounded by Muslim community and the ancient Patriarchate of Antioch reduced in Damascus to where four others who claim themselves as the Patriarch of Antioch, told he agreed to succumb to agree to await decisions of further court cases.
13. Again in 12 July 2002, the Supreme Court verdicts came that the parishes should come together and establish and retain the integrity as a united Church - Malankara (Indian) Orthodox Church. A group of evil people devised a formula to take a slice - Individual parishes to declare by majority vote to leave the Malankara Orthodox Church and join a new independent Church. They want to leave not because of differences in faith or dogma but because they do not want the head of the Malankara Orthodox Church to sit on the throne of St. Thomas but only on a footstool beneath the throne of St. Peter and refuse at all costs the future standing firm a United Catholicate . Unfortunately for the Catholicate, one of the Bishops who wanted to be the next Catholicose of the East under the United Catholicate when told by the Catholicose of the East that this decision is not for him to give but a United Synod and Managing committee and a Successor has already been named, took the lead to form the new independent faction. This new faction while it could have been told as unacceptable by the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch was however supported by him and blessed the dissident Bishop just as previous Syrian Patriarch had blessed the Bishop who separated those who were to have been under the Catholicate to the protestant teaching and Marthoma community. In fact he came blessed with a title to rival as ' Catholicose of India' under the Syrian Orthodox Church and formed the new group as ' Jacobite Syrian Church' in 2003. Some of us as common men had contacted the Patriarch not to take this step now as it would divide the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church to schism and asked to recollect that a hasty decision by a previous Patriarch had led to heresy and separation.
13. The new group continues and thus at the time of the departure of this Patriarch of the Church that we share in communion Pray and cry out for his mercy - he , who though with short comings like each of us, was blessed to the successor of St. Severus the defender of the Orthodox Christian faith. Also, yet more importantly we need to look critically within ourselves as Catholicate if we really are seeking as the blind man from God, living out as individuals and together as Orthodox Christians and crying out 'Lord Have Mercy' and seeking to be open and welcoming to those who turned away like the Jacobite Syrian faction and the Marthomite to come forward and accept and live out the discipline of the Church. Another key point to never forget is that while we have differences of opinion , in our heart we should not forget that the Syrian Church had once came to help with right intention and there are many fathers who are buried in that Church seeking Yama prarthana from us while we fight among us. It is with prayers this article may inspire the future members of Catholicate and the Patriarchate to work together understanding the differences but move beyond that that to work together for His Glory.
March 24, 2014