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Syro Malankara Catholic Church - History

Christianity was introduced to India by Saint Thomas the Apostle, who visited Muziris in Kerala in AD 52 to spread the gospel amongst Kerala's Jewish settlements. Although the origins of Christianity in India remain unclear, there is a general scholarly consensus that Christianity was established in India by the 6th century AD, including some communities who used Syriac liturgically, and it is a possibility that the religion's existence there extends to as far back as the 1st century. Christianity was as such established in India even before some nations of Europe had been Christianised.

The Church of Christ, founded in India in 52AD by St. Thomas the Apostle, was in communion with the Universal Church, especially with the Churches of the Persian Empire where the Apostle had begun the preaching of the Word of God The Indian Church kept alive its Persian connection until the end of the 15th century. Two immigrations from Persia (Thomas of Cana and Sabriso) and the visit of Cosmas Indicopleutus (AD 522) attest these relations. Within a period of 15 centuries, this Church progressively established relations with other Churches in the East and the West. The arrival of Pantaneus in 189 AD shows its connection with the Alexandrian Church These links were further firmed up with a series of European missions led by Franciscan and Dominican friars in the first half of the 14th century. Franciscan Friar John de Monte Corvino arrived in early 14th century. Then came the mission of Jordanus Catalani de Seveac, a French Dominican friar, in 1321. Another missionary to reach the Indian shores in early 14th century was Franciscan Friar Odoric de Pordenone. Another Franciscan, Bishop John de Maringoli of Florence, visited India on his return to Europe from a China mission. He reached Quilon in 1346 and left around 1349-50, impressed with the flourishing Christian communities in India.

Organized Christian missions started in the 16th century after the arrival of the Portuguese in 1498. Though the Portuguese missioners were happy to see Christians in India, they disapproved certain Hindu rituals the local practiced. The foreign missionaries wanted to correct those errors and bring the local Christians under the Latin systems. The local people resisted the Latin domination (the Diamper synod 1599). The disquiet grew and a group of local Christians broke away from the Church (the oath at Mattancherry in 1653). Some stayed with the Latin missioners, as they did not want to desert the "Catholic" faith. Later, they came to be known as the Syrian Catholics. The breakaway section, on the other hand, was known as the Syrian Orthodox. This group later split into several factions. The Latin Christians in India, who follow the Roman liturgy, are the result of the works done by the Portuguese and other Western missionaries, especially in coastal areas, northeastern hills and interior villages. A third rite emerged when a tiny section of the Syrian Orthodox Church returned to Catholic fold in 1930 under the leadership of the Servant of God Arch Bishop Mar Ivanios. The Pope allowed them to retain their liturgy and traditions. They are called the Syro-Malankara Church. The Syro-Malankara Catholic Church also known as the Malankara Syrian Catholic Church is an Eastern Catholic Church in full communion with the Pope. It is a Major Archiepiscopal Church headed by a Major Archbishop. The current Major Archbishop is Moran Mor Baselios Cardinal Cleemis Catholicos, who was elected in 2007.

About Malankarites in Qatar

The Syro Malankara Catholic Church has today its representation in all parts of the Middle East where its laity live and work. Although there has been a considerable number of Malankarites in Doha ever since the resurgence of Gulf after the oil boom of the seventies, we didn’t get an opportunity to have our Holy Mass served in our own Malankara Rite until Rev Fr. Thomas Kottarathil (Late) had arrived here and celebrated the Holy Mass in the Jacobite Syrian Church Hall in 1984. Rev. Dr. Abraham Kakkanat (now Bishop Abraham Mar Julios) visited Doha and celebrated Holy Mass in 1988. Rev Fr. William Nedumpurathu OIC visited Doha in 1998 and organized the first Malankara prayer meeting here. It was his good thought and great counsel that initiated the formation of a Malankara Catholic Association (Community) in Doha for the first time. The seed that he had sown in this soil has grown into a tree with abundant foliage and fruit. Our community that took its root in prayer has grown very well under the protection of the Heavenly Father. It was our longing to inculcate our Malankara tradition and culture in the upcoming generation that has motivated a dedicated group of pioneer laymen in all their efforts to build up a strong church in Doha.

