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. 3                       New Delhi                March 2009                    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

  PAREMMAKAL THOMA KATHANAR    (PART II) 

From a very early period, until the end of the 16th century, the Church of the East of the Marthoma Nazranis derived their Bishops from the Church of Persia Proper first, and then from Selucia - Ctesiphon of Mesopotamia. Owing to the geographical and political conditions of the times and also owing to the ancient system of Church Administration, the Nazranis had no contacts with Rome until the time of crusades. Since 1553, its Patriarchs began to be confirmed in office by Rome and they were also called the Syro-Chaldean Patriarchs. The Marthoma Nazranis were juridically under the Bishops sent by the Patriarchs who were confirmed by Rome.

 

The Chief Bishop of the Marthoma Nazranis was called the "Metropolitan and the Gate of all India". The Bishops were foreigners, but were also having a common father in faith with us. It is because of this affinity in faith our forefathers welcomed them whole-heartedly. The effective administration was in the hands of the Archdeacons known as the "Archdeacons of India". The Archdeacons were historically known to us were all priests from Malabar. They were the religious, the social, the communal and the political leaders of the Marthoma Nazranis. The Bishops for the most part exercised the power of order only. 

 

The adminsitration of the local churches was carried on by the Church Assembly (Palliyogam) that consisted of the priests and adult males who were ascribed to the respective churches. These Church Assemblies had the power to inflict even excommunication on the public delinquents. Matters of a serious nature were dealt with by the representatives of two or more Churches. Matters pertaining to the whole Church or community - religious, social, political - were handled by the respresentatives of all the Churches. It was in these General Church Assemblies (the Malabar Church Yogam) that the Archdeacon, the 'Jathikku Karthavian' (the one responsible for the community) as he was popularly called, played his part the most conspicuous way. The General - Church - Assemblies were practically supreme and de facto no higher ecclesiastical authority questioned their decisions. The Nazranis, therefore, formed, as it were a Christian Republic with a head from among themselves. Their Bishops who were foreigners were eclipsed by, or were under the shadow of the Archdeacon. Such was the canonical set up that developed among the Marthoma Nazranis of the past.  It is because of this 'autonomous' state and 'oneness', no foreign heresy or religious controversy had any impact on the Nazranis, and they were quite content with their Archdeacon. It is high time that such a Church administration is restored to the Marthoma Nazranis. 

 

Towards the close of his life, Mar Abraham of the Nazranis was accused of heresy and other crimes chiefly by the Jesuits whom he had introduced to work among his flock and to run his seminary at Vaipicotta. Pope Clement VIII by a Brief dated 27.1.1595 empowered the Archbishop of Goa (the See was vacant) to make an informative process against Mar Abraham in custody if found guilty and in this case to appoint as Vicar Apostolic for Angamaly a Latin, preferably one who knew Syriac language with no power, however, to confer orders. He could be removed and another appointed as it deemed fit to the Archbishop of Goa. The Archbishop of Goa moreover was asked not to admit into Malabar any Bishop or Archbishop except the one appointed by Rome in accordance with the Decree of the Goan Council of 1585 (was there such a decree ?? ). Mar Abraham reconciled himself with the Jesuits and the Jesuits asked the Archbishop of Goa to postpone the process. A private process, however, is said to have been made by way of enquiry and a report sent to Rome against Mar Abraham. But the same Pope Clement VII by another Brief on 21.1.1957 asked the Archbishop of Goa to appoint any worthy person as Vicar Apostolic of Angamaly if Mar Abraham died before the appointment of his successor and Rome began to deal with the appointment of Mar Abraham's successor.   The question was even postponed because of the good news about Mar Abraham who had not died. The intervention of the Portuguese King was ruled out in the deliberations and in the appointment. All these and the subsequent decisions concerning the Mar Thoma Nazranis were made without the consent or knowledge of the Patriarch, whose jurisdiction over the Nazranis had been explicitly confirmed by Pope Pius IV and Gregory XIII.

