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Background

Nasrani
Saint Thomas Christians
Malankara Church
Holy Apostolic Throne of St. Thomas
Ancient Crosses of India
Coonan Cross Oath
Synod of Diamper

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Theologies

Dalit theology




The Coonan Cross Oath (Koonan Kurishu Satyam), taken on January 3, 1653,[1] was a public avowal by the majority of the Saint Thomas Christian community of Kerala, India that they would not submit to Portuguese dominance in ecclesiastical and secular life. The swearing of the oath was a major event in the history of the Saint Thomas Christian community and marked a major turning point in its relations with the Portuguese colonial government. The oath resulted directly in the formation of an independent Malankara Church and the first permanent split in the community.

Historically the Saint Thomas Christians were part of the Church of the East, centred in Persia, but the collapse of the church hierarchy throughout Asia opened the door for Portuguese overtures. Over the course of the 16th century the Portuguese padroado progressively extended its control over the community, culminating with the Synod of Diamper in 1599, which formally brought the Saint Thomas Christians into Latin Rite Catholicism and replaced traditional East Syrian liturgy with Latinized liturgy. Widespread discontent with these measures led the community to rally behind the archdeacon, Thoma, in swearing to resist the padroado.[2]

When news of these events reached Pope Alexander VII, he dispatched a Carmelite mission, headed by Bishop Sebastiani of the Chaldean Church (the part of the Church of the East that had recently entered into communion with Rome). This mission, which arrived in 1661, organised a new East Syrian Rite church hierarchy in communion with Rome. By the next year 84 of the 116 Saint Thomas Christian communities joined this Eastern Catholic Church, known as the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. The remaining 32 communities eventually entered into communion with the Syriac Orthodox Church, introduced by Mar Gregorios Abdul Jaleel of Jerusalem in 1665. The split into Syro-Malabar and Malankara factions would be permanent; over the next centuries the Malankara Church would experience further splits and schisms.

Contents

Background

The Saint Thomas Christians remained in communion with the Church of the East until their encounter with the Portuguese in 1498.[3] With the establishment of Portuguese power in parts of India, clergy of that empire, in particular members of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), attempted to Latinize the Indian Christians.

The Portuguese started a Latin diocese in Goa (1534) and another at Cochin (1558) in the hope of bringing the Thomas Christians under their jurisdiction. In a Goan Synod held in 1585 it was decided to introduce the Latin liturgy and practices among the Thomas Christians. In the Synod of Diamper of 1599 the Portuguese Archbishop, Dom Aleixo de Menezes, succeeded in appointing a Latin bishop to govern the Saint Thomas Christians. The Portuguese Padroado was extended over them.

The Portuguese refused to accept the authority of the Indian hierarchy and its relation with the East Syrians. At the Synod of Diamper, the Portuguese Archbishop of Goa imposed a large number of Latinizations. The Church of Malabar came under a forced communion with Rome. From 1599 up to 1896 these Christians were under the Latin Bishops who were appointed either by the Portuguese Padroado or by the Roman Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (Propaganda Fide). Every attempt to resist the Latinization process was branded by them as heretical. Under their indigenous Archdeacon (Arkadayakon) Thomas (who later was consecrated Mar Thoma I, the first Bishop in India), the Thomas Christians resisted, but the result was disastrous.

Oath

The oppressive rule of the Portuguese padroado provoked a violent reaction on the part of the indigenous Christian community. The first solemn protest took place in 1653, known as the Koonan Kurishu Satyam (Koonan Cross Oath). Under the leadership of Archdeacon Thomas, the Thomas Christians publicly took an oath in Matancherry, Cochin, that they would not obey the Portuguese bishops and the Jesuit missionaries. In the same year, in Alangad, Archdeacon Thomas was ordained, by the laying on of hands of twelve priests, as the first known indigenous Metropolitan of Kerala, under the name Mar Thoma I.

Relationship of the various Nasrani groups.

After the Coonan Cross Oath, between 1661 and 1662, out of the 116 churches, the Catholics claimed eighty-four churches, leaving Archdeacon Mar Thoma I only thirty-two churches. The eighty-four churches and their congregations were the body from which the Syro Malabar Catholic Church has descended. The other thirty-two churches and their congregations were the body from which the Syriac Orthodox (Jacobites & Orthodox), Thozhiyur (1772), Mar Thoma (Reformed Syrians) (1874), Syro Malankra Catholic Church have originated. [4]

In 1665, Mar Gregorios Abdul Jaleel, a Bishop send by the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch arrived in India and the St.Thomas Christians under the leadership of the Archdeacon welcomed him. [5][6] This visit resulted in the Mar Thoma party claiming spiritual authority of the Antiochean Patriarchate and gradually introduced the West Syrian liturgy, customs and script to the Malabar Coast.

The arrival of Mar Gregorios in 1665 marked the beginning of East Syrian association of the Thomas Christians. Those who accepted the West Syrian theological and liturgical tradition of Mar Gregorios became known as Jacobites. Those who continued with East Syrian theological and liturgical tradition and stayed faithful to the Synod of Diamper are known as the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in communion with the Catholic Church. They received their own Syro-Malabar Hierarchy on 21 December, 1923, with the Metropolitan Mar Augustine Kandathil as the Head of their Church.

The Saint Thomas Christians by this process became divided into East Syrians and West Syrians.

See also

References

  1. ^ "Koonan Oath 00001". http://209.85.165.104/search?q=cache:grrXjMjR0a8J:www.education.kerala.gov.in/englishmedium/historyeng/chapter8.pdf+coonan+cross+oath&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=5&gl=us. Retrieved 2007-05-20. 
  2. ^ Frykenberg, pp. 134–136.
  3. ^ I. Gillman and H.-J. Klimkeit, Christians in Asia Before 1500, (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999), p.177.
  4. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia- “St. Thomas Christians” The Carmelite Period, Dr. Thekkedath, History of Christianity in India”
  5. ^ Claudius Buchanan, 1811, Menachery G; 1973, 1982, 1998; Podipara, Placid J. 1970; Leslie Brown, 1956; Tisserant, E. 1957; Michael Geddes, 1694;
  6. ^ Dr. Thekkedath, History of Christianity in India”

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