Saint Thomas Christians.
The Indian Church (Malankara Church) was established by Apostle St Thomas (Mar Thoma) one among the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ in AD 52. The Throne of St. Thomas is the Apostolic tradition of the Christian church in India. Saint Thomas Christians were administratively under the single native dynastic leadership of an Arkadiyokan (Jaathiku karthavyan/ Arch Deacon) a native ecclesiastical head with spiritual and temporal powers. Arkadiyokans presided over the Assembly (Synod) and was responsible for overseeing the welfare of the Church. Their fidelity to the Law of Thomas (Thomayude Margam) was the touch stone of their authenticity and Orthodoxy. The Saint Thomas Christians remained in communion with the Church of the East until their encounter with the Portuguese in AD 1599.
Second Portuguese – India voyage under the command of Alvares Cabral arrived Calicut on 13th September 1500. During this expedition on JAN 1501 Cabral and team met the well established native communities of Malabari Jews and St Thomas Christians at Kodungallur Kingdom for the first time. Portuguese were surprised to find the presence of St Thomas Christians in Malankara (Malabar), but they were annoyed that native Indian Christians are not under Rome and never heard of Pope. Franciscan priests came with Cabral also started their Latin/ Roman Catholic—rite of India at this period.As local kingdoms permitted trading with Portughese , traders among Malanakra nasranies also began trading with them same like other communities. In AD 1505 Portugal King appointed his Viceroy in India which is considered as the beginning of colonial era in India.
Udayamperur Sunnahados -June 1599
Portuguese started to interfere the administration of Malankara Church in order to take absolute control of the pepper trade and also of the pepper farmers. Portugese Bishop Menezes visited the main pepper trading centers before the Synod of Diamper at Udayamperoor. With the same motive Portuguese Bishop Menezes visited parishes of St Thomas Christians and lured the parishioners with money and gold. He appointed priests ordained by him as vicars at various parishes and initiated parallel administration against Arkadiyokan . By 1597 Menezes started to pressurize Akadiyokkan Geevarughese to accept the Roman Supermacy over Malanakra Church. Akadiyokkan resisted and Menzese arranged to convene a Synod at Udayamperur. Heinous Udayamperur Sunnahados (diamper Synod) took place on 20th June 1599 led by Menezes, and armed Portuguese soldiers with the full support of the Raja of Kochi. King of Kochi had signed a treaty of friendship with Portughese to defeat King Samuthiri of neighboring Kingdom Calicut. This notorious meeting at Udayamperur enforced decrees to accept the faith and traditions of the Roman Catholic Church and the authority of the Pope. Many of the Diamper Synod’s canons were aimed to wipe out Malankara-East syrian relation and to place Malankra Church under Rome. The Malankara Nazranis (Syrian Christians / St Thomas Christians) signed the decrees, as they were afraid of the Portuguese opposition and their own King. They accepted the Roman authority with dissent. Intruders formally began the latinisation of St Thomas Christians who were Christians in Malankara well before Christianity arrived anywhere in Europe. Through the Latinization propganda total control of merchandise transfer reached the hands of the Portuguese. Untill Synod of Diamper Nazranis never had hierarchical relationship with Rome or any other Church.
Koonan Kurishu Sathyam (Coonan Cross Oath) – JAN 1653
St Thomas Christians started their efforts to get a Metropolitan from the Eastern Church for re-establishing their freedom . The Portuguese who were masters of the sea in those days, many a time intercepted their letters of appeal for Syrian prelates and there were occasions when attempts of Middle Eastern clergy to come to Malankara were physically thwarted. During this time Mar Ahatulla Bava who was coming to Malankara was killed by the Portuguese Archbishop Gracia by drowning him in the Cochin harbor. The Koonan Kurishu Sathyam refers to the action of thousands of St Thomas Christians led by Arkadiyokan Thomas (successor of Akadiyokkan Geevarughese), assembling at St Thomas Church at Mattancherry on 3rd JAN 1653 and taking an oath to preserve the traditions followed by them since AD 52 and to reject the Roman rituals imposed on them by Portuguese invaders through synod of diamper . Since all the people could not touch the stone Cross simultaneously, they all held onto ropes that were tied to the cross in all directions . They took the historical oath to break free from the clutches of the Roman supremacy by pledging “ till the end neither the Thomas Christians nor their generations would obey the church of Rome or the Portuguese bishops, but only obey their traditional leader Arkadiyokan” . The cross bent under pressure and hence the name ‘Koonan Kurisu Sathyam’ ( Leaning Cross Oath). Like Moses liberated Israelites from slavery Arkadiyokan Thomas liberated and protected Malankara Church from atrocities of militant Roman Catholicism, through Coonan Cross Oath.
Mattanchery Padiyola May 22, 1653
With the unanimous consent of the whole Church, on May 22, 1653 the Malankara Nasrani Christians issued a proclamation called the “Mattanchery Padiyola” and Arkadiyokan Thomas, the descendant of Apostle St Thomas was elevated to the status of bishop with the title Mar Thoma I. The meeting also decided to form a council of four senior Kathanars (Priests) willing to support H H Archdeacon Thomas for the administration of Malankara church . Anjilimoottil Itty Thommen Kathanar, Kadavil Chandy Kathanar, Palliveetil Parambil Chandy Kathanar and Vengoor Geevarghese Kathanar were the members of this council. The Coonen Cross event was a Great Victory for His Holiness MarThoma I and his indigenous Malankara Church. The Koonankurishu Oath (Leaning Cross Oath) is the first recorded mass revolt against the Western colonialism in Indian history. All historians agree that due to the Oath practically the whole body of the Thomas Christians joined together against Roman Catholic supremacy under the leadership of Arkadiyokkan Thomas. By the grace of God amidst Portuguese blockade in both sea and land Malanakra Nasaranis could consecrate their own native Bishop. This was an unimaginable blow to Portuguese and they spread rumors against MarThoma’s consecration and confused Nasranies.
