The Vision For The Orthodox Church Of India

Written By: on Oct 6th, 2009 and filed under Columns.

various parishes conceding to the Patriarch both spiritual and temporal authority over them. The unprecedented act of ex-communication of Vattasseril Mar Dionysius the duly elected Metropolitan of Malankara and the attempted ‘suspension’ of the Metropolitan in 1932 by Mar Julios, a mere resident delegate of the Patriarch in Malankara, were the worst examples of high handedness on the part of the Antiochan authorities. But worse was to follow. The Malankara church had adopted a new constitution in 1934, which according to Article 94 had vested the authority for the spiritual and temporal administration of the church solely with the Malankara Metropolitan.

The Supreme Court in its historic judgment of 1958 had unequivocally recognized the validity of the institution of the Catholicate in 1912 and the binding nature of the constitution of 1934 for the entire church. In spite of all these facts Patriarch Yakub III chose to repeat the thoroughly high handed act earlier committed by Patriarch Abdulla of \ex- communicating) the Catholicos and Malankara Metropolitan in 1975. It is amazing that the Patriarch could resort to exercise powers which he or his church never possessed, ignoring the provisions of the constitution of the church and the judgments of the highest court of justice in the country. But this is what exactly happened.

The question before us now is whether we can allow such things to happen in future. There is no point in trying to acknowledge the authority of the Patriarch subject to the provisions of the constitution of 1934 as the Patriarchs have shown no inclination to respect that constitution. Some people may say that as per Article 101 of the 1934 constitution the Patriarch cannot exercise any authority over the church unless he had been elected with the co-operation of the Catholicos and recognized as canonically consecrated as patriarch by the church. But then these constitutional provisions and legal niceties are relevant only in countries like ours which believe in Democracy, the Rule of Law and the authority of the Supreme court to interpret the Law and the constitution. We should remember that we are dealing with certain authorities who function from countries like Syria or Iraq which have no traditions of democracy or commitment to Rule of Law. Therefore, it is important that we guard ourselves against repetition of what had happened in the past.

It is my considered view that the only way of ensuring that we would not have to suffer the indignities and injustices of the past is to completely sever the connection of our church with the Patriarch of Antioch. This will have to be done following due process of law and without diluting the rights we have gained from the judgments of the Supreme court. The appropriate legal measures to be taken to achieve this objective should be left to the experts, but the first step required is the decision to make a complete break with our relationship with the church of Antioch which had come into force in the middle of the 19th century. Some enthusiasts about the Antiochian connection may argue that the Patriarch’s authority over the Malankara church has already been reduced to a ‘vanishing point’, and there is no harm in leaving it at that level. But we should never again take the risk of future attempts of the type taken by some patriarchs in the past to establish their authority over the Malankara church. If we decide to take such a step there is no point in carrying out the litigation with the group known as the Jacobite Syrian Church which has unreservedly accepted the Patriarch of Antioch as the spiritual and temporal head of that Church. This group is no longer a part of the Orthodox Church of India; it has opted to separate itself from the Orthodox church and repudiated its allegiance to the Constitution of 1934 and to the Catholicate validly established in 1912. These are its own decisions and we should not question their rationale or logic. It has chosen its own constitution and has legally nothing more to do with the Malankara Orthodox Church. The only sensible thing which we in co-operation with that group should do is to recognize the fact of their separation without further recrimination or fault finding. A difficult question that would have to be tackled is one of allowing them to continue in possession of a few churches in which they have now an overwhelming majority in numbers. This would call for the evolution of a formula acceptable to both sides for deciding which are the churches which should continue to remain with them irrespective of the legal validity of our claims over such churches based on the judgment of the Supreme Court.

The time has come to take some firm decisions about our future. Even after renouncing the position of the Patriarch in our church we can continue close relations with Antioch as a sister Oriental Orthodox Church.

I am of the firm view that we should not resort to further litigation in order to oust the Jacobite group from certain churches where they enjoy an overwhelming majority in numbers. We should accept their decision to separate from the Malankara church and to remain as an integral part of the Syrian Orthodox church at Damascus as they have done already. We should deal with them with all the courtesy due to a unit of a sister church as we deal with the Marthomite church in our country which had earlier separated from us. There should be no recriminations and fault finding about the injustices of the past. Instead we should extend to the Jacobite group the hand of friendship and co- operation due to a unit of a sister church.

If we are to establish permanent peace in the church we should be prepared to begin negotiations with them which could lead to the evolution of a suitable formula for the possession of some of the churches in dispute. I am aware that a small section in our church may not be very happy with the solution that I am suggesting now to restore peace and good will. But I want to ask you a question. Is the physical possession of a few more parishes more important than establishing lasting peace in the church as a whole? Why did our forefathers and we go through the enormous efforts and expenditure involved in litigation for over 90 years? Did we do that just to get possession of a few more parishes or did we do it in order to get certain fundamental principles established through the courts of law in the country? What we fought for till now and what we achieved in unequivocal terms through the judgments of the Supreme Court, were for the vindication of four
fundamental principles.

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Disclaimer: Indian Orthodox Herald does not moderate or edit the comments posted in this column. All opinions are solely of the writers and IOH holds no responsibility what so ever for the views written here below.

1 Response for “The Vision For The Orthodox Church Of India”

  1. John Mathew, Toronto says:

    “The Malankara church found itself for the first time in its 2000 years history in danger of altogether losing its autonomy and having been reduced to the level of a unit under the Church of Antioch.”

    Has the author even bothered to study our history? For most of our history we never even had native bishops — we were previously *under* the Church of the East (Nestorian), and there’s no evidence they ever raised Indians to the episcopate. Yet the Jacobites and the Romans did — they were the first in recorded history to ordain Indian bishops. But the author has the gaul to claim we were under the yoke of Antioch.

    Yet more junk history, from pseudo-scholars. We were always a *unit* under others. We have nothing in our Church that was natively developed, no liturgy, no prayers, no nothing.

    The Armenians, the Copts, the Syriacs, and the Ethiopians all have their own traditions and liturgies, which attest to their antiquity. We have none of this, but we continuously harp on being an apostolic Church with a Catholicos equal to the Patriarchs of the other Churches. As the saying goes: “show me the money” — the evidence!

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