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Early Christianity

St. Thomas Christians

Doctrines In the course of their history the St Thomas Christians have split into various subgroups and have adopted different theologies. The two principal groups are the Malabar Catholics, who adhere to Roman Catholic doctrine while maintaining their own distinctive liturgy, and the Jacobite community who are under the jurisdiction of the Syrian Orthodox Church and, therefore, have a monophysite theology.

History The St Thomas Christians derive their name from the apostle Thomas who, according to legend, was the founder of their community. Oral tradition asserts that in the year 345 four hundred Christians led by Thomas Cara acquired permission from the King of Malabar to settle in his country. In the 5th century the Malabar Christians were in contact with the Nestorian churches of Iraq. Their theology remained Nestorian until the 16th century when the Portuguese colonialists brought them under the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. However, the attempt by the Portuguese to Latinise the Malabar Christians led to them breaking with Rome in 1653. It was only when a Syrian bishop was enthroned in 1661 did most of the schismatic Malabarese return to the Catholic Church. Those who did not return affiliated with the Syrian Orthodox Church.

Symbols The cross is greatly venerated by the St Thomas Christians. Huge stone crosses are to be found in all church yards. The clergy bless the congregation using a cross attached to a silk handkerchief.

Adherents The Malabar Catholics, who use a Latinised version of the East Syrian liturgy, now number around 1.5 million. Those affiliated with the Syrian Orthodox Church use the Antiochene liturgy and number about 500,000 (Harris et al. 1994, 239).

Main Centre
 Mar Thoma Sabha office, Poolatheen, Tiruvalla 689 101, Kerala.