Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem Has New Grand Sacristan

Archbishop Sevan Gharibian
By Arthur Hagopian, hetq.am
Jerusalem, January 25, 2013 - Armenian priests, members of the Brotherhood of St James of Jerusalem, have cast their votes in favor of Archbishop Sevan Gharibian as their Patriarchate's new Grand Sacristan, the second most important and prestigious position within the church after the patriarch.
The move follows the election of the former Grand Sacristan, Archbishop Nourhan Manoogian, as the city's 97th Armenian Patriarch.
Born in 1940 in Beirut, Gharibian was ordained priest in 1968 and elevated to the rank of a prince of the church in 1988.
For the past few years, he had been managing the Patriarchate's financial affairs.
Despite a marked sense of humor, Gharibian is a man of action who prefers to eschew dilly-dallying and cut quick to the core of a matter.
With him by the side of the equally determined and strong-willed Manoogian, there is every reason for confidence of a stable if not bright future for the Armenians of Jerusalem, surrounded as they are by a plethora of problems, chief among them the political uncertainty in which the region has been wallowing for decades.


Archbishop Manoogian elected Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem

Jerusalem, January 24, 2013(PanARMENIAN.Net) - Archbishop Nourhan Manoogian, the current Grand Sacristan of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, has been elected 97th Armenian Patriarch, gaining 18 out of 33 votes, in the second round of the solemn election that took place Thursday, Jan 24.

Meeting in conclave, the members of the priestly Brotherhood of St James, have cast their crucial votes on Jan 23 in the first round of elections for a successor to the throne of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

The first day's voting has now narrowed down the field of contenders to 5, with the current Grand Sacristan of the Patriarchate, Archbishop Nourhan Manoogian, in the lead with 21 votes in his favor.

Archbishop Aris Shirvanian, the Patriarchate's Director of Ecumenical Affairs, and the second favorite, has receded down the list with 16 votes.

But the Dioceses of the Armenian Church in South America seemed to have garnered a hefty chunk of voting confidence, putting in a strong performance with Archbishop Datev Gharibian, the Primate of the church in Brazil, a close second with 18 votes.

Gharibian was born in 1937 in Aleppo, Syria's second largest city, ordained a priest in 1963 and elevated to the rank of bishop in 1984.

The relatively younger Archbishop Kissag Mouradian, Primate of Argentina, and a compatriot of Gharibian, gained 15 votes. He was born in 1951, ordained at the age of 20, and consecrated bishop in 1990.

The fifth nominee, with the same number of votes, was Archbishop Sevan Gharibian, who is in charge of the financial bureau of the Jerusalem Patriarchate.


Newly-elected Jerusalem Patriarch Archbishop H.B. Nourhan Manoogian was born in Aleppo, Syria, in 1948 and was ordained a celibate priest at the age of 23 in Jerusalem in 1971. He was consecrated a bishop in 1999. He was appointed as the bishop of the church in the United States. In January, 2009, H.E. Nourhan Manoogian was elected as Grand Sacristan of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the post that ranks as the second most important in the Jerusalem church.

The new Patriarch replaces Archbishop Torkom Manoogian (no relation) who passed away in October. His election must be approved by Israel and the Jordanian king.

There are an estimated 2,000 Armenians living in Jerusalem today, down from an estimated 16,000 in 1948 when the state of Israel was created.


Ethiopian Orthodox Christians celebrate Epiphany

Addis Ababa, January 19, 2013 (WIC) - The Ethiopian Orthodox Christians, throughout the country, celebrated colorfully the Epiphany, the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by John the Baptist.

In the capital Addis Ababa, where the holiday was celebrated with various religious and traditional assortments, tens and thousands of people have participated.

Speaking on the occasion, Acting Patriarch of the Ethiopia Orthodox Church Arch Bishop Natnael urged followers to continue their efforts in supporting the realization of the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam.

Arch Bishop Natnael also said followers should contribute their knowledge, money and labor so that all developments began by His Excellency late PM Mels Zenawi will be carried out effectively.

The Patriarch also called on all Christians to preserve Epiphany celebrations to the coming generations.

On the eve of Timkat Friday evening, Sunday school students adored in their colorful uniforms arrived at ‘Jan Meda’, the Epiphany site-chanting and singing.

They spent the night in procession in front of the ‘Tabot’s, a symbol of the Ark of Covenant containing the 10 Commandments, placed in specially put up tents.

Today, the baptismal water at ‘Jan Meda’ was blessed by his holiness Abune Natinael and sprinkled on the believers gathered there.
Walta Information Center


His Holiness Aram I

Aram I Keshishian (Armenian: Արամ Ա. Քեշիշեան ) is the head of the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia and has been Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Church since 1995. He resides in Antelias, Lebanon.


Born in 1947, in Beirut, Lebanon, His Holiness Catholicos Aram I after studying at the Armenian Theological Seminary, Antelias, Lebanon and the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey, Geneva, Switzerland, received his M.Div. from the Near East School of Theology, his S.T.M. jointly from the American University of Beirut and Near East School of Theology, and his PhD from Fordham University in New York. He also holds several honorary degrees. His major areas of specialization are philosophy, systematic theology, and Near Eastern church history.

