This year being the fourth centenary of the
Synod of Diamper (Udayamperur) which was held from the 20th
to the 26th June 1599, we, the members of the Joint
International Commission for Dialogue between the Catholic Church
and the Malankara Orthodox Church consider it very opportune
to share with our brothers and sisters of both the Churches
our findings on the nature and consequences of the Synod of
Diamper with the firm hope of creating an increasing awareness
of the urgent need of healing the bitter memories of the past
which stand in the way of our reconciliation and mutual communion.
The undivided ancient apostolic Church of the
St. Thomas Christians came into contact with the Portuguese
in the sixteenth century. The Roman Catholic Missionaries who
accompanied them, unjustly accused the St. Thomas Christians
of upholding Nestorianism. Through the Goan Synods and through
the seminary formation at Cranganore. Vaipinkotta etc., there
was a systematic attempt to conform the indigenous Church to
the Latin Church.
The activities in connection with the Synod
of Diamper brought drastic changes in the ecclesiastical life
of the St. Thomas Christians. Westernization and Latinization
were the main results of the activities of the missionaries
and the colonial power. The Church was forced to adopt several
changes in the Latin direction. Consequently the identity and
the heritage of the St. Thomas Christians were severely distorted.
As is evident from the canons of the Synod,
under the direction of the missionaries, the liturgy was mutilated,
the hierarchical relation with the Persian Church was discontinued
and substantial changes regarding the practices and tradition
of the St. Thomas Christians were introduced.
Despite certain positive aspects great damage
was done to the ecclesial heritage of this local Church by the
Synod. The saddest consequence of the Synod was the loss of
freedom and the division of the one apostolic ancient Church
in India into two, one section which later came to be known
as the Syro Malabar Church and the other one as the Malankara
Orthodox Church. This also led to further divisions and all
sections of the St. Thomas Christians are suffering from it.
This common reading of such a crucial historical
event in the life of St. Thomas Christians takes us a long way
in our search for reconciliation and rediscovery of the identity
of the Churches of St. Thomas tradition.
We are happy that some efforts have been initiated
towards this. The setting up of this Joint Commission for Dialogue
is one. We have already studied and drawn up an agreed statement
on Christology; details of an interim agreement on Inter church
marriage are being pursued, steps have been taken for a more
effective common witness, to mention only a few. So we look
forward to the future with hope assured of the desire of our