The Syro-Malabar Major Archiepiscopal Catholic Church
Our community at St Joseph’s is privileged to have as part of our parish life, the Syro-Malabar community who trace their origins to the preaching of St Thomas.
The Syro-Malabar Community in Derby
The Syro-Malabar Catholic Community is one of the vibrant migrant community in Derbyshire. It had a very tiny beginning in later half of the year 2002. However it had a steady and constant growth during the last 10 years. Today there are approximately 120 Syro-Malabar catholic families living in Derbyshire. Most of the community members are professionals working in Health and Social Care, Information Technology, Social Work and similar fields. Currently Fr. Biju Joseph from Nottingham says Holy Mass in Malayalam on every 4th Sunday of the month at St Joseph’s.
A Short history of the Syro-Malabar Church
St. Thomas, one of the apostles of Christ, after receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, set about the mission of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to the whole world. A review of the life of St. Thomas illustrates how he fulfilled this great mission in India.
According to the tradition, St. Thomas came by sea and landed at Kodungalloor, the capital of the then Chera Empire in Kerala in the year 52 A.D. Tradition says St. Thomas founded seven churches, they are in Cranganore, Quilon, Chayal, Kokkamangalam, Niranam, Paravur, and Palayur. From there he went to Coromandel and suffered martyrdom near the Little Mount in Thamilnadu. His body was brought to the town of Mylapore and was buried in a holy shrine.
According to the Ramban song St. Thomas converted 17,550 people. He ordained priests and consecrated Bishops. The Apostle consecrated Kepa, a native, as Bishop of Kodungalloor and the head of St.Thomas Christians, and Paul, as the Bishop of Mylapore. It is worth mentioning that the Apostle gave his followers a way of worship suited to their clime, culture and customs.
From the 4th Century, the Church in India started communication with the East Syrian Church and soon began to introduce Liturgical books and share rites. Thus the Indian Church became a member of the Syro-Chaldean Patriarchate for practical purpose, not for doctrinal reasons.
On 20 May 1887, Pope Leo XIII of illustrious memory by the bull Quod Jampridem reorganized the St.Thomas Christians under two vicariates of Trichur and Kottayam. On 28 July 1896 by the bull Quae rei sacrae, the same Pope reconstituted the two vicariates into three vicariates of Trichur, Ernakulam and Changanachery and appointed natives as bishops. These Catholic St. Thomas Christians were then called ‘The Syro-Malabar Church’.
The Syro-Malabar community today
The growth of Syro-Malabar in the 20th century is widely admitted as marvellous. This energetic Church took up challenges in the Mission fields and from 1962 Syro-Malabar Exarchates were elevated to the status of Eparchies. Taking into consideration the age old traditions and the enormous growth of the Apostolic and Indian Church and in order to rectify the above anomaly, Pope John Paul II, by the constitution Quae Maiori, dated 16th December 1992, raised the Syro-Malabar Church to the status of Major Archiepiscopal Sui iuris Church with the title of Ernakulam – Angamaly.
At present the Syro-Malabar Major Achiepiscopal Church has 15 Eparchies inside its proper territory under 4 metropolitan sees and 11 Eparchies outside the proper territory. An Eparchy was erected in Chicago for the Syro-Malabar migrants in February 2001. It is considered to be a remarkable event and milestone in the history of the Syro-Malabar Church. The community now has approximately 4 million members world-wide.
Syro-Malabar Community in the UK
In the beginning of 1990 people from India started to arrive in U.K. following their professional jobs. The English community already welcomed and appreciated the exemplary family and religious life of Indians. Even then the Indian community wanted their own priests to satisfy their religious needs. The Bishops understood this need and gave permission for a priest from India to come to UK to provide pastoral care. At present most of the Syro-Malabar Congregations in U.K. celebrate Holy Mass once in a month in their own language. Today 75 priests from India provide pastoral care in England & Wales.
This report was prepared by Mr. Sabu Mathew with the help and advise of Fr. Varghese Konthuruth