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The Eastern Catholic Churches / The Syro-Malankara Catholic Church

The Syro-Malankara Catholic Church

Number of faithfulapprox. 480,000
Title of First HierarchMajor Archbishop of Trivandrum of the Syro-Malankars
See of the First HierarchTrivandrum (India)
Current incumbent

Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, born 1959, in office since 2007

Bishops and dioceses13 bishops; 12 dioceses
RiteWest Syrian
Liturgical languageMalayalam
Presence in Austriaapprox. 70 faithful; 1 parish, 1 priest
Presence in Germanyapprox. 800 faithful; 5 parishes, 2 priests

The Syro-Malankara Church is an Eastern Catholic Church of the West Syrian Rite, which was only founded in 1930 and, like the Syro-Malabar Church, is based in Kerala in southern India. Their emergence can only be understood against the background of the disputes within the orthodox Saint Thomas Christians in India, which split into a "patriarchal party" and a "catholic party" since 1912. Dissatisfaction with the double hierarchy created by the split led the Synod of the Catholic Party in 1926 to appoint a representative to contact the Roman Church. In the written union negotiations with Rome, the representative of the synod, Mar Ivanios of Bethany managed to achieve the allowance of the retention of the West Syriac rite by Rome, the recognition of the ordination of priests and bishops entering communion with Rome, and the establishment of an independent church structure (independent of the Syriac-Catholic Patriarchate of Antioch). As a result, on September 20, 1930, two bishops from the Catholic party, Mar Ivanios and Mar Theophilos, converted to the Catholic Church. This date is considered the birth of the Syro-Malankara Church.

In 1932 the Vatican established a separate metropolis for the new Catholic community based in Trivandrum, the capital of the Indian state of Kerala. In the following decades, many believers, a number of priests and even individual bishops from the ranks of the Orthodox Saint Thomas Christians, tired of the quarrels between the Patriarchate party and the Catholicate party, joined the Syro-Malankara Church. Despite the agreed retention of the West Syrian rite, which had been expressly recorded in the corresponding decree of the Roman Eastern Church Congregation ("puros ritus syros antiochenus"), the Syro-Malankara Church was heavily Latinized during the first few decades, which was mainly due to the influence of Syro-Malabar priests who were initially asked by the Syro-Malankara bishops for support in setting up the seminaries and religious houses. In February 2005, the Vatican bestowed the title of Major Archbishop upon the Chief Hierarch of the Syro-Malankara Church, bringing the Syro-Malankara Church now on the same level as the older Major Archbishopric of the Syro-Malabar Church.


  • P. Pallath, Die katholische Kirche in Indien gestern u. heute, St. Ottilien 2008, 261-276.
  • W. Hage, Die Syro-Malankarische Kirche, in: ders., Das orientalische Christentum, Stuttgart 2007, 369-373.
  • J. Madey, Die syro-malankarische Kirche Indiens. Hintergrund – Entfaltung – Strukturen. In: Von Kanaan bis Kerala (Festschrift für J. P. M. van der Ploeg),
    hg. von W. C. Delsman u.a., Kevelaer / Neukirchen-Vluyn 1982, 457-480.