 

Mar Abraham, the last Archbishop of the Thomas Christians died in 1597. George, his Archdeacon, according to the customs and by virtue of the appointment of Mar Abraham took up the administration of the Archdiocese of Angamaly. Dom Menezes, the Bishop of Goa by virtue of the Papal briefs finally appointed the Archdeacon himself as the administrator of Angamaly and required of him to make a profession of faith according to the formula prescribed by him. The Archeacon delayed. In the meantime, the Portuguese authorities in Malabar, both civil and ecclesiastical, held a meeting at Vaipin near Cochin and proclaimed that the Archdeacon was a good ‘Catholic’. The Archdeacon made a ‘Profession of faith’ at that meeting.  The Jesuits who were excluded from the meetings informed Dom Menezes of the situation.  Dom Menezes arrived in Malabar. As his first act he commanded the Archdeacon and the priests ‘under precept of obedience and under pain of excommunication’ not to recite in the liturgy the name of Chaldean Patriarch. Encouraged by the Jesuits, he visited the churches some of which he broke open and exercised his jurisdiction in them by giving confirmation and Orders to many. More than a hundred were ordained. He thus got a party for himself. Then under pain of deposition, he forced the Archdeacon to yield.  The Archdeacon not only yielded but also did whatever Dom Menezes dictated to him even to admitting that the Nazranis were heretics and schismatics   !  

 

Let us reproduce here the letter written four centuries ago by the Nazranis to Pope Gregory XIII :-

 

"…….The Supreme Pastor of all Christians in the world, we are glad to inform Your Holiness that we are Christians from the time of St Thomas, one of the disciples of Christ. We partake in the most Sacred Body of Christ, His baptism and His Sacraments. Our liturgical worship is in Syriac. This we got directly from St Thomas, our Father in faith. Our forefathers and we have been learning this language very well. (Archivo Vat. Secreto, Armad. VII, Caps. V, No. 14).

 

Now, listen to the words of Paremmakal Thoma Kathanar:

 

"……..We are Syrians. From the time the Apostle, St. Thomas was in our country and gave us the treasure of the Holy Faith, we have been, until today, without any break, performing our ecclesiastical ceremonies and practices in the Syriac Rite. Your predecessors tried their best to change this ancient Rite of ours. But they realized they could not. What then is your aim ? Is it better than that of your predecessors? No, no, it is worse than that. Your efforts are like those of the devil, who, pretending piety spent his salary to have a bell cast and to have it hung up in a church. In the eyes of the people what this Satan has done was a good thing. For the bell was intended to announce to the people the time of the Qurbana. But his was the worst of intentions. He did not make the bell to announce the time of the Qurbana. When there was no bell, they did not know the exact time of the Qurbana. So they used to go to the Church a little earlier and to pray therein. Unable to bear with their faith the Satan decided to make a big bell to announce the time of the Qurbana. In like manner, you requested Rome for a long time and succeeded in opening a seminary in Malabar. In the college of the Propoganda Fide, there were six places for our community. You secured the burses of four of these and assigned them to the seminary which is at your residence.  What you did is a good thing in the eyes of the people. On thoughts, all would think that taking pity and compassion on the poor and afflicted Malabarians you earnestly requested Rome and opened a seminary to dispel the ignorance and the blindness of the Malabarians by bringing them up in knowledge. " 

 

"...................As it is said in the sacred scriptures, it is from their deeds that we have to know who the false Christ and who the deceitful prophets are. All intelligent persons know from your deeds what your intention is. Those who leave your seminary after finishing their studies, what do they know when they have come out? It is known to all in Malabar that they do not know even the alphabet of Latin. Do they know Syriac? There are only a few who with much difficulty can understand the meaning of the words of their prayers and of the Qurbana. All those who know Syriac in Malabar know also that even this much they acquire, not through your efforts but by their own diligence. Then what do they learn there. They learn there to serve you and also the catechism meant for children written in Malayalam with no order nor basis as well as a few words of humbug, called 'Sacraments'. But to learn this humbug written in Malayalam there is no need for any seminary…… It is enough to have an elementary school for this purpose. Then for what purpose have you erected the seminary and for what end are you getting money from Rome? It is to have men to serve you and it is also to manifest your glory and power in the presence of all. By means of the humbug written in Malayalam, you have deprived the students even of the knowledge of the sacred scriptures, which in spite of the afflictions and the persecutions suffered by our community, our ancestors, as a treasure, have by the grace of God transmitted to us. Your intention, therefore, is to make the people of Kerala idiots with no knowledge of any language, not even of the Holy Scriptures, and thereby to dispose them to believe all that you say. But our Churches that assembled at Angamaly in 1773 after the burial of Bishop Florence knew your deceit and wickedness of your heart. They decided and ordered the seminary at Alangat and not at Verapolly which is your residence.  Because of your tricks and deceits and because of the helplessness and of the difficulties of our people you fixed the site of the Seminary at Verapolly, your residence."

