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Malankara churches

Last modified: 2006-03-18 by martin karner
Keywords: malankara | orthodox | malabar | india | christian |
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When the Portuguese arrived on the Kerala, or Malabar, coast of southern India they found a flourishing Christian community existing there. The origins of this group of Christians are somewhat obscure, but they are quite ancient, and by tradition are said to date back to missionary work by the apostle Thomas. Whether they really extend back that far, or not start until a few centuries later, cannot be demonstrated, but they had definitely existed there for at least close to a millennium by the time the Portuguese arrived. During the middle ages they had been a part of the church of the East, whose Patriarch resided in Mesopotamia. Under Portuguese domination all ties with the church of the East were severed, and the Malabar church entered into communion with Rome. This change caused resentment among some sections of the community and finally in 1653 a large group seceded from the Malabar church. For reasons which are not clear to me, instead of re-entering communion with the church of the East they established communion with the Syrian Orthodox [now Syriac Orthodox] Church. Thus was born the Malankara Church. In the 20th century there were two significant splits in the Malankara Church. First in the 1930s a group again entered into union with Rome (so now there were 2 eastern churches in India united with Rome- the Malabar Catholics and the Malankara Catholics). The majority however did not join with Rome, but subsequently split into 2 more factions. Because of disputes over the division of authority between the head of the Syriac Orthodox Church - The Patriarch of Antioch - and the local head of the Malanakara Church - the Catholicos of the East - the church split into 2 parties. I have found references to flag usage by both these groups and by Malankara Catholic organizations.

At there is evidence that the faction adhering to the Catholicos (the Malankara Indian Orthodox) has a church flag: "June 8, 2004...Tomorrow, at 3 PM, His Holiness Catholicos will hoist the Church flag at Parumala seminary to mark the beginning of the Malankara Association." Haven't been able to find a picture or description yet.

At the website of the Malankara Catholic Association the flag of the association is described: "XII A. Flag The papal flag bearing the emblem of the association is the flag of the organisation. The length and width of the flag will be 3:2 proportion." An illustration of the emblem is given. It shows the words MALANKARA CATHOLIC ASSOCIATION arranged in an arc. Underneath, in a small font size is the association's slogan TRUTH UNITY PEACE, also in an arc. Underneath that is a cross (Latin type but with extra cross piece at very top) above a dove with olive branch which is in turn above two hands shaking.

At there is mention of past flags of the Malankara Catholic Youth Movement- different flags for each diocese. No description of the flags, or whether any of them still exist.

Ned Smith, 7 March 2005