Syro-Malabar Church: Malankara Orthodox

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Constitution, 1934

A summary

The Constitution of the Malankara Orthodox Church

The church had no written constitution until 1934, but was governed by consensus, traditions and precedence. It was the vision of Mor Dionysius, Vattasseril to have a clearly defined uniform constitution to govern the church administration. He initiated action in this regard and appointed a sub-committee with O. M. Cherian as convener to submit a draft constitution. The committee members had discussed the fundamental issues with the Metropolitan in several rounds. However it was not finalized and passed (materialized) in his life time.

After his demise, the constitution was presented in the Malankara Christian Association meeting of Dec 26, 1934, held at M. D. Seminary. It was adopted and brought to force. Three times the constitution was amended to meet specific situations and needs. It only shows that the church is alive to meet the challenges that arise from time to time. The validity of the constitution was challenged by the Patriarch party in the Court, but the Supreme Court has given its final verdict declaring the validity of the Constitution. Every member of the Church is bound by the rules and regulations laid down in the Constitution.The Constitution upholds the autonomy and autocephaly of the Malankara Orthodox Church. It is Episcopal in its (polity) and not congregational. At the same time it upholds democratic principle by safeguarding the rights and privileges of the lay people. It was framed at a time when the Patriarch of Antioch was held in high esteem and hence his limited role is included.The constitution enshrines the fundamental features of the Church, provides direction for its internal administration and preserves its integrity and autonomy. The essential features of the Church are provided in the preamble. The first article emphasizes the bond of relationship between the Church of Syria and Malankara. The second article deals with the foundation of the Malankara Church by St. Thomas and the primacy of the Catholicos. The third article refers to the name of the church and the fourth about the faith, traditions etc., and the fifth about the canons governing the administration of the Church.The whole constitution conceives the Malankara Church as self –sufficient in all her requirements, be it temporal, ecclesiastical or spiritual in nature and upholds that the Malankara Orthodox church is rightly autocephalous in character.

Download MOSC Constitution of Malankara Orthodox Church.Constitution Malayalam

The Canon law

The Canon Law accepted and followed by the Orthodox church of Malankara was collected and codified by Mar Gregorios Bar Hebraeus, Catholicos of Edessa (AD. 1226-1286) in the thirteenth century. He was a versatile genius who wrote about thirty books on a variety of subjects. He was a great scholar in church History and Canon Law of the Church. Having carefully and judiciously scrutinized the verdicts of the Church Fathers and the decrees of the provincial and ecumenical councils he collected them, edited and classified under different heads. The original work in Syriac contains forty chapters and is called by the name ‘hoodoyo canon’. The word ‘hoodoyo’ means “explanations”.

The original syriac manuscript was edited and printed in Paris in 1898 by Paul Bedjan. The Pampakuda Konat Library possesses a copy of this ancient canon which in every detail agrees with the Paris publication.

The Patriarch party in Malankara maintains a varied version of this Canon which was prepared here to give more power and claims to the Patriarch of Antioch. The original Syriac canon contains forty chapters of which the first ten chapters have been translated into Malayalam by the late lamented Malpan Fr. Abraham Konat. In his editorial note it is mentioned that the remaining thirty chapters contain subjects that are irrelevant for the Malankara Church, but connected with the Middle East society of that period. The author of the ‘Hoodoyo canon’ has simply presented the verdict of different church fathers and early councils, but he does not make any positive and conclusive pronouncements.

Certainly the Canon needs revision and updating to meet the challenges and needs of the Malankara Church in the modern times. The Church leaders who framed the constitution of the Malankara Orthodox Church have used this Canon as a basis.

The ten chapters contain matters related to church politics, sacraments, feasts and fasts, burial rites etc.

The Episcopal Synod

The Episcopal Synod with the Catholicos as its president is the apex body of all bishops. The authority of the synod is final and binding. It has exclusive rights and privileges in the matter of upholding the faith of the church, its discipline and order of Apostolic Succession. As regards temporal matters the church is guided by the Malankara Syrian Christian Association.

The bishops lead the diocese assigned to them by the synod. Presently there are 27 bishops including H.H, The Catholicos .

Section 102 to 109 0f The constitution of Malankara Orthodox church deals about the Episcopal Synod .It is as follows 102. There shall be an Episcopal Synod in Malankara. 103. All Prelates in Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church who have been duly approved as per the constituion shall be members of this Synod. 104. The Catholicos shall be the President of the Synod. 105. The Catholicos shall convene the Synod and preside over the Synod 106. When there is do Catholicos or if there is any accusation against the Catholicos and the Catholicos does not convene the Synod for considering such accusation, the Senior Metropolitan shall convene the Synod and preside over the Synod.

107.The Episcopal Synod shall have the authority to decide matters concerning faith,_ order and discipline. When the Synod shall meet for this purpose the Synod ma' select such persons as the Synod may deem needed for consultation.

