OUR History

Syro Malabar Rite


  • AD 52 Arrival of St. Thomas the Apostle
  • AD 72 Martyrdom of St. Thomas the Apostle at Mylapore
  • December 21, 1923 Establishment of Syro Malabar Hierarchy with Ernakulam as the Metropolitan See (Romani Pontifices, Pope Pius XI).
  • March 13, 2001, In USA St. Thomas Diocese of Chicago established

St Thomas - The Apostle of India


The Syro-Malabar Church was known as the Church of the St.Thomas Christians until the 18th century because it was founded by St Thomas, one of the apostles of Jesus Christ. St.Thomas came to India in 52 A.D. He died as a Martyr in a place called Mylapore near the present town of Chennai (Madras). His tomb is still venerated there.

As a Church that existed outside the Roman Empire, the Church of the St. Thomas Christians had little contact with the Roman or the other Churches within the Empire. At the same time it maintained communion with the Church of Rome through the Church in the Persian Empire, which later came to be known as the East Syrian or Chaldean or Babylonian Church. It is believed that Christianity in Persian Empire was introduced by the disciples of St. Thomas. It seems that the Christians in India had contact with these Christians of the Persian Empire from very early times. Given the commercial relations of India of those days such a contact was possible.

In the middle of the 4th century or later a group of Christians from these communities under the leadership of a merchant called Thomas of Kinayi migrated to the southern parts of India Known as Kerala now. The descendants of this latter group are called Knananites or Southists and the former Northists. Both of them belong the Syro-Malabar Church. Even now they live as two separate communities with their own diocese and parishes. For some unknown reasons at least from the 8th century until the end of the 16th century the Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church were sent from the East Syrian Church, appointed by the Patriarch of the East Syrian Church. There is a tradition which says that there were Indian Bishops in the beginning. But written proofs are very few to say anything concrete about them. Because of the Portuguese colonisation of parts of India in the early 16th century and of the consequent ecclesiastical arrangements, from 1600 onwards European Bishops from the Latin Church were appointed by the Pope to govern the St.Thomas Christians. Their rule ended in 1896 in which year indigenous Bishops from among the St.Thomas Christians were appointed to the Church of St.Thomas Christians. By that time the ancient name "Church of St.Thomas Christians" had given way to the present name "Syro-Malabar Church".

During the period from 1653 to 1887 many divisions took place in the Syro-Malabar Church mainly in the attempt of the Syro-Malabarians to get rid of the rule of the Latin Bishops who often gave little value to the ancient system of administration of the St.Thomas Christians and their Christian heritage. The missionaries seems to have had the impression that the St.Thomas Christians were not Catholics but Nestorians since they accepted Bishops from the East Syrian Church which officially had adopted Nestorianism. As they were living at a time soon after the council of Trent in which decision was taken to deal toughly with heretics, they were all out to "reduce the Syro-Malabarians to the Roman obedience."