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Indian Orthodox Church

The Indian Orthodox Church, a prominent member of the Oriental Orthodox church family, was established by St. Thomas, the Apostle in A.D. 52. Whether or not Thomas in fact reached India is disputed (see Thomas entry for more detail). At that time India had trade relations with the middle-east. This helped St. Thomas to reach Kerala, the southern part of India. He preached the Gospel to the locals, baptised many, ordained some as clergy and founded 7 churches. All these churches still remain as the major Christian centres in Kerala. So the Indian Christians are known by the name, St. Thomas Christians. The church slowly expanded throughout the entire Kerala and later to the rest of India. Now the church has 21 bishops, 1000 priests and around 3 million laity. The head of the church is Catholicos of the East H.H. Baselius Mar Thoma Mathews II whose seat is at Kottayam, Kerala, India. The church has dioceses outside India in the UK, Europe, Canada and the USA.

The church, though modern in its vision and outlook, keeps the traditional Orthodox faith and liturgy. It accepts the first 3 ecumenical synods. The liturgy now in use is the translation of the Syrian liturgy adopted from the Syrian Orthodox Church in the 17th century.

The Indian Church was related to the Persian church in the early centuries. Bishops were sent to India from that church. This relationship halted at a later period. The Portuguese who colonized India in 1498 also tried to convert the local Christians to Catholicism. In 1599 they succeeded in forcibly converting some to the Roman Catholic Church. But in 1653, the St. Thomas Christians broke the shackles of foreign authority, as it is against the basic Orthodox tradition. Some people remained with the Catholic Church whose predecessors now belong to the Roman Catholic Church in India.

Later in the 19th century, the English also tried to convert the whole church into a reformed one, but in vain. However they were able to convert a few to the Anglican church. Even after such splits in the church, the Indian Orthodox Church remains the stronghold of Oriental orthodoxy in the sub continent.

The church has a theological seminary at Kottayam, Kerala which was established in 1815.

The church take part active roles in various ecumenical activities at national and international levels. It is a member of the World Council of Churches. Famous theologians Mar Paulose Gregorious, Mar Geevarghese Osthathios are bishops of the Indian church. Rev. Fr.V.C. Samuel, who contributed a lot to the negotiations between the Oriental and Byzantine churches also belongs to this church.

External link

  • The official website of the church is
http://www.orthodoxsyrianchurch.com/ http://www.orthodoxherald.com/ http://www.orthodoxherald.com/youngherald/ http://www.malankaraorthodoxsyrianchurch.com/

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