Church Ministry

Catholicos Aram I was ordained as a celibate priest in 1968 and obtained the title of Vartabed (Doctor of the Armenian Church) in 1970. In 1979, after serving for one year as Locum Tenens, he was elected Primate of the Armenian Orthodox Community in Lebanon; the next year he received episcopal ordination. In June 1995, His Holiness was elected Catholicos (the Head of the Church) by the Electoral Assembly of the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia (35 clergy and 115 lay representatives), and was consecrated one week later.

Called to serve as Primate of the Armenian Community of Lebanon during the Lebanese Civil War, His Holiness reorganized parishes and schools, restructured and reactivated church-related institutions, and renewed community leadership.

As Head of Church, he:

• reorganized and revitalized the work of the Church, particularly in the areas of theological formation, Christian education, publications, communications, cultural activities, youth, justice and peace, and human rights.
• realized several construction projects in the Catholicosate, such as: the 'Cilicia' Museum, Center of Archives and Manuscripts, buildings for bishops and monks, a guesthouse and offices, a center for youth and university students, and in Beirut apartments for low-income families, etc.
• paid pontifical visits to all the dioceses of the Catholicosate in the Middle East, Europe, and North and South America, and brought a new dynamism to the relationship between these world-wide dioceses and the administrative center of the Church, the Catholicosate, in Lebanon;
• emphasized the Church’s outreach through social service (orphanage, old peoples’ home, blind peoples’ home, and school for the disabled);
• strengthened ecumenical relations and collaboration, by establishing a special department for this work, developing close personal relations with world church leaders, organizing important ecumenical meetings and events, and chairing and lecturing at international conferences and events in different regions;
• In the context of international relations, he met with a number of heads of states, political and religious leaders, and representatives of international organizations.

Ecumenical engagement

His Holiness was appointed in 1972 as the Catholicosate’s representative for ecumenical relations and he served in this position until 1995. His Holiness has played a major role in the world-wide ecumenical movement:

- He was a founding member of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), in 1974. From the beginning he has served on the Council's Executive Committee and played a leading role in the major initiatives of the Council.

- As delegate of his church, he attended the Nairobi (1975), Vancouver (1983), Canberra (1991), Harare (1998) and Porto Alegre (2006) Assemblies of the World Council of Churches (WCC), and several international conferences.

- In 1975, he was elected as a member of the Faith and Order Commission of the WCC, and in 1983 as a member of its Standing Committee. At the Vancouver Assembly (1983), His Holiness was elected as a member of the Central Committee of the WCC.

- At the Canberra Assembly (1991), he was elected Moderator of the Central and Executive Committees of the WCC, the highest position of this global fellowship of churches, which comprises more than 350 churches from different confessions, cultures, nations and regions. He is the first Orthodox and the youngest person to be elected to the position of Moderator. After serving as Moderator for seven years, His Holiness was unanimously re-elected at the Harare Assembly (1998). The re-election of His Holiness, which was based on his "strong leadership, firm commitment, theological knowledge and administrative experience", was unprecedented in the history of the WCC.

- Catholicos Aram I is a founding member of the Oriental Orthodox-Eastern Orthodox Theological Dialogue, Oriental Orthodox-Reformed Theological Dialogue, and the Orthodox-Evangelical Dialogue. He has played an important role in initiation of Oriental Orthodox-Roman Catholic and Oriental Orthodox-Lutheran Theological Dialogues. His Holiness is an honorary member of Pro Oriente.

- His Holiness was instrumental in creating, in 1996, the fellowship of the Three Heads (Coptic, Syrian, Armenian) of the Oriental Orthodox Churches in the Middle East.

- His Holiness is a president of the Middle East Council of Churches since November 2007.

Inter-Religious Dialogue

As a strong supporter of inter-religious relations, dialogue and co-operation, His Holiness Aram I has played a significant part in promoting common values, mutual understanding and peaceful co-existence among religions. In this context he:

• worked hard as Primate to create tolerance and build mutual confidence between Christian and Muslim communities during the most critical times of Lebanese Civil War.

• made frequent reference in his writings and public interventions to the vital importance of dialogue and collaboration among the living faiths of the world.

• initiated a number of inter-religious dialogues and took active part in important inter-religious meetings on regional and international levels.

• played an instrumental role in re-organizing the Christian-Muslim Committee of the Middle East Council of Churches, and in preparing the International Inter-religious Conference organized by the World Council of Churches (June 2005).

• organized in Antelias a high level meeting of the representatives of religions of Asia and the Middle East.

• gave lectures at inter-religious meetings, universities, and public events in different parts of the world.

• His Holiness is an honorary President of the World Religions Museum Foundation, and World Religions for Peace international organization.

• brought a significant contribution as key note speaker and moderator to the G8 Inter-Religious Summits.

• In 2000, he indicated that he had no problem with the substance of Dominus Iesus, the Holy Office's document on relativism, but he faulted it for its unecumenical language.

• The Catholicos of Indian Orthodox Church, Baselios Thoma Didymos I confirred Aram I with the ‘Order of St. Thomas’ on February 27, 2010 at Kolenchery. ‘Order of St.Thomas’ is the most presigious honor at the Indian Orthodox Church.

Commitment to peace with Justice

As a result of his strong commitment to peace with justice, and human rights, His Holiness:

• became a strong voice for mutual understanding among religions, cultures and civilizations.

