Let us pray, peace be with us:

"The Cross that has been the cause of our good and by which our mortal humanity was set free,
O Lord, be for us a strong fortress. And by this Cross, we shall overcome the wicked one and All his devices."

(Syro-Malabar Qurbana)

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                     THE NAZRANI        “The Truth will make you free”

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------            Vol.19, No. 2                       New Delhi                February 2009               --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


This year we are celebrating the 210th death anniversary of Paremmakal Thoma Kathanar. Not many people know that he was the first freedom fighter of our country.  His love for our country and our Church can be seen in his writings.  He was the first to write a travelogue in Malayalam language. He was the first one who opined that the Indians should be ruled by Indians and India should be liberated from the foreign/colonial rule. He was the first Keralite, nay first Indian who traveled like Marcopolo.


In the 16th century, the Marthoma Nazranis of India came into contact with the Portuguese.  In the beginning, both behaved to the other as brothers in the same faith. The Portuguese made new Christians from among the non-christians in the Latin Rite. Since 1534, their ecclesiastical jurisdiction began to be exercised by their Bishops of Goa. Goa became an Archdiocese in 1558 with Cochin as its suffragan See, erected in the same year. These Sees were under the Padroado (patronage) of the Portuguese Crown, who presented their Bishop to the Pope and also maintained them. Then the Portuguese claimed primacy over "All India" and tried to do away with the Nazrani Bishops' "All India Jurisdiction" of the "Metropolitan" and the "Gate of All India" of the Marthoma Nazranis. They put the Nazranis under the Latin "padroado" jurisdiction. Whatever was not in conformity with the Latin or the Portuguese way of life and worship was at once declared heresy and schism. The Dominicans, the Franciscans and the Jesuits, the last two mainly through the Nazrani priests trained by them acted as agents for the Portuguese civil and ecclesiastical authorities to promote their plan regarding the Nazranis and their Bishops (like the latinised Nazrani priests of today!). The Franciscans opened a seminary at Cranganore in 1540 where they trained the Nazrani priests in the Latin Rite. There was a seminary at Vaipicotta started in 1581 for the Nazranis. There also many were latinised. In addition, some were taught and ordained priests in Portugal. But the Nazranis ran away from the Portuguese settlement. They did not permit even their own sons ordained in the Latin Rite to say Latin Mass in their churches. These priests had to work under the Latin Bishop of Cochin. Some of the Bishops of the Nazranis were accused of heresy, imprisoned and deported to Portugal or Rome. Mar Joseph, who was deported to Rome via Lisbon died in Rome in 1569. Then we have Mar Abraham who in 1567, was appointed the "Archbishop of Angamaly" and Superior of All the Bishops and Metropolitans of India (Gate of India) by Patriarch Abdiso. The Patriarch made this appointment on his own authority and by the authority of Pope Pius IX who had recommended to him to assign Angamaly to Mar Abraham. He was twice imprisoned by the Portuguese. The second time, in spite of the Papal credentials he had brought with him from Rome. The Portuguese thought he was a Co-provincial Bishop under the Latin Archdiocese of Goa though he was a Bishop under the Patriarch with authority over all Bishops and Metropolitans of his Rite in India. Mar Abraham did not attend the provincial council of Goa of 1575 to which he was invited as Bishop Co-provincial. In his absence, the council decreed that the Nazranis were to be under the Bishop presented by the Portuguese crown or that Mar Abraham should attend the Council of Goa. At the instance of the Pope, Mar Abraham attended the Goan council of 1585. This Council accepted the decree of the Council of 1575 and decreed upon the latinisation of the Nazranis and their Liturgy.


Archbishop Mar Joseph Kariyattil, after his consecration as the native Archbishop of the Marthoma Nazrani Church returned with Paremmakal Thoma Kathanar after their historic visit to Rome to get a native Metran and to get necessary permission for reunion of the separated Marthoma Nazranis with the Mother Church. They both arrived in Goa on 1st May, 1786.  But one day, Archbishop Mar Kariyattil was found dead in his room. It is said, as soon as both arrived in Goa, they were locked in separate rooms so that they could not have any communication between them. Some say that Mar Kariyattil was poisoned.  It seems to be an unnatural death. Paremmakal Thoma Kathanar sensing something fishy acted like a mad man, throwing his faeces on the walls of the room. Thinking that he is "severely mad", they unlocked the room and let him go as a free man to the wide world. The clever Paremmakal Thoma Kathanar after traveling some distance had a nice bath, put on nice cloths and some how managed to reach Kerala (by sea or land) and narrated the whole story to his close friends.  Archbishop Mar Kariyattil was buried in the Sanctuary of the Cathedral Church of Goa. Several times, the Nazrani pilgrims sought in vain to find out the burial place of Mar Kariattil. In 1932, when the Nazrani Bishop of Kottayam celebrated a Qurbana on the high altar of the church mentioned above, the thurible was suddenly upset. While those in the sanctuary removed the carpet on which the fire had fallen, the late Fr Joseph Aenekkat came across the tomb. Rev Fr Dr Placid Podippara, cmi (Placidachan) came to know about it and informed the Bishop of Changanacherry to celebrate a Qurbana for Mar Kariyattil. After getting the necessary permission, the mortal remains were very solemnly brought back to Kerala by the Nazrani Bishops in 1961 April and interned in his parish church of Alangat. The two Nazrani Archbishops and several Bishops of the Oriental and Latin Rites were present at the solemn deposition. 


