Statement on the Synod of Diamper (A.D. 1599)
Kottayam, 29 October 1999
This year being the fourth centenary of the Synod of Diamper (Udayamperur) which was held from the 20th to the 26th June 1599, we, the members of the Joint International Commission for Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Malankara Orthodox Church consider it very opportune to share with our brothers and sisters of both the Churches our findings on the nature and consequences of the Synod of Diamper with the firm hope of creating an increasing awareness of the urgent need of healing the bitter memories of the past which stand in the way of our reconciliation and mutual communion.
The undivided ancient apostolic Church of the St. Thomas Christians came into contact with the Portuguese in the sixteenth century. The Roman Catholic Missionaries who accompanied them, unjustly accused the St. Thomas Christians of upholding Nestorianism. Through the Goan Synods and through the seminary formation at Cranganore. Vaipinkotta etc., there was a systematic attempt to conform the indigenous Church to the Latin Church.
The activities in connection with the Synod of Diamper brought drastic changes in the ecclesiastical life of the St. Thomas Christians. Westernization and Latinization were the main results of the activities of the missionaries and the colonial power. The Church was forced to adopt several changes in the Latin direction. Consequently the identity and the heritage of the St. Thomas Christians were severely distorted.
As is evident from the canons of the Synod, under the direction of the missionaries, the liturgy was mutilated, the hierarchical relation with the Persian Church was discontinued and substantial changes regarding the practices and tradition of the St. Thomas Christians were introduced.
Despite certain positive aspects great damage was done to the ecclesial heritage of this local Church by the Synod. The saddest consequence of the Synod was the loss of freedom and the division of the one apostolic ancient Church in India into two, one section which later came to be known as the Syro Malabar Church and the other one as the Malankara Orthodox Church. This also led to further divisions and all sections of the St. Thomas Christians are suffering from it.
This common reading of such a crucial historical event in the life of St. Thomas Christians takes us a long way in our search for reconciliation and rediscovery of the identity of the Churches of St. Thomas tradition.
We are happy that some efforts have been initiated towards this. The setting up of this Joint Commission for Dialogue is one. We have already studied and drawn up an agreed statement on Christology; details of an interim agreement on Inter church marriage are being pursued, steps have been taken for a more effective common witness, to mention only a few. So we look forward to the future with hope assured of the desire of our faithful.
[Information Service 102 (1999/IV) 251-252]