• organized regional and international seminars and conferences at the Catholicosate, in Antelias.

• gave public lectures to university students, visiting academic, religious and NGO groups.

With his vision and commitment and with his hard work, His Holiness Aram I has made the Catholicosate of Cilicia of the Armenian Church “a living center of reflection, dialogue and action”.

The CV of His Holiness appears in Who's Who in the World, in the International Directory of Distinguished Leaders and in many other regional and international directories, dictionaries and publications.

For further information you may contact info@armenianorthodoxchurch.org

COURTASY:Catholicossate of Cilicia

PHOTO: Aby John Vannilam എബി ജോന്‍ വന്‍നിലം
This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons

BIRTH: 1947
CHURCH: Armenian Apostolic Church
[Oriental Orthodox], Catholicossate of Cilicia

His Holiness Karekin II

His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, is the 132nd successor to Saint Gregory the Illuminator, and occupies the throne of St. Gregory in the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin.

The Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians is the worldwide spiritual leader of the Nation, for Armenians both in Armenia and in the Dispersion. He is Chief Shepherd and Pontiff to nearly 9 million Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Christians, dispersed throughout the world.

The supreme head of the Church is Jesus Christ. In the hierarchy of the Armenian Apostolic Church the Catholicos, a Greek term signifying “Universal Leader of the Church”, ranks higher than Patriarchs, Archbishops and Bishops in the Armenian Church. He is typically chosen from the College of Bishops, and once elected is regarded as the “First Among Equals." The Catholicos is consecrated by 12 bishops.

The Catholicos represents the centralized authority of the Armenian Church. He is the supreme judge and the head of the legislative body. He is President of the Supreme Spiritual Council as well as the College of Bishops. Ordination of bishops, blessing of Holy Chrism, proclamation of Feasts, invitation and dismissal of National-Ecclesiastical Assemblies, issuing decrees concerning the administration of the Armenian Church and establishing dioceses are part of his responsibilities.

The National-Ecclesiastical Assembly, convened in the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, elects the Catholicos for life.

The Catholicos of All Armenians represents the Apostolic succession in Armenia; where through a line of bishops succeeding each other, the ministry of the Christian Church, assigned to the Apostles by Jesus Christ, has been transmitted to the present. It is inconceivable to imagine a Church of Armenia without the office of “Chief Bishop” or “Catholicos of All Armenians”. Without the episcopate, the Christians of Armenia would be under the jurisdiction of a neighboring see; and Armenian Christianity today would not be a distinct entity with its own national characteristics and identity.

The first Catholicos of All Armenians was Saint Gregory the Illuminator. St. Gregory was consecrated in 301 A.D., by Cappadocian Bishops in Caesarea, to establish the episcopacy of the Armenian nation through Apostolic succession. St. Gregory organized the hierarchy of the Armenian Church according to the principles of the Armenian state administrative system. He ordained a Bishop for every principality in Armenia. These Bishops were under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Bishop of Armenia, who was later known as the Catholicos of All Armenians.

The official title of His Holiness is:

Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians

For official documents such as Encyclicals, the lengthened title is as follows:


To read more about the history and election of our Catholicoi, two excellent resources are “Chosen of God The Election of the Catholicos of All Armenians from the 4th Century to the Present” by Father Krikor Vardapet Maksoudian and “The Catholicoi of Etchmiadzin and overview of the Electoral Process” by Archbishop Mesrob Ashjian.

To contact the Catholicosate:

His Holiness Karekin II
Catholicos of All Armenians
Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin
Vagharshapat, Republic of Armenia
Telephone: (374-10) 517-110
Fax: (374-10) 517-301
Email: divanatun@etchmiadzin.am

COURTASY: Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin


The Orthodox Syrian Church of the East

The Universal Orthodox Syrian Church of the East was established by St. Thomas, one of the twelve Apostles of Lord Jesus Christ, with Edessa as the centre. In course of time the centre of the church was moved to Selucia, Tigris and Mousul and there occurred a situation where there was no right heir to the throne by the end of 19th century. By 1912 the Catholicosate of the East was re-established in Malankara (India) which was a part of the previous centres.

Church of Malankara (India)

The Malankara Church of the East traces its origins back to the work of the Apostle St Thomas in the south-west region of India (Malankara or Malabar, in modern Kerala). According to the tradition, St Thomas arrived in 52 AD and during a twenty year stay converted several Brahmin families to faith in Christ and established seven centres of worship.

At least from the fourth century the Indian Church entered into a close relationship with the Persian Church of the East. From the Persians, the Indians inherited East Syrian language and liturgies and gradually came to be known as Syrian Christians.

The Indian Church of the Apostle Thomas was deeply rooted in the social and cultural traditions of the country and maintained its apostolic traditions and administrative freedom. The arrival of the Portuguese in Kerala in 1498 inaugurated the colonial period. The Portuguese Catholic missionaries began to exercise control over the ancient Indian church and latinized it by force. In 1653 in a historic and dramatic protest at the "Bent Cross" in Mattancherry in Kochi (Cochin), the church pledged against Portuguese and Roman Catholic authority and declared its freedom. After the Bent Cross Oath (Coonan Cross Oath), Archdeacon Thomas became the Bishop as St. Mar Thoma I of Malankara in 1653.

