The Koonen Cross Oath

Written By: on Jan 5th, 2010 and filed under Columns.

out of a population of 200,000 St. Thomas Christians, only 400 remained loyal to the Roman Arch bishop Garcia. The event in 1653 broke the fifty four year old yoke of Roman supremacy imposed at the Udayamperur Synod of 1599.

The Mattanchery incident has been narrated by “a priest named Abraham from the Jacobite point of view to W.A. Mill” in 1821 and cited by W.A. Mill” in his work “The Early Spread of Christianity in India (pp 50-53). The narration is reproduced below:
“In the year 1653, our Father Ignatius, Patriarch of Antioch came to Mylapore. Two deacons went from Malabar to the Church of Mylapore in order to worship before the grave of St. Thomas, the Apostle.

When our Father Mar Ignatius saw the deacons, and recognized them, he wept; and they also wept with him. This scene having been noticed by the Franks, they set up watchmen over them, in order to impede the deacons from seeing and speaking to our Father Mar Ignatius; there was no bishop from our own race, and they were the masters of the dioceses of India. Once, however, our Father Mar Ignatius made a secret sign to the deacons, and granted them a letter of recommendation to elect bishop, the Archdeacon Thomas, and gave them leave to depart. When the deacons reached Malabar, they delivered the Patriarchal letter to the Archdeacon Thomas, who despatched letters to this effect to the churches. When all the priests, deacons, and Christian laymen of Malabar came to him, and heard our Father Mar Ignatius, had arrived at the fortress of Cochin, they repaired’ there without delay and implored the pagan king of Cochin to summon their Father Mar Ignatius, and deliver him to them. The king answered them: ‘To-morrow I will summon him and deliver him to you.’ This, however, became known to the Franks who gave much money to the king of Cochin, and he permitted them to do as they wished.

In that very night, the Franks tied a large stone round the neck of the blessed Patriarch, and threw him in to the depth of the sea. The moment the blessed Patriarch died, the pagan king also died. After these events, all the Syrian parties assembled in the church of Mattanchery, and each one of them swore in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, that they will have no more love for, nor union and communion with the Franks and they established Archdeacon Thomas, the head of all the churches of the Syrians, in accordance with the order of our Father the Patriarch Ignatius. After this, in the year 1660, Bishop Joseph came to Malabar, but we did not follow him. A short time after this, Bishop Joseph called a priest named Alexander from the family of bishop Thomas, and by fraud and deceit he persuaded him to receive Episcopal ordination; this divided the Syrians of Malabar into two camps.”5

E. R. Hambye has referred to the letter6 which was claimed to have been written by Mar Aithalaha (Ahatalla) to Archdeacon Thomas Palliveetil leader of St. Thomas Christians. The letter reproduced by M.K. Kuriakose is as follows:

“In the name of the eternal essence of the Almighty, The Patriarch of the Holy Thomas the Apostle. The peace of God the Father, and the blessing of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit-Hereby, I, Ignatius Patriarch of All India and China, send you a letter through some deacons who came here from your place. After having read the letter with care, send me two priests and forty men. In case you send them, do it with prudence, as well as soon as possible. For, if these here see you, they will let them go without obstacle. Come, sons, listen to me and learn from me for all power was given to me by the Lord Pope i.e. Ignatius is endowed with all power. Therefore, do not be afraid because I have come having many treasures and a lot of other riches, according to your needs. Therefore, try your best to bring me to you, in the name of Mary, the Mother of God, your priests and deacons of the holy flock, as well as all the leaders. And know that I came to Mylapore city, because I learned that several men and priests used to come here who could bring me to your region of the Indies. In the year 1652, I arrived at Mylapore on August the 2nd. To the monastery of the Jesuits i.e.(text illegible). 1 live in the same monastery, and they treat me very well may their generosity increase all over.

Peace be with them, with you and with us for ever. Amen. (Signed) Ignatius Patriarch of India and China.”7

Western historians have tried to identify the credentials of Ahatalla whom the Malankara Christians believed to be Patriarch from Antioch on the strength of the personal witness of the two deacons who met him at Mylapore and the letter he wrote and handed over to them. Dr. Malancharuvil has reproduced a letter purported to be from Mar Ahatalla which has much variations from what referred to by Bishop L. W. Brown. In the letter, Ahatalla put his position as I, Ignatius, Patriarch, of all India and China”. Ignatius is the title of Patriarchs of Syrian Church, not of the Popes of Rome or of any

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