 

"...................You know very well from all these that the Syrians were displeased with all your efforts by which you tried to take away from them their honour, their Syrian Rite and their practice which they have been observing for a very long time…."

 

“………Bishop Francis Sales was from Alamanha while the important Padres were from Italy. So they would not obey him.   This they could not say out publically and, therefore, they had recourse to the other means known to all namely that he was a scandalous man and so they would not obey him.  The Padres were of a race, language and Rite other than those of the Malabarians over whom they ruled.  In order to keep up their position, they made use of presents or sweet words or threats in their dealings with the leaders of the Malabarians, all they availed themselves of the divisions in their assemblies. Such being the case, they had no reason not to obey one from Alamanha.  Rome had appointed for the seat of Verapolly persons belonging to several nationalities and the Padres had obeyed them without grudge. This also is another reason why they should not have disobeyed Bishop Sales.  But this happened under the providence of God, who could not allow the Bishop in company with the Padres to persecute the poor and the enslaved Malabar Christians. When the Medionites took up arms against the Israelites, Gedeon and the three hundred faced them, and they perished fighting among themselves. So God permitted Padres to disagree with the Bishop in order to keep the Malabarians unmolested."

 

"..................Unable to put up with a situation, the Bishop called Malpan Kariyattil from Alangat to Verapolly, sorrowfully narrated to him with tears all that the padres were doing to him, acknowledged he had caused some scandals in the past, and promised he would behave himself properly in the future. Malpan Kariyattil taking pity on him called Tharakan Mathoo Thachil of Kuthiathot to Verapolly and informed him of the situation. Both wrote to the Churches of Angamaly, Alangat and of some other places.  All went to Verapolly collected all the belongings of the Bishop and solemnly conducted him to Alangat and he began to live there......."  “(When Bishop Sales had left Verapolly, Padre Clement of Jesus confidentially wrote to Padre Leo (to Mahe) saying: We have cast him out of the house, or to say better, we have acted in such a way that he himself has gone out)……"

 

A great master of the spoken word, a man able, better than anyone, to relate and to sympathize authentically, but first and foremost a priest committed to the Marthoma Nazrani Church, Paremmakal Thoma Kathanar occupied so great a place in the life of our Church! His legacy will not disappear, not only because the Nazranis will not forget him, but because he obviously remains in the Eternal Memory of God, as a faithful servant in this vineyard. Despite his tragic illness, he continued to travel and speak on behalf of (the Nazranis) and for the unity of the Nazranis.

 

Even today, most of our priests and even Bishops who have been trained in Latin Seminaries (and even in our own Seminaries!) come out with latin practices and latin way of worship. Nay, they often become arch-enemies of our Church. They look down upon their own Mother Church's liturgy, traditions and customs in the name of pseudo-Indianisation, adaptation and modernization. This is the real curse of the Marthoma Nazrani Church (Syro-Malabar) today.

 

The Synod of 1999 can be compared to the works of the devil as mentioned above. The Syro-Malabar Bishops Synod held from 14-20 November 1999, decided to celebrate the Holy Qurbana on a compromised formula (50/50), which indeed was a great step in bringing unity in the already disturbed and baffled Syro-Malabar Church. But the Anti-Oriental Bishops and priests had the worst of intentions. This decision of the Synod, to this day, still remains on paper and, under the leadership of the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly, has yet not been implemented in Trichur, Irinjalakuda, Palghat, Thamarassery, Mananthavady, Bhadravathi and a few mission dioceses. The works of the Satan have been highly successful in spoiling the rich Oriental liturgical practices prevalent in the once Oriental Arch/dioceses. The resultant effect: Qurbana is now a mockery everywhere, with no one to supervise and everything left to the whims and fancies of the priests and choir. It is this indiscipline in the Syro-Malabar Church that has crept even into the convents........! What a pity!