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. 10            New Delhi                October, 2009                         --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Placidachan writes to Cardinal Tisserant in August, 1945 about the root causes of Syro-Malabar Bishops rejecting reform in Liturgy in 1938 :


“Your Eminence very well knows that our Syro-Malabar Rite is in a highly latinised condition with mutilations, deficiencies and several other drawbacks. The Holy See stands not for the latinization, but for the catholicization of Oriental Rites. Hence, every true lover of our Rite desires to see it brought back to its pristine integrity and beauty in a manner adapted to modern circumstances and present day needs. If there are among us those who seem to be either indifferent or hostile to this idea, it is only because they have not known the mind of the Holy See and have not studied the Syro-Malabar rite in its various aspects.


The Syro-Malabar clergy is educated in the Latin atmosphere and their knowledge of the Syriac language is very inadequate. To the laity the whole Rite is a sealed book. Neither the clergy nor the laity receive any adequate instruction in the history, customs, usages, etc. of the Oriental rites in general and of the Syro-Malabar Rite in particular. Every liturgical effort, therefore, which is undertaken in Malabar makes the Syro-Malabar Rite look more and more latinised. Direct instruction of the Holy See in this matter seems to be the only remedy to rectify the situation” (Mannooramparampil, Syro-Malabar Qurbana’s Historical Background (OIRSI 96), KTM, 1986, p. 250f).


This shows the fact and truth: Placidachan was for adaptation even in 1945 ! He never asked for restoration of Chaldean liturgy without any change, as calumniously attributed to him! He was aware of the power politics and of the damage done to the Nazranis by the decree: Sancta dei Ecclesia of 25.3.1938 by Pius XI who in theory wanted no latinisation. It failed to put even the narrow territory of Syro-Malabar Rite under the exclusive jurisdiction of the S. Congregation for the Oriental Church so that Nazranis are not recruited for ‘serving’ Latin dioceses and religious institutes in India and abroad.




“Many Syro-Malabarese young men and women have gone into Latin dioceses or have joined Latin religious Institutions.  Almost in all the latin dioceses of India and in several latin Religious Institutes working in India there are to be found Syro-Malabarians. These have adopted the Latin Rite either permanently or for the time of their stay in the respective places or Institutes. This is a clear indication that there are surplus vocations in Syro-Malabar (Church) and that the Syro-Malabarians have real missionary zeal.  Neverthless, one reason that induces some to change their Rite is their difficulty in money-matters…….”




……The training the Syro-Malabarese clergy gets in the Latin atmosphere is also contributing its share to prepare the mind of the Syro-Malabarese youth to give up their rite in favour of the Latin Rite. Syro-Malabar (Church) has thus become a recruiting ground for Latin Dioceses and Latin Religious Institutes wherein candidates have to change into Latin Rite. Whatever be the cause of the changing of Rite, it has its far-reaching consequences that will affect the Syro-Malabar Rite and the Syro-Malabar church, unless this Rite and this Church are given conveniences to expand and spread themselves both at home and abroad” (p. 251).




“The fact that so many have changed into the Latin Rite in the manner said above has produced a general impression that the Syro-Malabar rite which is actually tied down to a corner of India without any apparent possibility of expansion is an obstacle…..A Rite which is an obstacle to evangelical work, they say, is not worth preserving. Others look upon it as an antiquated thing the use of which consists only in its being tolerated to drag on; its existence being restricted to the locality where it actually exists at present. Some even go so far as to speak sarcastically of it both in the press and in the platform. Those, moreover, who have adopted the Latin rite, are not as a rule sympathetic towards their former Rite….”




Under such circumstances, there are not wanting influencial persons who publicly praise what they call the broad-mindedness, the better-educatedness and the evangelical spirit of those young men and women who have changed into the latin rite in order to work in the mission fields. This attitude, besides being harmful to the good estate of the Syro-Malabar Rite, is also painful to those who sincerely believe that evangelical zeal is compatible with love of one’s own Rite, if only the mind of the Holy See is probed and put into execution. Here one may raise the question of the advisability of assigning a separate field for the Syro-Malabarians to exercise mission work in their own Rite utilizing their surplus vocation” (p. 252). Cf. Vat. II, Missions, n. 5-6.


