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Malankara churches

Last modified: 2013-11-12 by rob raeside
Keywords: malankara | orthodox church | malabar | india |
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About the Malankara churches

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 http://www.indianorthodoxtv.com/association/news.html 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 http://malankara.net/MCA/constitution.htm 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 http://www.mcym.faithweb.com/about.html 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


Malankara Orthodox Diocese of America

[Malankara Orthodox Diocese of America] image by Dr. Hadrian Mar Elijah Bar IsraŽl, 7 February 2006

The flags of the Malankara Orthodox and Syriac Orthodox Churches are elusive only because they are not truly "flags" in the sense that they are used in the west. In the west flags are granted by either rulers or governments and are used as symbols representing either nation or organisation. In the west many people have access to flags, meaning that they are abundant and easy to obtain. However in the east flags are generally the SEAL of the ruler or the government, imposed on cloth. They remain the property of the owner of the seal. In the case of the Syriac and Malankara Orthodox Churches, they are (almost universally) the seal of the Diocese / bishop or association, on a solid yellow background, representing the spiritual wealth of the people. The seal itself is usually represented in red. These flags are often rudimentary, and usually only one or two exist in each Diocese. This is an example of the flag which the Malankara Orthodox Diocese of America recently sent out to be made for their bishop.
Dr. Hadrian Mar Elijah Bar IsraŽl, 7 February 2006