In 1999, we made a prayer hall in Munthaza area and Fr. Mathew Kalayil (late) celebrated the first Holy Mass there in December 1999 and there started our dream and initiative to have a church building of our own in this land. There we started our prayer meetings, Catechism classes and Eucharist celebrations and by the grace of God, till now without any interruptions we are continuing it. At the same time, as special envoys of Late Moran Mar Baselios Catholicos, Fr. Abraham Mulamoottil and Rt. Rev. Geevarghese Mannikarottu visited Doha for negotiating with the Latin Church Authorities about the possibilities of celebrating regular Malankara Mass in our prayer hall but nothing materialized. By this time we got the MCA registered with the ICC under the aegis of the Indian Embassy. By the end of 2000 the Malankara Community with the approval of the Government of Qatar built up a small church in Farij Bin Omran and our first Holy Mass was celebrated on 12 June 2000 by Fr. Mathew Manakarakavil and he stayed here and served the community for two months.

Fr. Oommen Ayyaneth, who came in September 2000, to serve this community had to go back after for two months due to health problems. At that juncture, realising our thirst for participating the Malankara Holy Mass, H.E Bsp. Geevarghese Mar Timotios who loved, supported and guided us had made arrangements to send Fr.Behanan Cherupalathil over here to take care of the community. Fr. Behanan’s dedicated service, leadership and commitment towards his mission helped to establish this community well organized. Doha Malankara Catholic Community never forgets the sacrifices and devotions made by him during his three years of services. During all these years His Beatitude Cyril Mar Baselios was trying to keep this community under the aegis of the Main Catholic Church in Doha by keeping Malankara Church at Bin Omran. In the year 2002, with the collective effort of His Beatitude Cyril Mar Basselios,Major Archbishop and Catholicos of the Malankara Church and His Execellency Bishop Bernard Grimoly, Apostolic Visitor of Vicariate of Arabia, an agreement was executed. As per the above agreement, Rev Fr. Jerome Peedikaparampil OIC was appointed as the first officially accepted Vicar of the Malankara Catholic Church in Doha. He could not complete his term due to over age restriction for getting residence visa. Fr. Joshua Kuttiyil OIC who came as a reliever of Fr. Jerrom, served the community for six months until Fr. Mathai Iranathara took charge as vicar of the parish in 2004. By 2004, there has been a lot of changes in this country and the State of Qatar graciously allowed land to the Christian Community for building their own churches. By the Grace of God our Malankara Community also were given an area for constructing our own church. A milestone in the history of the Malankara Catholic Church of Doha had been the laying of the foundation stone of our church building on 27 January 2005 by their Excellencies Bsp.Yoohanon Mar Chrysostom and Bsp.Joseph Mar Thomas together with His Excellency Bishop Paul Hinder, the Vicar Apostolic of Arabia. Doha Malankara Catholic Community is the first to have Government recognised Malankara Catholic Church in the whole of the Middle East. Thanks to the benevolence and generosity of the government of Qatar.

St.Mary’s Malankara Catholic Church, an oasis for our community here, was consecrated at IDCC complex in Mesaimer in April 2009 by His Beatitude Baselios Cleemis Catholicos, H.E Paul Hinder, H.E Bsp Joshua Mar Ignatios and H.G Bsp Abraham Mar Yulios. During the initial stage of the Church construction, Fr.Mathai Iranathara laid a firm financial support structure by his dedicated hard work. Later Fr. Mathew Punakulathil mobilised further resources relevant for the construction of the church and accomplished the task. We appreciate the sacrifice and efforts made by these two vicars during the church construction time and they will be remembered by the community for ever. Fr. Cherian Manappurathu our.previous Vicar (2011 to 2014) is one of the most spiritual leaders who served our Doha Community. He made a noticeable change for all our pious organizations, especially the Prayer Meetings. He contributed a lot for increasing the relations with all other communities and the Main Churches. Today, St.Mary’s Malankara Catholic Church Doha is a fully fledged Church with a membership of about 150 families and equal number of bachelors. All activities and Eucharistic celebrations of pious organizations of the Church like, Catechism, Parish prayer meeting units, MCA, MCYM, Mathtrusamaajam, and also Nurses Prayer Meetings are held on a regular basis. The community is moving ahead with more expectations under the vibrant and dedicated leadership of new vicar Rev. Fr. Varghese Kuthanethu, who has taken charge as our new vicar from September 2014.