From the ship in or near the port of Kochi, Paremmakal Thoma Kathanar wrote the following letter to the Nazranis :


……There remain yet several things to be concluded; it is also ordained to go directly to Goa; there is no delay at all for the ship after its arrival at Cochin, hence we go to Goa in a hurry without landing in Malabar. As we do not know what all tricks our enemies will play, when we reach Goa, it seems that we shall have to remain there until September next. If, therefore, we shall not be in Malabar after September next, you should write a letter to us in the name of the Churches, or, if possible, some of you should come to Goa….


Paremmakal Thoma Kathanar writes in his famous book Varthamanapusthakam… ………… "You say that Cariyattil and his companion had set out (to Rome) for nothing other than wordly matters? I cannot express in words the amusement I receive when I think over the words you have given vent to in this letter. There is a saying in Malabar "you should be either learned or drunk". I think when you wrote this letter you were not learned, but were drunk. There is nothing worse than self contradiction by which one tries to upset the convictions and the faith of the others. After you had said in the first paragraph that Cariyattil and his companion had been sent to fetch a Syrian bishop, Syriac Professors, ten Missionaries and to negotiate for a Seminary meant for the community, in the third para you say that they had set out in quest of worldly matters. So then I ask you: tell me: whether it is a wordly or a divine affair to have a Bishop and Professors for imparting knowledge and a Seminary for teaching our people doctrine and true worship?


Now, in times of old, during the days of our forefathers, there came to Malabar, Mar Simon, a Syrian Bishop. By deceit, he was made to give consecration to Bishop Angelus. At midnight, without the others knowing it, Mar Simon was taken to Pondicherry and was killed locked up in a room. The Metropolitan Mar Gabriel arrived in Malabar and publicly announced that his faith was the Pope's faith. Columnies were reported to Rome against him and a document was obtained from Rome that he was a heretic and imposter. During these our days without any enquiry into the truth and into the objectivity of the case, Chacko Kathanar of Edappally was killed being shut up in a room. He was not given even the sacrament of penance at the hour of death although he had asked for it. At midnight, his body was wrapped up in a mat and buried like a dog's carcass on the bank of a tank. You yourselves had in writing consented at Angamaly in 1773 that no punishment should be inflicted on any one before his case was heard and judged by four churches. But, realizing the weakness of our people with no regard for that written agreement when all the churches were assembled at Malayattoor on new Sunday without making any accusation and before the churches could hear the case and judge it, your men arrested Panichikal Geevarghese Kathanar. Your men putting chain on his neck dragged him to Verapolly, had him tied fast to a couch face down and had him beaten by the hands of the low caste people. Every year you come on feast days in the churches of our Diocese where the feasts are celebrated solemnly and take away the offerings and spent it as you like. All these actions are for God's sake, while our journey from a distant country at the mandate of our churches is for matters mundane!  You may say so….you may say so………………...  if the others were animals devoid of reason and learning……"


……….What is the difference between those days and our days? Look, what is happening at Syro-Malabar personal parishes in Mayur Vihar Phase III, Janak Puri (own Church), Palam (own Church), Okhla, R.K.Puram, Gurgaon, Rohini and other places. If it is not to give proper authentic liturgy and ecclesial identity to the faithful, what is the use of personal parishes and Syro-Malabar Diocese in Delhi and other cities? It is the unanimous decision of the Syro-Malabar Bishops Synod that outside Kerala the Holy Qurbana should be offered facing the Altar (first part facing the people). However, the Syro-Malabar Qurbana is now celebrated completely facing the people in Delhi and other cities, except very few parishes, contrary to the directives of the Syro-Malabar Bishops Synod.


As we can see, the problems of Marthoma Nazranis began with the arrival of foreign colonialists. They are gone. But their by-products create trouble now. Todays problems are the creation of past four hundred years. Although the colonialism is over, the latinisation/westernisation still continues.  We may need some more time to reach the real solution. We hope that our Church also will return to Orthodoxy one day.  The dream of Mar Kariyattil and Mar Paremmakal will one day be realized. In centuries gone our anti-Oriental, Latinising agents were outside; they were foreigners. But today, they are inside; they are our "false-brethren" in the words of St Paul.  But one day the Marthoma Nazranis of India will all come together to walk along the path of Mar Kariyattil , Mar Paremmakal, Kudakkachira, Thondannat, Nidhiry, Podippara and so on…..

We can also see the typical mentality and attitude of the latinised Nazranis in India.  Until 1970's they were against the restoration of our All India jurisdiction and ecclesial identity i.e. its liturgy (such a mentality still continues). Those who talked in favour of All India jurisdiction were stamped as anti-Catholics! Only Latins are Catholics! So they wanted to latinise the Nazranis. It is the birth right to follow our Margam (our liturgy) anywhere in India and abroad