Indian Christians were persecuted by the colonial authorities who succeeded in dividing the church. One group turned to Roman Catholic allegiance. Those who accepted Catholicism are the present Syro-Malabar Catholics.
During the Portuguese persecution, the Indians who wanted to maintain their eastern and apostolic traditions appealed to the Church of the East. The Orthodox Catholicos of the East, St. Baselius Abdul Masih I, responded and sent metropolitan St. Gregorios Abdul Jaleel of Jerusalem, an ethnic Assyrian, to India in 1665. He confirmed St. Marthoma I of Malankara as the bishop and worked together with him to organize the Church. Thus the Malankara Church of the East started the connection with the Orthodox faction of the Church of the East, in 1665.

History repeated itself in another form when the British in India encouraged 'reformation within the Orthodox Church' Partly through Anglican domination of the theological seminary in Kottayam, besides attracting members of the church into Anglican congregations since 1836. Finally the reformist group broke away to form the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar. This crisis situation was continued with the help of Mar Ignatius Peter III, the Orthodox Syrian Patriarch cum Catholicos, who visited India in 1875-77.

Councils of Deyrul' al Zafran and Mulanthuruthi

In 1860, the office of Catholicosate of the Orthodox Syrian Church of the East was merged into the Orthodox Syrian Patriarchate of Antioch as per the decision of the Synod held at Deyrul' al Zafran Monastery (Kurkkumo Dayro) under the Orthodox Syrian Patriarch of Antioch, Mar Ignatius Ya`qub II. The Orthodox Syrian Patriarchate of Antioch took over the autonomous Malankara Archdioceses of the Orthodox Syrian Church of the East in 1876 at the Mulanthuruthi Council (Synod) convened by the Patriarch Mar Ignatius Peter III.

After the death of Patriarch Ignatius Peter III in 1895 St. Ignatius Abdul Messih took over the throne of Patriarch of Antioch. However, he was deposed by the Sultan Abdul Hamid II of Ottoman Empire (1876 - 1909) in 1905 due to Political reasons and Rival Patriarch Mar Ignatios Abdulla II was appointed in his place.

In the year 1895 both St. Abded Messiah and Mar Abdulla (Bishop Mar Gregorios Abdullah) contested for the Patriarchal elections. Abded Messiah was elected as the next Patriarch of Antioch. After that Abdulla left for the Roman Catholic Church. In the year 1906, Mar Gregorios Abdullah, who had returned to the Orthodox Syriac faith from his Roman Catholic sojourn, was elevated to the Rival Patriarchate with the name Ignatius Abdullah II (Ignatios 'Abded-Aloho II Sattuf, 1833–1915).

In 1910 the Rival Patriarch Mar Abdulla II visited Malankara and destroyed the peace of the Church. He demanded power over the temporalities of the Church which the Malankara Metropolitan, Mar Dionysios VI Vattasseril refused. Thereupon the Rival Patriarch excommunicated him, set up Mar Koorilos as Metropolitan of Malabar and consecrated Mar Poulose Athanasius as his assistant. He also created a new diocese for the Southists (Knanites) and consecrated for them a Metropolitan in the person of Mar Severios.
This resulted in formation of groups within the Church - one supporting the Bishop or the Malankara Metropolitan (Methran Party) and other supporting the Rival Patriarch (Bava Party). Mar Dionysios Vattasseril stood against him and wanted to keep up the independence of Malankara Church. Mar Koorilos (Cyril) was the leader of the Rival Patriarch group.

Re-establishment of the Catholicosate of the East

When the news of the excommunication reached the canonical Patriarch Abdul Messiah, he proclaimed it to be invalid. The fact that temporal govt. withdrew his (Abdul Messiah's) recognition cannot affect the spiritual standing and position of Abdul Messiah (The Ruling of the Judge Parameswaran Pillai in the Vattipanam Case [1913] quoted by Justice Jeevan Reddy of the Indian Supreme Court in his majority judgment in 1995).
He expressed his willingness to come to India and help the Church. Patriarch Abded Messiah came to Kerala on 13th June 1912. After his arrival the managing committee of the Church met and officially requested the Patriarch to re-establish the Catholicate of the East in India and elevate Murimattathil Mar Ivanios of Kandanadu diocese as the Catholicose. Accepting this, the Patriarch sent letters informing all parishes. On Sept 10th, the Patriarch in cooperation with Mar Dionysius and Muriamattathil Mar Ivanios consecrated Punnose Remban as Metropolitan Geevarghese Mar Gregorios. He later became the 3rd Catholicose of India. On Sept 17th, in Niranam Church, the Patriarch along with Mar Dionysius and Mar Gregorios elevated Mar Ivanios Poulose Murimattathil - the only survivor of the Metropolitans consecrated by Patriarch Peter III- as the Catholicos of the East with the title Moran Mar Baselios (Catholicose Baselius Paulose I of India).

Following the consecration, the Patriarch issued two bulls with regards to this, first one dated 17th Sept 1912 and the second one dated 24th Feb 1913. In the first bull he said:
“In response to your request, we have ordained our beloved Ivanios with name Baselius as Maphrian or Catholicose of the East, for the See of Apostle St Thomas in India and elsewhere.”
The Catholicose was given right to ordain Metropolitans, consecrate the Holy Moroon and perform all functions necessary for the Church. The second bull said that when a Catholicose passes away the native bishops have the authority to ordain another person in his place. The Patriarch and the Catholicose jointly ordained two other bishops, Geevarghese Mar Philexinos (2nd Catholicose) and Yuyakim Mar Ivanios on February 10th 1913. The Patriarch left Kerala on March 3rd 1913. He passed away in his at Kurkuma Dayara on August 30th 1915.

