St. THOMAS ORTHODOX CHURCH, TORONTO
The St. Thomas Orthodox Church, Toronto is a local congregation of the Orthodox Church of India, also known as The Malankara Orthodox Church. Malankara refers to the region of its origin at the Malabar Coast. The Malankara Church has been in existence from the early days of the Christian era. Its founder is St. Thomas the Apostle, who landed in South India at the port of Cranganore in A.D. 52. There had been at least a few migrations of Christians from Persia and the Middle East to South India. The most significant of those was of Thomas of Cana with a bishop, priests and many families, numbering about four hundred Christians in the year, A.D.345.
The Malankara Orthodox Church
The St. Thomas Christians remained as a homogeneous society until the Portuguese occupation and eventual imposition of Roman Catholic authority on it starting with the arrival of Francis Xavier in 1542. This occupation was fully realized under the Archbishop Alexio de Menezes of Goa who arrived in Cochin in 1599. With the Coonen (Leaning) Cross Pledge at Mattanchery on January 16, 1653, majority of Malankara Christians, under the leadership of Archdeacon Thoma, severed all ties with Rome. In the absence of a bishop, Archdeacon Thoma was consecrated by twelve priests as Metropolitan of the Malankara Church. The Dutch conquerors overpowered the Portuguese and helped the Malankara Church in establishing ties with the West Syrian Patriarchate of Antioch (1661), which sent Mar Gregorios of Jerusalem to Malankara in 1665. The Metropolitan by the name, Mar Thoma I, then received due consecration from Mar Gregorios. The Church has since received the West Syrian liturgies, ecclesiastical practices and indigenous hierarchy. The Dutch were Protestants, and Protestantism also entered the scene. The Dutch were displaced by the British in 1795. Although Roman Catholic missionary endeavors were effective in attracting new converts they were keen on recapturing many more Malankara Christians. With the arrival of British and other Western missionaries various Protestant denominations eventually spread throughout India.
After the Apostolic times, the earliest Christendom came to be distinguished as Western (Roman) and Eastern (Orthodox) Churches.Orthodox means correct or straight glory and it signifies pure doctrine and worship. Doctrinal controversies further divided the Eastern Christendom into Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches from the time of the Council of Chalcedon in 451. The Malankara Orthodox Church belongs to the Oriental side. The Oriental Orthodox Churches are: The Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt, The Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch, The Armenian Orthodox Church, The Orthodox Church of India and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and their subdivisions. The Oriental Orthodox Churches adhere to the apostolic faith of the universal Church as enunciated by the Ecumenical Councils of Nicea (325), Constantinople (381) and Ephesus (431).and profess the Nicene (Niceno-Constantinopolitan) Creed.
From the time of Mar Thoma I, the Church was administered by a succession of Metropolitans, bearing the title Mar Thoma with the assistance, support and occasional disputes from the Syrian hierarchy. The Malankara Church survived disputes, divisions, controversies, British missionary interventions and intrigues, although the cultural and educational contributions of the British missionaries should definitely be acknowledged with gratitude.
With the arrival of Patriarch Ingatius Peter III to Malankara in 1875, a new chapter opened. He summoned a council at Mulanthuruthy in 1876 and elected Pulikottil Joseph Mar Dynasius V as Malankara Metropolitan and established an administrative structure, which has since been continued with necessary reforms. Patriarch Abdul Messiah succeeded Patriarch Peter III in 1895. To resist the bare freedom of the Syrian Church, the Sultan of Turkey withdrew his royal recognition of Abdul Messiah as Patriarch in 1905. Mar Abdullah, who had considerable influence with the Sultan was raised to the throne of Patriarch. The aging Dynasius V convened the Malankara Association at M.D.Seminary, Kottayam in 1908 and elected Vattasseril Geevarghese Ramban to succeed him. Being sent to the Patriarch he was consecrated as Dynasius(VI) along with Kochuparampil Paulose Ramban as Mar Coorilos by Patriarch Abdullah in 1909. The Patriarch soon visited Malankara and summoned an assembly at the Old seminary, Kottayam, to capture full spiritual and temporal power over the Malankara Church. This move was opposed by Mar Dynasius VI.. The Patriarch appointed Mar Coorilos in his place. After creating a division, the Patriarch left. Litigation arose between the two factions. At the request of the duly elected Malankara Metropolitan Vattasseril Mar Dynasius, the seniotr Patriarch, Abdul Messiah, arrived in Malankara in 1912 and established the Catholicate with the right of succession. Paulose Mar Ivanios of Kandanad was installed as Catholicos, Baselius Paulose I. On returnin 1013, Abdul Messiah was reinstated as the rightful Patriarch with the approval of the then Sultan of Turkey.
Vattasseril Mar Dynasius as Malankara Metropolitan continued until his passing away on February 23, 1934.. In December 1934, the Malankara Association elected the Catholicos of the time, Mar Baselius Geevarghese II, to the office of Malankara Metropolitan as well. A Constitution that was drafted under the guidance of Mar Dynasius VI was also adopted.. This became the historical constitution of 1934.. A prolonged litigation followed between strong supporters of the Patriarch and those who stood for legitimate independence under the leadership of the Catholicos. Following the verdict of the Supreme Court of India, the two factions accepted each other and united on December 12, 1958.Peace in the Church strengthened with the consecration of the fourth Catholicos, Mar Baselius Augen I by the Patriarch Mar Ignatius Yacoob III in 1964. Peace didn't last long. Rival Catholicate was established and since mid 1970's the Church has been functioning as two separate factions, distinguished as Orthodox Syrian and Jacobite Syrian.
The St.Thomas Orthodox Church is under the administrative authority of the present Catholicos/Malankara Metropolitan, His Holiness Baselius Mar Thoma Didimos I of the Malankara Orthodx Church and successor to the throne of St. Thomas The St. Thomas parish started in 1975 had a membership of only about a dozen families until we started meeting every week since September 2002. We gained considerable growth ever since, and have now a membership of 64 families.