Here we see the missionary spirit and future vision of Placidachan for the Syro-Malabar Church to become the Indian Church, which was reduced by the Latin rule over the Nazranis to the area between the Pampa and Ponnani rivers of Kerala. Paranki Bishops took Kochi in 1557, Angamaly in 1600, Mylapore in 1606, etc…




In Malabar itself, Carmelites, Franciscans and Jesuits have houses with several Syro-Malabarian inmates who have permanently adopted the Latin Rite! Those who have adopted the Latin Rite ‘ad tempus’ seem to recite the Divine Office in Syriac while they say Mass in Latin. This is a kind of mixing up of Rites.


As things stand at present, all these seem to be highly detrimental to the preservation and development of the Syro-Malabar Rite in India where the Syro-Malabarians are a minority living in the midst of latins who as a rule are not sympathetic towards the same Rite (p. 252 f).




“Coming again to the Syro-Malabar faithful who reside outside the actual Syro-Malabar territory, I may say that they are thousands in number found chiefly in the Latin dioceses of Mangalore, Calicut, Coimbatore, Quilon, Trivandrum and Kottar. They are all under the jurisdiction of Latin Ordinaries some of whom, it is said, are hostile to the idea of having two Rites in one and the same place” (p. 253).


“In all the other places, the Syro-Malabar faithful are left without their own priests to minister to them in their own Rite. For scarcity of priests of any rite many are for long deprived of Sacraments and Sacramentals as well as of the consolation of frequently hearing Mass. They are gradually being Latinized in mind and practice or in some cases even de-Christianized” (p. 253).


“The imposition of Latin Church jurisdiction on the Church of St. Thomas Christians in South India led to their unhappy division into several Churches and caused tensions between the Latin Church and the Syro-Malabar Church. These inter-Church divisions and tensions – which in some cases still continue – have adversely affected the progress of mission in India and elsewhere” (LINEAMENTA for the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops of Asia, in L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly, Ed. in English, 25-9-1996, p. 8, col. 1).


Fr. Rae’s remarks on Liturgy of Syro-Malabar Church (30.10.1953):


The Syro-Malabar rite is highly Latinized; it is a stumbling block for the unionistic work of the Church. The deformation of the Rite was done without the approval of the Holy See, which has the right and the duty of starting a true reform, taking into account temporal circumstances and necessary precautions……


It is true that the times are not yet ripe. The bishops are apparently indifferent to the reform; in their heart, rather hostile. The priests as much as the cultured laity, have no interest for it, because they do not know their rite!....


The liturgical movements seem to have been successful in the use of the vernacular in the liturgy……..Thus one or two months ago, the bishops crated a committee to study the problem of the liturgical language.




  1. To leave out, at least partially, Syriac as liturgical language, seems to me legitimate and it is not to provoke any change in the Rite or a dislike towards it… For the Malabars Syriac has already become a language that the scholars alone study. The priests, one must hope, understand something and even much of the texts of the Mass and the divine office; but those texts never vary; at Mass the epistle and gospel alone change every day…for the singers, they have been obliged to write Syriac in the alphabetical characters of Malayalam.


  1. It seems to me that at least in the beginning, Syriac should be kept in the most important prayers and formulas of each office except perhaps for the burial.


  1. But the use of the vernacular should not be granted unless the liturgical reform is achieved beforehand. This is very important. The present ritual translated into Malayalam would make known to every one that it hardly differs from the Roman Ritual. Then it is useless to translate the present texts…..




  1. For the book of funeral, I made…some suggestions that (we) can decently correct the book: the corrections are not numerous…


  1. The divine office only needs to be enlarged. The Temporal, according to the Chaldean Rite, is already kept as much as the number of hours, Vespers, Nocturn and Mattins.


  1. On the contrary, in the Missal, the Temporal and the Sanctoral of the Roman Missal were introduced. If for the Sanctoral one could be tolerant for the time being, the Temporal according to the pure Chaldean Rite should be introduced by all means. ( Present Syro-Malabar Church calendar is filled with saints from latin lives of Saints who do not get even “Memoria” in Latin calendar!). [By the way, Mar Geevarghese (St George) is no more a Saint of the Latin Church!!]


  1. Concerning the Ordinary of the Mass, it would be necessary to shift the consecration (to) within the anaphora….


  1. Regarding the Ritual, which is to the great extent the business of the priests, they should learn everything anew and a ceremonial seems to be absolutely necessary. It is the most delicate point of the reform.