Litigation started in 1913 ended in a Verdict of the Supreme Court of India in 1958. The Supreme Court of India declared its final verdict recognizing the Catholicos of the East as the rightful head of the church, and validating his legal rights as well as the constitution (1934) of the church. On 16th December 1958, the two factions united and became one Church. Patriarch Mar Ignatius Yacob III and Catholicos Mar Baseliose Geevarghese II accepted each other and 1934 Constitution was adopted in the unified Church.

The reign of Catholicose Mar Baseliose Geevarghese II of India (1929-64) marks an important chapter in the chequered history of this Indian church. During his time the Orthodox introduced a church constitution won final victory in legal battle against the patriarchal faction in the supreme court of India in 1958 and following this a reconciliation tools place etc. In his later years he became a well-known figure on the Indian scene. Moreover he enabled his church to associate with the world council of churches from its very start in all its functions. He sent representatives to Amsterdam (1948), Evanston (1954) and New Delhi (1961). This catholicose personally with other delegates of his church attended the Edinburgh faith and order world conference in 1937. Mar Theophilos, Mar gregorios, Fr. K.C. Joseph, Miss Sarah chacko, Fr.V.C. Samuel etc from his church were deputed to service in various functions of the WCC from time to time.

A meeting of the Malankara Syrian Christian Association was held on 17th may 1962 at St. Mary’s church Niranam in which Augen Mar Thimothios was selected as Catholicos designatic. HH Patriarch Mar Ignatius Yacob III was invited by the Holy Synod of Malankra Church as the Chief Celebrant for the installation of HH Mar Baselius Augen I as the fourth Catholicos of the East in Malankara on 22nd May 1964.

1960s can be considered as the Golden Age of the Church. The unified Malankara Church honoured the Patriarch of Antioch with the Primacy of Honour as the First among Equals and gave him all the privileges mentioned in the Church Constitution of 1934. Both the Orthodox Syrian Church of Antioch and the Orthodox Syrian Church of the East participated in the Oriental Orthodox Heads of Churches Conference held at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 15 – 24 January 1965, as two independent, interdependent and autocephalous Churches. The Catholicose paid a visit to the west Syrian Patriarch at Damascus on 2nd February 1965.

From 1958 to 1972, all parishes in the Malankara Church continued to enjoy the unity under the leadership of Catholicos of the East in compliance with the constitution of 1934. Thereafter, in defiance of the constitution, the patriarch of Antioch Yocob III consecrated Bishops and created a rival force. In addition, a controversial Kalpana that St .Thomas had no Apostolic succession of priesthood was issued.

But in 1975 Mar Ignatius Yacob III, the Orthodox Syrian Patriarch of Antioch excommunicated and deposed the Catholicos of the East and appointed a rival Catholicos of the East, His Beatitude Baselius Paulose II (1975-1996), an action that resulted in the community splitting yet again.

The factional issue in the church was settled by the Supreme Court of India in a landmark judgment in 1995 and election to the Malankara Syrian Christian Association was held on March, 20, 2002 with former Kerala chief justice V.S. Malimath as the observer.

On 20 June, 1995 the Supreme Court of India rendered a decision that (a) upheld the Constitution of the church that had been adopted in 1934 and made it binding on both factions, (b) stated that there is only one Syrian Orthodox church in India, currently divided into two factions, and (c) recognized the Orthodox Syrian Patriarch of Antioch as the supreme spiritual head of the Orthodox Syrian Church, of which Malankara Church is a division, while affirming that the autocephalous Catholicos has legal standing as the head of the entire church, and that he is custodian of its parishes and properties. The excommunication of Catholicos by the Patriarch is invalid for the reason that the grounds or charges on which the excommunication has been effected are not permissible or relevant grounds. The Orthodox Syrian Patriarch of Antioch is spiritually superior to the Catholicos though he does not, and indeed never did, enjoy any temporal powers over the Malankara Church or its properties. The judgment shows that the Patriarch and the Catholicos are equals and, of course, the Patriarch is the first among equals.

The Supreme Court of India in its 1995 verdict had ordered the conduct of a Malankara Syrian Christian Association meeting to be attended by both factions after appropriate modifications to the constitution of 1934. The court also appointed an independent counsel to observe the Malankara Association election. Mar Dionosius Thomas of Angamaly West diocese and other three Bishops (Mar Philexinos Yuhanon of the Malabar diocese, Mar Themotheos Thomas of the Kottayam diocese and Mar Gregorios Joseph of the Kochi diocese) of the Patriarch faction decided to boycott the Malankara Association meeting. But the meeting was convened in March 2002 with all Bishops of the Catholicos faction and the four Bishops —Thomas Mar Athanasius of the Kandanad diocese, Yoohanon Mar Milithios of the Thrissur diocese, Abraham Mar Sevarios of the Angamaly East diocese and Zacharias Mar Nicholaos of the American diocese—of the Patriarch faction, priest and lay representatives from each parish. With an overwhelming majority, the Association decided Catholicos of the East Moran Mar Baselious Mar Thoma Mathews II as Malankara Metropolitan. On 12th July 2002, the Supreme Court of India approved it with the ruling that the position of the Primate of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church of the East cannot be further challenged in any Court or any other forum.

