The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, also popularly known as the INDIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH is a prominent member of the family of Oriental Orthodox Churches. It traces its origins to the arrival of St. Thomas the Apostle, who came to India in AD 52. The autocephalous Indian Orthodox Church is headed by the Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan His Holiness Moran Mar Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II and follows the ancient West Syrian Liturgical Rite.
The official name of the Church – Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church – can be explained as:
- ‘Malankara’ is another name for Kerala,
- ‘Orthodox’ is the category of Christian faith and tradition it follows (distinguishes it from the Roman Catholic and Protestant faiths), and
- ‘Syrian’ comes from the Syriac language which was the liturgical language of the Church, inherited from the close proximity with the ancient Persian Church at least from the fourth century onwards.
The faith of the Church is that which was established by the three Ecumenical Councils of Nicea (A.D. 325), Constantinople (A.D. 381) and Ephesus (A.D. 431). The Indian Orthodox Church is in communion with the other Oriental Orthodox Churches namely, Antiochene, Coptic, Armenian, Eritrean and Ethiopian Orthodox Churches and maintains cordial ecumenical relationships with the Eastern Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant Churches.
Although a majority of the members of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church today reside in the state of Kerala in South West India, there are parishes spread across various parts of the globe. It is due to this international presence that the Church is presently popularly known as the Indian Orthodox Church. For administrative efficiency, the Church is divided into 30 ecclesial units called dioceses, each of which are administratively and spiritually headed by a respective Diocesan Bishop often known as the Metropolitan. The Council of bishops, known as the Holy Synod is headed by the Holy Catholicos, who is the supreme spiritual head of the Church. The powers of the Malankara Metropolitan, the head of all temporal affairs, are also vested with the same person.
The mission of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church is essentially the continuation of the ministry of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Gospel portions record Jesus commissioning his Disciples to certain specific mission. Jesus sends forth his twelve apostles (St. Matthew 10) as well as seventy others (St. Luke 10) with mission strategies to speak about the Kingdom of God warning them about possible persecution and challenges. St. Matthew 28 records Jesus Christ expanding the mission of the disciples by entrusting them with what is known as the Great Commission in the very words “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Foundationally, this is the mission that has been entrusted to the Church. The Orthodox mission is to establish the Kingdom of God on earth bearing in mind that the whole of humanity should be united in the building up of the Kingdom of God. The faithful are both communally and individually a part of the mission to grow the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church whilst upholding the Holy Traditions that have been handed down through the centuries.