108. No one shall have the right to alter-the faith of the Church. But in case there, may arise any dispute as to what is faith, the Episcopal synod above said may decide the matter and the final decision about this shall vest with the Ecumenical Synod. 109. The Episcopal Synod may in consultation with the Association. Managing committee appoint sub­committees for the purpose of Theological Education, Mission Work, Sunday school and similar matters.

Knanaya diocese

2002: troubles

By George Jacob, Knanaya diocese parting ways with Syro-Malabar Church?, December 20, 2002: The Hindu

Even as the civil authorities in the State are busy trying to douse the flames of religious fervour triggered by the fratricidal war in the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, yet another conflagration, this time, lit by the inter-denominal strife between the Syro-Malabar Church authorities and its Knanaya diocese is on the anvil.

Leaders of the Knanaya Catholic Congress (KCC), the laity-dominated organisation of the 1.5-lakh strong Knanaya Catholic community, whose voice, most of the time, echoes the views of their spiritual leaders, have said that they are seriously thinking of severing their ties with the Syro-Malabar Church as its hierarchy is bent on stifling the growth of the Knanaya diocese.

However, they would continue as an autonomous congregation under the Pope. The annual conference of the KCC scheduled on December 20 and 21 at Kaduthuruthy, near here, will take decisions regarding their future course of action, said E.J. Lukose, president of the KCC.

The Knanaya community, spread over two congregations, one the Knanaya Orthodox diocese owing its allegiance to the Patriarch of Antioch, and the other aligned with the Pope, has a unique historical background and place in the history of Christendom.

The community believes that its members are descendants of Thoma of Kana, the Christian trader from Syria who arrived in Kerala in AD 345 with 72 Christian families to revive the then weakening Christian community in Malankara.

The Knanaya community has since then followed its own peculiar traditions and religiously adhered to the principle of purity of blood while entering into matrimonial alliances. It had been the long standing demand of the leaders of the community that they be permitted to set up a diocese with its headquarters in Kannur and another for looking after the affairs of their flocks in North America. They also wanted the Kottayam diocese to be elevated to an Archdiocese.

According to Mr. Lukose, their demand was taken up by the Metropolitans' synod of the Syro-Malabar Church but was disposed of in the voting where there were ten votes in favour of their demand and 17 against. Now they are saying that the synod has no authority in the matter and it has to be decided by Rome. However, in spite of repeated requests, there has been no response from Rome, they said.

It is against this background that they are thinking of severing their ties with the Syro-Malabar Church, Mr. Lukose said.

Jacobite church prevents access to Orthodox faction

2019: SC reiterates 2017 verdict

Press Trust of India, Sep 6, 2019: India Today

"Tell judges in Kerala that they are part of India," the Supreme Court said on Friday while taking strong exception to the state high court's tinkering of its 2017 verdict on right to conduct administration and prayers in churches in a dispute between two factions.

The top court set aside the Kerala High Court order that prayer services at the churches should be performed alternately by the two rival factions of the Malankara Church.

The apex court in 2017 said that prayer services have to be performed in consonance with the 1934 Malankara Church Constitution and guidelines.

It had also said that 1,100 parishes and their churches under the Malankara Church should be controlled by the Orthodox faction as per those guidelines.

A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and M R Shah on Friday got furious after coming to know about the high court order and said, "It is a very objectionable order. Who is this judge? The High Court has no right to tinker with our decision. This is the height of judicial indiscipline. Tell judges in Kerala they are part of India". The bench was hearing the matter related to the implementation of the apex court order on giving control of 1,100 parishes and their churches under the Malankara Church to the Orthodox faction. Father Isaac Mattemmel Cor Episcopa, the Vicar of St Mary's Orthodox Syrian Church, had filed an appeal against the Kerala High Court order passed earlier this year.

On July 2, the apex court had observed that "is Kerala above rule of law" and warned that chief secretary may be put behind bars for not implementing its 2017 judgement.

Jacobite church followers have been accused of preventing access to the Orthodox faction, despite orders of the high court and the Supreme Court.

The St Mary's Orthodox Church and others in its appeal had said that the High Court had "closed" their two writ petitions on the issue, after taking note of arguments of the counsel appearing for the state that earnest steps have been taken by them for an amicable resolution of the disputes between the factions.

The petitioners have claimed in the top court that some of the directions passed by the high court in the matter were contrary to the top court's directive.

They had placed reliance on the 2017 verdict of the apex court to contend that no parallel service can be allowed in the church and only orthodox faction are allowed to do the religious service in accordance with the 1934 Malankara Church Constitution.

St Mary's Orthodox Church and others had filed two pleas in the high court seeking implementation of the apex court's orders passed in the matter and police protection for offering prayers in the churches there.

See also

Syro-Malabar Church

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