The Church constitution

The Church is now administered as per the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church constitution adopted on 26th December 1934 which was passed by the Malankara Syrian Christian Association. The Association is a fully representative body of the church with elected members -priests and laymen -from all the Parish Churches. One priest and laymen 1 to 10 depending on the number of members in each parish are the members of the Association. There are about 1400 parishes under the Church. It is the Association which elects the Catholicos of the East and the Malankara Metropolitan of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and also the Bishops.

At present the Church is using the West Syrian liturgy. 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 Church is in communion with the other Oriental Orthodox Churches namely, Alexandrian, Antiochene, Armenian, Eritrean and Ethiopian Orthodox Churches.

Headquarters and Supreme Pontiff of the Church

The Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Orthodox Syrian Church of the East is Catholicos of the East.

St.Thomas is recognized as its first Head or Catholicos. The lineage of the Catholicos of the East starts from the Apostle Thomas, continuing with the bishops of Edessa and Archbishops in Selucia-Ctesiphon. In 410 AD, Mar Isaac first used the title Catholicos of the East. Since then, the Catholicos has claimed jurisdiction over all Christians of the East outside the Roman Empire.

The Orthodox Catholicosate of the Syrian Church of the East was then moved to Tigris and Mosul in Iraq following the Nestorian Schism in the church. In 1860, the office of Catholicosate was merged into the Orthodox Syrian Patriarchate of Antioch as per the decision of the Synod held at Deyrul' al Zafran Monastery under the Orthodox Syrian Patriarch of Antioch, Ignatius Ya`qub II.

The Catholicosate of the East was revived and re-established by St. Ignatius Abdul Masih II, the Patriarch of Antioch in the year 1912 AD. The present headquarters of the Orthodox Syrian Church of the East is at Devalokam (Kottayam), in the Indian state of Kerala. The present Catholicos-Patriarch His Holiness Baselius Mar Thoma Paulose II, was enthroned to the Apostolic throne of Saint Thomas in 2010 and is the 109th Catholicos of East. It has around 30 Million faithful worldwide with thirty Metropolitan Dioceses.


The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church has two major seminaries with faculties at university level and has a 200-year old well-known lay theological education programme. The Orthodox Theological Seminary at Kottayam was founded in 1815 and now has about 140 students. New facilities have recently been built, including the Sophia Centre for the theological training of lay men and women, and a School for Liturgical Music affiliated with Kottayam’s Mahatma Gandhi University.

The St. Thomas Orthodox Theological Seminary was opened in Bhilai in 1995 to train priests to serve parishes and missions in north India. It moved to Naghpur in July 1999.

Contributing to the field of education and health care, the Church runs reputed medical and engineering schools in addition to hundreds of schools and technical institutes. The church also operates 24 arts and sciences colleges, three engineering colleges, 240 schools, 30 hospitals and 35 orphanages, and several mission centers.

The church has very active student and youth organizations. With a national mission board, the Orthodox Church of the East is very active in missionary and social witness, running homes for orphans, leprosy and HIV/AIDS patients, and bringing relief to victims of natural catastrophes.


This church also has a modest monastic tradition. There are four communities of men that follow a monastic rule and eleven for celibate priests and laity without a definite monastic order. Altogether there are 18 monasteries with a total of 210 monks. There are also 13 convents where a total of 200 nuns live a dedicated life of service and worship.


Member of regional and local ecumenical bodies, the Orthodox Syrian Church of the East has always been very supportive of ecumenical initiatives. The church maintains official dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church. The Church is in good ecumenical relationship with the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches. Through the Oriental Orthodox family, it is in dialogue with other church bodies also.

Based in: India Location: India, small diaspora
Present in: United States of America, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland
Primate: Baselius Mar Thoma Paulose II (born 1946, enthroned 2010)
Title: Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan
Residence: Kottayam, Kerala State, India
Bishops: 30
Priests: 1500
Deacons: 42
Dioceses: 30
Congregations: 1600
Member of:
World Council of Churches (WCC) (1948)
Christian Conference of Asia-CCA
National Council of Churches in India-NCCI
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The Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church

Christianity in Eritrea, which is located along the southwest coast of the Red Sea, dates back to at least the 4th century when the ancient Christian kingdom of Aksum flourished in what is now Eritrea and Ethiopia. Christian practices in the land of Eritrea began through interaction of traders and visitors who traveled to and from the Mid-Orient, using the ancient port at Adulis on the Red Sea. The Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church was formally founded in 329 AD under the fatherhood of St Frumentius (Abba Selama) the first bishop assigned by St Athanasius, Patriarch of Alexandria. (Tewahdo (Te-wa-hido) (Ge'ez ተዋሕዶ tawāhidō) is a Ge'ez word meaning "being made one".)


The Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church became the established church of the Axumite Kingdom under king Ezana in the 4th century through the efforts of a Syrian Greek named Frumentius, known in the church as Abba Selama, Kesaté Birhan ("Father of Peace, Revealer of Light"). As a boy, Frumentius had been shipwrecked with his brother Aedesius on the Eritrean coast. The brothers managed to be brought to the royal court, where they rose to positions of influence and converted Emperor Ezana to Christianity, causing him to be baptised. Ezana sent Frumentius to Alexandria to ask the Patriarch, St. Athanasius, to appoint a bishop for Axum. Athanasius appointed Frumentius himself, who returned to Axum as Bishop with the name of Abune Selama.

By 333 A.D churches were built and the Gospel was heard in the high land area, namely in Akeleguzai, Hamasien, and Serae. The Orthodox Church has grown tremendously in the high lands of Eritrea and the Good news spread very fast to the part of Eritrea, and the neighboring country, Ethiopia.
In Tigray, northern part of Ethiopia, there was a newly formed Kingdom under the leadership of King Ezana which the sun and the moon were commonly worshipped in the area, and Christianity was new to them. King Ezana was very impressed with the spiritual movement in Eritrea and therefore, sent a special invitation to Abrha and Asbeha to the Axumite Kingdom and the new Eritrean Priests who were ordained by Abrha and Asbeha. Soon Christianity was adopted by King Ezana as the official religion of the Kingdom of Axum.

The kingdom began to decline in the 7th century in the wake of Muslim invasions, but a portion of the Eritrean population always remained Christian. Subsequently the coastal areas were dominated by various regional powers, and fell under Ottoman rule in the 16th century.

Colonial years

Eritrea was an Italian colony from 1890 to 1941, when it was captured by the British.

In the 1920s the Italian colonial power in Eritrea started the first attempts to found a separate Eritrean Orthodox Church. Until then the Orthodox Church in Eritrea was practically part of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, with a strong link to Aksum in Tigray as the traditional centre of the Church structure. This was, however, against the interest of the colonizer: Eritrea as a separate colony was supposed to have a church independent from the neighbor's influence, in order to be fully integrated into the colonial system. The separate Eritrean Church was short-lived. When it was still not fully established, the Italians invaded Ethiopia in 1935, and then formed a unified territory called Africa Orientale Italiana, encompassing Eritrea, Ethiopia and Italian Somalia. Eritrea was unified with the northern Ethiopian province of Tigray, and both Orthodox Churches unified. This unification remained valid even after the defeat of the Italians and their loss of the whole territory in 1941.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church was granted autocephaly by Pope Joseph II of Alexandria, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria in 1950. At that time Eritrea was a separate colonial territory under British administration, but nevertheless the Orthodox Church in Eritrea was simply made a division of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, as the British had no interest to strongly separate the Eritrean highlands from the Ethiopian highlands, corresponding to their politics of unification of the highlands (with the option of separation of the Muslim lowlands of Eritrea and their inclusion into the British Sudan).

The Eritrea entered a federation with Ethiopia in 1952, and was annexed as an Ethiopian province in 1962. A lengthy struggle for self-rule culminated with the country's declaration of independence on May 24, 1993. At that time the country’s Orthodox population formed a single diocese within the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

Autocephaly after independence of Eritrea
His Holiness Shenouda III, the Pope of the Coptic
 Orthodox Church (L) crowns the first Patriarch
of the Eritrean Orthodox Church,
His Holiness Abune Philippos

In July 1993, the bishops of the Eritrea appealed to Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic Orthodox Church to obtain separation from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and autocephalous status. The process of the establishment of an independent Eritrean Orthodox Church took place in accord with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. In early September 1993 Ethiopian Patriarch Paulos and Archbishop Philippos of Asmara sanctioned jointly the separation of their churches, while stating their desire to work closely together. On September 28, 1993, the Coptic Holy Synod responded favorably to the request of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church and authorized the training in Coptic monasteries of as many as ten future bishops for the Eritrean Church. In February 1994 the Ethiopian and Eritrean churches signed an agreement in Addis Ababa that reaffirmed the autocephalous status of both churches, and recognized a primacy of honor of the Coptic Church among the Oriental Orthodox churches in Africa. On June 19, 1994, Pope Shenouda ordained five new Eritrean bishops in Cairo.
His Holiness Abune Philippos, the first Patriarch
of the Eritrean Orthodox Church (left) and His
Holiness Shenouda III, the Pope of the Coptic
Orthodox Church, sign a protocol of cooperation
 between the Holy Synods of the Eritrean and
 Coptic churches May 8, 1998 in Cairo, Egypt.

After intensive prayer and discussions among church leaders in April 1998, Abba Philipos, the bishop of Asmara, was chosen as the first Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church. He was installed as Patriarch by His Holiness Pope Shenouda III in Cairo on May 8, 1998. A protocol between the Holy Synods of the Eritrean and Coptic churches was also signed at that time. It provided for close cooperation between the two churches, including the holding of a common general synod at least every three years, the commemoration of the heads of both churches in all liturgies, the formation of a common delegation in theological dialogues with other churches, and the establishment of a standing committee of the two synods to promote cooperation in such areas as theological education, social services, and development projects.
His Holiness Abune Filipose (R) with His
 Holiness Abune Paulos (L)-Photo BBC

The Patriarch His Holiness Abune Phillipos did visit Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, during joint efforts by the Ethiopian-Eritrean Churches to explore a possible resolution to a border conflict that had broken out between the two countries in 1998.

