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Re: The Malankara Church: Orthodox Syrian or Syrian Orthodox?

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  • Philip Mathew
    Dear Matthew Tsipras, It is wonderful to see that you are asking questions about your church that you currently belong to. I guess everyone wants to know the
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 5, 2005
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      Dear Matthew Tsipras,

      It is wonderful to see that you are asking questions about your
      church that you currently belong to. I guess everyone wants to know
      the truth about what they are following and the history of one's
      church before becoming totally committed to such a church.

      You ask the question, "Have I been living a lie?" Certainly your
      bishop knows and could be misleading you, or maybe it is your bishop
      and priest. It could be that your entire community is being
      mislead. I really can't comment on that as I don't know the
      particulars of your situation. Instead, I will note some
      observations and give you reasons why I am a Syriac Orthodox
      Christian.

      You are absolutely correct that there are two Indian Orthodox groups
      in the US and the rest of the world, one the (Jacobite) Syrian
      Orthodox Church which associates itself to the Patriarch of Antioch
      His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I and the other that can trace
      its lineage to excommunicated individuals of the former church.

      I think it is your personal choice whether you want to belong to an
      excommunicated church or not.

      My personal opinion and the reason why I belong to the Syriac
      Orthodox Church also known as the (Jacobite) Syrian Orthodox church
      and not to the Indian Orthodox Church is that I do not want to belong
      to a heretical church. Most heretical churches are usually formed out
      of PRIDE. It could be an individual who considers themselves greater
      than the very church which can trace back to the earliest Christians
      of Antioch.

      This is another thing. It was the enemies of Christ's followers who
      labeled us as 'Christians' in Antioch, a name which we all humbly
      submit to being labeled. In the same way, the enemies of the
      Orthodox Church labeled us as "Jacobites," because of tireless work
      of our beloved St. Jacob Burd'ono, the upholder of the Orthodox
      faith, who inspired an entire generation never to give up the good
      fight. And now, it is our own people in India who attack us with
      the term "Jacobite," attempting to insult us, while they refer to
      themselves as "Orthodox". God will know us by our fruits, and if
      they want to label us Jacobites like the enemies of Christ did, then
      that is between them and God, but I won't live my Orthodox Christian
      life like that. A more precise term for us would not be Jacobite,
      but "Syrian Orthodox Church of Malankara" or the "Syrian Orthodox
      Church of India."

      Another reason for my being a Syriac Orthodox Christian is the
      honesty of our Church. Unlike the Indian Orthodox which has only
      been around for about 100 years (they rejoined our church and then a
      few of them continued their movement and were excommunicated again 30
      some odd years ago), the Syriac Orthodox Church has been around for
      nearly 2000 years. The Upper Room, where the Church officially
      began, is today one of our monasteries. Having such a long and
      detailed history, it is easy to be honest about the truth when non-
      Syriac and/or secular historians can back us up. Many in the church
      with whom you are presently associated prey on the ignorance of
      others. I'd guess you will be told cookie-cutter responses like:

      "Oh it is just politics in a far away land."

      No. Stealing is not politics, it is a matter of faith. "Thou shalt
      not steal or covet anything that is thy neighbors" right? It is
      also not in a far away land, it is happening in the United States of
      America also.

      "Well, it is not stealing, since all your properties belong to us!"

      I hear this one a lot. First of all, how can any excommunicated
      people lay claim to ANY property that isn't built by themselves after
      their excommunication? That is outright illogical. If someone is
      excommunicated, then he's excommunicated--it doesn't mean he takes
      the properties my ancestors built with him. My ancestors and direct
      family members have built our places of worship for the Syriac
      Orthodox Christian faith, not for upstart individuals in India, who
      after being excommunicated indulge in a secular-legal campaign
      against the entire Syrian Orthodox Church in India. The poor-class
      Syrian Orthodox Christians of Kerala scraped together what little
      they had to build these places of WORSHIP. Is it holy and Christlike
      to systematically shut down places where Orthodox Christians
      worship? Not at all. And if it is not holy and Christlike, what
      then is it?

      And to justify all these actions, they will probably tell you "Oh but
      the 1934 constitution means we can take all of their property."

      This is very misleading. When the Indian Orthodox rejoined our
      church, for the sake of peace, the Syrian Orthodox in India, as well
      as the Patriarch in the Middle East, let them keep their 20th century
      constitution for their own churches (or better put, the churches they
      had already seized). Since the patriarch's focus was peace, he
      permitted them to keep that for themselves (note: whether he actually
      permitted it at all or was cunningly mislead, as the marthomites did
      a century earlier, is not certain). Either way, this entire
      discussion is irrelevant since the Indian Orthodox won't even follow
      their own constitution. The first and most important part of their
      constitution, superceding everything else, is that their church is a
      division of the Syrian Orthodox Church and that the patriarch is
      their head. (We do not accept this constitution and never have, as
      it is gravely ambiguous--without such ambiguity, the Indian Orthodox
      have little room to use the Indian legal system to their
      advantage). Again, beware if anyone tells you something about this
      as they are misleading you. Their constitution is subject to the
      Patriarch and they were excommunicated by Patriarch. Moreover, it
      doesn't apply to any of our places anyway.

      All one has to do is look at our beloved Parumala Thirumeni, aka St.
      Gregorios Gevarghese. He has fervently supported the Syrian Orthodox
      faith throughout his whole life, and even said that if anyone
      disobeys Antioch and is excommunicated, such a person will be
      accursed and swallowed up by the fire of God's wrath. When we point
      this out to our Indian Orthodox brothers who are kept in the dark
      about this Syrian Orthodox saint, they pass it off by saying: "God
      permitted him to lie," or "He was afraid of the Portuguese." How
      hard is it for them to just say, "Okay, he was 100% dedicated to the
      Syrian Orthodox Church, and that much is clear"? Many think that if
      they admit to St. Gregorios' fierce loyalty to the Patriarch, it will
      weaken their attempts at legitimacy.

      Visit this link to read St. Gregorios' personal Oath and Statement:

      http://sor.cua.edu/Personage/MGregoriusGChathuruthil/18761216shalmooth
      o.html

      I am not saying that people can't have differences in opinions, etc.,
      but to break away from the earliest established Church and form one's
      own "throne" and twist facts and present history to suit one's present
      situation is wrong. Who would want to belong to such a church? The
      situation is most of all disappointing because it is all preventable
      with a little humility. Some in the Indian Orthodox are starting to
      realize that. Recently in India, a group of them teamed up with
      some of us Syrian Orthodox to open a Syrian Orthodox church that
      their Indian Orthodox bishop insisted be closed down. They defied
      their bishop and church's administration to help us open the house of
      prayer. Sadly, this is the exception rather than the rule, as too
      many in the IOC want the split to continue (there is so much money to
      be made off of all this, be it through the media or litigation or
      tithe transfers). But there is hope, and your message to us is very
      encouraging. I believe you are a man of virtue and integrity simply
      by the fact that you have sent such an inquiry.

      Philip Mathew
      ID # 0117
      St. Mary's JSOC,
      Whittier, CA
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