But after having spoken with several Malabar priests, I am convinced that the reform is not only indispensable but altogether possible (OIRSI No. 96, p. 280).




  1. In order to start the reform, one cannot wait till the bishops ask for it. Their liturgical and ascetical formation separated them so much from their rite that they cannot know it. “Ignoti nulla cupido ! “ No desire for things unknown!


  1. The reform should be progressive, i.e. one liturgical book after another. First of all, the Pontifical, then the Missal, the Funerals; finally the Ritual. Perhaps (better) to start with the reform (of) the Divine Office in order to make the priests up-to-date.


I would suggest to entrust to V. Rev Fr. General of the Syrian Carmelites the translation of the three volumes of Bedjan and to ask him to finish the translation within a fixed time-limit, two or three years.


  1. It seems necessary that the reformed liturgical books be imposed by Rome and prescribed to all. No bishop has sufficient authority to make the reform acceptable. Coming from Rome, the reform would be accepted and no strong opposition, it seems, could be feared.


By way of conclusion, there would be great advantage that Your Eminence during his travel shows himself inclined and even decided to undertake the liturgical reform. For the Pontifical, the thing is decided.


Discussions or consultations on particular points seem to me rather useless. Fr. Placid is the only one who knows the rite well (Cf Mannooramparampil, Syro-Malabar Qurbana’s Hist., Kottayam 1986, pp. 278-80).


Fr. A. Raes, SJ rightly remarks: “Syriac should be kept in the most important prayers and formulas” and “the use of vernacular should not be granted unless the liturgical reform is achieved beforehand”. Syro-Malabar Bishops neglected these two “important” guidelines, even after clear decree of Oriental Congregation, 20-1-1962: Malayalam is permitted for the whole Divine Liturgy, but Anaphoras must be printed in both Syriac and Malayalam; the celebrant can choose one or the other for celebration. “Catholic” Syro-Malabar Bishops disobeyed the directives of Holy see (Pope) about Qurbana and sowed the seeds of division among themselves !  Not a Syriac letter in Qurban-akramam of 1968!


Cardinal Parecattil, (Liturgy Ente Drishtiyil, p. 103-109), gives his version of the split in Syro-Malabar Bishops. They cry: pastoral need! What about pastoral care? Are they pastors or strangers, or “thieves and robbers”?  They get foreign money and live like Paranki “Lordship”!! Not abba-Father!!


Lourdsamy (then Prefect of the Oriental Congregation) too played politics:  Official text is the English Text approved by Oriental Congregation!  Why English Text? Why not Malayalam or Hindi Text ??  What about Syriac original Text ?  Damn it ! Lourdsamy’s trick !




As Archbishop Kandathil suggested, Bishop Parecattil asked solutions to their objections to reform: Placidachan replied on 14-11-1954 (Cf. Mannooramparampil, S.M. Qurbana’s History, Kottayam 1986, pp. 286-290).


“Many thanks for communicating to me the view said to be current there regarding the restoration of our Rite. Pardon me if I say that the arguments advanced are not new to me and that there are generalizations in Your Lordship’s statements.




  1. “It is said that since the Syrians abroad and in Kerala are not of the same community, it is not necessary that the same Rite and the same jurisdiction should be given them.


(Reply): Here there is mixing up of Rite with jurisdiction which is unfortunate and misleading. Rite and jurisdiction need not go together”.




“Your Lordship says that the Chaldean Rite was imposed upon us by foreign colonists though we were having an indigenous Rite.


(Reply) This is a mere assertion with no foundation at all… I am sorry to see that Your Lordship is inclined to accept the Suddist myth which attributes the origin of the Chaldean Rite in Malabar to the foreign colonists”.


If the Chaldean Rite superseded an indigenous developed Rite we may now say to resuscitate the latter. But this resuscitation can be effected only if we posses some knowledge about the so-called indigenous developed Rite. In the absence of such a knowledge, we have to say, at least for practical purposes, that the Chaldean Rite is the only developed Rite the Malabar Church ever possessed. The supposed indigenous developed Rite exists only in the imagination of a few opportunists.