The Patriarch His Holiness Abune Philippos passed away on September 18, 2002, at the age of 101. On December 4, 2002, the Holy Synod elected Abune Yacob as his successor. He passed away on December 2, 2003. Eritrea's first two Patriarchs were originally Archbishops of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. The two churches remain in full communion with each other and with the other Churches of Oriental Orthodoxy.

His Holiness Abune Philippos I
On March 4, 2004 Bishop Antonios of Hamasiye was elected as the third Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church by the joint vote of the Holy Synod, representatives of all dioceses, and delegates from the Holy Synod of the Egyptian Orthodox Church. His holiness Abune Antonios I was enthroned as the third Patriarch of Orthodox Tewahedo Church of Eritrea on 24 April 2004. Pope Shenouda III presided at the ceremony in Asmara, together with the Holy Synod of the Eritrean Orthodox Church and a Coptic Orthodox Church delegation.

His holiness Abune Antonio had increasingly resisted the government’s unwarranted intervention in church affairs, for example, by refusing to close down a renewal movement(Medhane Alem renewal movement, an Orthodox Sunday School movement) that had attracted thousands of young people. When the Patriarch objected to the detention in November 2004 of three Orthodox priests from the Medhane Alem Church, and accused the government of interfering in church affairs, for the first time ever the traditional Orthodox Annual Christmas message was not aired on national media in January 2005.

In August 2005 the Eritrean Government intervened in the church’s affairs by limiting the powers of the patriarch and designating a layman, Yoftahe Dimetros, to oversee it. Shortly thereafter, the Pro-Government Bishops, supposedly under pressure from the Eritrean government, charged the Patriarch Antonios with heresy and removed him from office. As a leader of the country's largest religious community, the Patriarch's summary dismissal shocked the nation. The government then proceeded to put him under house arrest and appoint a layman, Yoftahe Dimetros, as administrator of the Church.

In January 2006 Antonios sent a letter to the Holy Synod in which he denied the charges against him and excommunicated several synod members as well as Yoftahe Dimetros, stating that their actions and those of the government violated the constitution and bylaws of the Eritrean Orthodox Church. Nevertheless, on April 19, 2007, the Pro-Government Bishops elected Abune Dioskoros as rival patriarch. The other Oriental Orthodox Churches and the Roman Catholic Church continued to recognize Antonios as Patriarch.
His Holiness Abune Yacob I

The Orthodox make up about 30% of Eritrea’s 4.9 million inhabitants. About 60% are Sunni Muslim, 5% Catholic and 2% Protestant. Most of the Orthodox belong to the Tigrinya ethnic group centered in the central and southern highlands. Today the Eritrean Orthodox Church has approximately 1,500 churches, 22 monasteries, and 15,000 priests.

Eritrean Orthodox faithful in Great Britain are under the pastoral care of Bishop Markos, who resides in London and has responsibility for the diaspora. St. Michael’s Eritrean Orthodox Church, 78 Edmund St, London, SE5 7NR, became the first Eritrean Orthodox church in Europe when it was consecrated in 1997. There is an Eritrean Orthodox Diocese of North America that includes 18 parishes in the United States and one in Canada. They are now split into two groups, one that continues to recognize Patriarch Antonios, and another that follows Bishop Sinoda in Washington, DC, who was appointed by the government-controlled church in Eritrea.

Biblical canon
The Tewahedo Church Biblical Canon contains 81 books, all of which are accepted by other Orthodox and Oriental Christians.
His holiness Abune Antonios I
• The Narrower Canon also contains Enoch, Jubilees, and three books of the Meqabyan;
• The Broader Canon includes all of the books found in the Narrower Canon, as well as the two Books of the Covenant, Four Books of Sinodos, a Book of Clement, and Didascalia;
There have been no printings of the Broader Canon since the beginning of the twentieth century. The Haile Selassie Version of the Bible, which was published in 1962, contains the Narrower Canon.
The Divine Liturgy and other religious services of the Eritrean Church are celebrated in the Ge'ez language, which has been the language of the Church at least since the arrival of the Nine Saints (Abba Pantelewon, Abba Gerima (Isaac, or Yeshaq), Abba Aftse, Abba Guba, Abba Alef, Abba Yem’ata, Abba Liqanos, and Abba Sehma), who fled persecution by the Byzantine Emperor after the Council of Chalcedon (451). The Septuagint version was translated into Ge'ez. Sermons are delivered in the local language.

Based in: Eritrea
Present in:
Primate: Patriarch Antonios I (born 1927, elected 2004)
Title: Patriarch of Eritrea
Residence: Asmara, Eritrea
Membership: 25,000,000
Clergy: 15000
Congregations: 1500
Member of: World Council of Churches -  WCC (2003)
  All Africa Conference of Churches - AACC
  Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa (FECCLAHA)
Periodicals: Finote Birhan A.Bisrate Gazan (monthly magazines)
Website: http://www.tewahdo.org


wikipedia page

WCC page

Eritrea church leader 'dismissed'

Eritrea denies patriarch sacked

Eritrea's 'spiritual father' dies

Christians protest over Eritrea

Religious persecution in Eritrea

Eritrean Orthodox patriarch Abune Antonios put under house arrest by the government

His Holiness Abune Antonios, Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewhado Church

Photos of Patriarch Antonios

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