Troubled by the effects of the Coonen Cross, Portuguese authorities requested direct intervention of Pope to eliminate the authority and status of the Mar Thoma and thereby dishonor the status of his ancient Church of Malankara. Rome send two batches of Carmelite missions headed by Hyacinth and Joseph Sebastiani. This mission arrived Malankara in 1661.Nasranies refuted Carmelite same like Jessuits since Carmelites is a wing of Roman Catholic Church.
Our Lord Jesus himself promised twelve thrones to the twelve apostles and none of them was deprived of having the authority by Luke22:24-30 & Mathew19:28, even then Carmelite wing of Portuguese rulers exerted pressure on native kings and spread anti-biblical teachings among Syrian malabar Christians that ‘Throne of St Thomas’ of Mar Thoma is inferior to ‘Throne of St Peter’ of Pope. Mar Thoma I and his predecessor Arkadiyokan Geevarughese survived many murder attempts from colonial Bishops for upholding St Thomas tradition of India. On 9 October 1661 Portuguese Bishop Sebastiani, ordered Portuguese military general Ignatius Sarmento to capture the H.H. Mar Thoma I from Mulunthuruthy Church, but H.H Mar Thoma I and his party cleverly broke free from Portuguese military by wearing munds (loin cloths) and special hats, disguising as soldiers. To stop Mar Thoma from guiding his followers, Portuguese ordered kings of Cochin, Vadakkankur and others to prohibit the entry of Mar Thoma into their territories. Then Sebastiani forcefully entered into churches of the Thomas Christians and took control of them by gifting huge amount of money to the local Kings.
Colonial rulers realized that East Syrian rituals and traditions have deep routed influence among Malankara nazranis which they had banned in Synod of Damper and even stopped middle eastern Priests from reaching Malankara is one of the reason for Coonen Cross event . Learned from the past Carmelite mission introduced a new impersonated East Syrian Church hierarchy sponsored by Rome at the back end to distract the followers of Mar Thoma. To take advantage of St Thomas Christians loyalty to their native dynastic leader (Arkadiyokans) from Pakalomatam family Bishop Sebastiani trapped PalliVeetil Parambil Chandy the cousin of Mar Thoma (He was also one among the four counselors who were assisting H.H MarThoma ) by offering him the position of Bishop. Two council members of the H.H Marthoma had shifted their allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church following some tempting offers. Before the consecration counselor Chandy was pressed to curse his nephew ‘The Mar Thoma’ publicly so that he can not rejoin Mar Thoma in future. On February 1 1663 Alexander de Campo (Parambil Chandy) became the first Roman Catholic Bishop of Indian origin. As a result of these dishonest teachings and persecutions by Portuguese, after the Coonan Cross Oath one faction of St. Thomas Christians disowned their Oath , betrayed Arkadiyokan and succumbed to Catholic tradition of colonial rulers. With this split many ancient parishes of St. Thomas Christians were colonized again by Portuguese (with the help of Carmelite mission) and taken over by Roman Church.
At the same time native faction courageously continued their ancient Mar Thoma traditions under the leadership of their native and hereditary Church head Marthoma I (Arkadiyokan) and retained the Sovereignty of the Throne of St Thomas as they had reaffirmed it through Coonan Cross Oath and Mattancheri Padiyola.
Due to the political and military support from colonial rulers, after this split the catholic faction of St Thomas Christians which was only 54 years then since they formed started calling themselves as “Old Party” (Pazhaya kootu). Since Malankara Church of Mar Thoma opposed Catholic Bishops unethical behavior to Colonize Indian Church, Portuguese colonial rulers started addressing their enemies (‘native faction’) as “New Party” (Puthiya Kootu) , even though Mar Thoma’s native faction had 1600 years of uncompromising tradition at that time. Portuguese rulers intentionally called native faction as ‘new party’ to degrade them in retaliation to their brave protest against colonial propaganda. But today, for the present generation of native faction it is a matter of proud that troubled Portuguese rulers were forced to address their forefathers and their Patriotic Guru H.H Marthoma I as ‘new party’ (Puthiya Kootu) since they initiated Great Indian independence movement through Koonan Kurishu Sathyam against colonial rulers.
In 1663 Dutch captured Cochin and the Portuguese invasion which lasted for 150 years came to an end. Portuguese knew that dynastic leader MarThoma still have great recognition in society and in the absence of Portuguese terror defected faction will join back him. Before leaving Kochi they took Parambil Mar Chandi to the Dutch authorities at Cochin to vow to remain faithful to Rome during Dutch rule.Also Portuguese got an assurance from Dutch that Dutch will support only Catholic faction. This closed all possibilities of future re-union of the St.Thomas Christians and divided them into two. During Dutch colonial period Dutch did not persecute the followers of Mar Thoma, but they were left as the ignored ones . In such a disappointing condition, Mar Thoma bishops lived and prayerfully guided the Thomas Christians. From 1665 native faction began their ontact with the West Syrian Antiochian Patriarchate since Portuguese secured a court order (on 20th September 1661) in favor of catholic faction by straining King of Cochin that only Throne of St Peter is valid in Malankara.