(Even Parecattil admits in “Liturgy Ente Drishtiyil” (p. 16) that “in fact there is no need of wasting time by arguing about the early liturgy of Malabar Church and its “thanima”. The historians have no unanimous, nor steady, opinion about it”. This is very true of Parecattil himself: “No one can deny that Chaldean rite happened to take root in Kerala by the efforts of priests and bishops who came with the colonists in 4th century” (p. 17); “If we look for sound tradition in liturgy, it is not enough to go up to 4th century when the Chaldean era started, but to the 1st century when the Church of Kerala began and to the Indian culture of that period. We may find nothing in that dark chapter; no need of finding it; we live in today’s Indian culture…. But we cant paint without a wall; it is the Chaldean liturgy which forms the basis of Syro-Malabar Rite; it is to be reformed (p. 18).


SOUND TRADITION: “Chaldean liturgy that came to Kerala in 4th century is not suited to our true tradition… It is foreign to people of this country. Syro-Malabar Church’s roots go back to 1st century. As we said early (p. 37 ?), it is possible, St Thomas formed an Indian liturgy” (p. 215).  See an opportunist’s fantasy !


“The Portuguese tried to abolish the really ancient Rite of Malabar and when they failed in that they mutilated it and hybridisized it and imposed upon us even by using physical force the present form of our Rite. This form of our present Rite backed by the Holy See clamours for justice and restoration.


I do not find any reason to say, as Your Lordship says, that the Chaldean Rite was imposed upon us. On the contrary, Your Lordship and the whole world know that the Portuguese illegally imposed the present illegal Rite upon us  against our will and against the will of the Holy See. The will of the Holy See remains the same always” (OIRSI No. 96, p. 286f).


[“The imposition of Latin Church jurisdiction on the Church of Thomas Christians in South India led to their unhappy division into several Churches and caused tensions between the Latin Church and the Syro-Malabar Church. These inter – Church divisions and tensions – which in some cases still continue – have adversely affected the progress of mission in India and elsewhere” (LINEAMENTA for the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops of Asia; L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly Ed. in English, 25-9-1996, p.8., col. 1). ]




“When we speak of restoring the Rite the meaning is not that we may not have our local peculiarities. It is the structure of the Rite and homogeneity of its parts that matter and both of these are miserably done away with in the present form of our rite.  Will any one say a mutilated form of the Latin Rite has to be used in Malabar by the Latins there…on the ground that they are not racially of Latin origin ?




  1. The fear is expressed that the restoration of the Rite will make the Chaldeans claim jurisdiction over us as they were doing before, and that if this is allowed our progress will be impeded.


(Reply): Letter of CPF to Mar Louis on 25-9-1897 (EM 43: 126) says that the idea of the annexation to the Chaldean Patriarchate has been categorically rejected by the Pope, and, therefore, shall never be realized at all.  “….unless our Metropolitan becomes a patriarch or an Archbishop (Major), he ought to juridically be under Patriarch or an Archbishop. This will incite the Chaldean claim. So we must give up our Latinized Rite and go back to the genuine form of our Rite so that our Church may have an autonomous position and that we may put a stop to all Chaldean claims, though vane they be.


Your Lordship knows that at least in theory we have a conditional right for a mission in our rite outside our territory. But even the goodly disposed say that it is not expedient to spread our Latinized Rite among new converts in a direct way as through a mission outside or territory (p. 288).


The Holy See is for the use of the vernacular provided our Rite is restored. This would mean the use of the vernacular of the place (missions) where the restored Rite is used… Is not this a bright future (Original or Typical Text in Syriac )




  1. Your Lordship says that no one is against the use of the vernacular while all are against a change of the present liturgical vestments.


(Reply) : It is incorrect to say that all are against a change in liturgical vestments. I know a good many who are for such a change. Those who travel with open eyes through European countries where the Liturgical Movement is gaining strength can notice how the Latins are going back to the real ancient liturgical vestments which agree with the oriental ones!  Shall we then keep to the unliturgical Latin vestments imposed upon us by the Portuguese? But in the Liturgical restoration of the Rite vestments are not very important. What is important is the structure of the Rite together with the homogeneity of its parts. (Even the Taksa of 1946 speaks of Kothina…Paina…)




  1. Your Lordship repeats all the aforesaid arguments viz.  we are not foreigners, our people know no Syriac, our clergy knows very little Syriac, the Chaldeans should have no jurisdiction over us. I have replied to all these except to the point regarding the Syriac language. (In 16th century lay people too knew Syriac).


(Reply): Do the faithful of the Latin Rite know Latin ?  Do all Latin priests know Latin sufficiently?


It is really shameful that our clergy do not know Syriac sufficiently even though they daily use Syriac for all priestly functions. I heard some one say that because we are not Syrians, we need not learn Syriac! The Germans and many other do not discourage the study of their liturgical language which is Latin though they are not Latins… They all unanimously condemn the training our clergy gets.




  1. Your Lordship says that everyone likes to continue to have the tonsure and other minor orders and that no one likes to give up their number.


(Reply): I flatly deny that expressions: everyone likes and no one likes. Your Lordship means to say that the use of the Latin pontificals is to be continued. H.H. Pope Pius XI solemnly decided that we should use the most ancient Chaldean Pontificals.


And His Holiness while pronouncing this decision uttered the memorable words that the Holy See does not want to Latinize but to catholicize. If we would be Catholicised we have to obey the decisions of the Roman Pontiffs (Our Bishops – both past and present - disobey the directives, even the Final Judgement in 1983, of Holy See!).  Do our priests and laymen know of this decision and of its circumstances and implications?  If they know, will they stand for things Latin?  Shall we probe the depth of the loyalty of our Church to the See of Peter?


Since Your Lordship has written to me at the instance of His Grace the Archbishop as Your Lordship says towards the close of the letter, I would that His grace too comes to know of this my reply with its far reaching implications. If I have written anything amiss I ask pardon from both of you. One thing I can say boldly: I desire the progress of our Church from within and from without: I am fully convinced that the present form of our Rite is a real impediment to the real progress I have in mind; I desire to ward off Chaldean claims as much as I desire to see our Rite restored; the moment I see that the Holy See may be against my desires, I will unconditionally give them up; now I am fully convinced that  I desire exactly what the Holy See desires”.


Abp Kandathil after reading Placidachan’s letter of 14-11-1954 and studying the draft copies of the new missal and pontifical, which were prepared at Rome and sent in 1955, gives his comments and suggestions, summed up in the conclusion, in the letter of 6-6-1955 printed in Ernakulam Missam 43 (1973) 163-171.


“We are deeply indebted to Your Eminence for the admirable zeal and enthusiasm…for the progress and welfare of our Rite. We deeply appreciate the paternal regard you have for us…who has done immense service to the Syro-Malabar church. May Your Eminence’s noble efforts produce abundant good results. I promise….our wholehearted support and cooperation in all your endeavours.


“We are very happy…about a timely and beneficial reformation in our liturgy. We note with joy that in the draft…there are so many points which will help our people greatly. Your Eminence has tried to make our liturgy more devotional and popular”.




Archbishop deals with vernacular language and short ceremonies and says: not only Mass but also Pontifical, Breviary and Ritual, as well as all Liturgical functions. About the language of the present Liturgy he repeats what Bishop of Trichur wrote in 1938 and Parecattil in 1954 to Rome. Placidachan’s explanations seemed like seeds on wayside, or like a dog’s tail in a tube.  Archbishop says in 1955:


We are pure Indians…We have no connection with Syrians…”From the time of St Thomas, our people were having their liturgy in their own national language, except perhaps, some essential parts in Syriac, introduced by St Thomas. When the St Thomas Christians had no priests to perform their liturgical functions, persecution and such other adverse circumstances our people were only participating in the liturgical functions, performed by the Syrian priests who came to Malabar towards the middle of the IV century. Still our people remained pure Indians saying their prayers in their own tongue” (EM 43: 167).


What was the national language? Who was persecuting?


ANSWER: Archbishop seems to bite the bait of Southists that Knaithoma brought the Syriac liturgy here in 345 A.D. The first record of dependable date of Knaithoma, given by Dionysio SJ in 1578 is 825 A.D. Bishop of Trichur says: “The Syrian liturgy was imposed upon our ancestors by the fact that all the Bishops happened to be for centuries Syrians by birth or according to liturgy” (EM 45: 328. He holds Syrian colonists became extinct, or where by inter-marriage absorbed in the original Indian stock. So he rejects story of Knaithoma-Mass. Theories are made or stories created to serve some practical aim! They are only lame excuse for rejecting the “pure Chaldean Rite” and for keeping the “Syro-Malabar rite, as Syro-Malabar Bishops desired in 1938 !