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In The Light Of The Synod Of Diamper


If we examine the proceedings and the decisions of the Synod of Diamper (1599) convened by the Portuguese Bishop Menezis, we can understand many things that prevailed before, among the St. Thomas Christians. 1 In fact Menezis convened the synod exploiting the autonomous Church assemblies of each locality and the participation of the believers in them. In the order issued for convening the synod, Menezis made it clear that, as was the custom of this Church from ancient days, four significant persons representing each assembly should attend the synod, and that the decisions – both spiritual and temporal _ taken by the Synod would be binding on the people. Obeying the order, 793 persons participated including 133 ministers (Presbyters) and 660 believers. 2

Menezis succeeded in bringing our Church under Portuguese control by this Synod. Before that, bishops from the Persian and the Babylonian Churches came here on request from the Indian Church to give spiritual leadership, but never with the support of the Persian Kings, whose power was declining. The freedom that they allowed in their Churches was allowed here too. But Menezis and other Portuguese bishops came here with the object of seizing all powers of the Church with the support of the Portuguese Kings. To attain that object, with the help of the native Kings, they convened the Synod of Diamper through which they attempted to make our independent Church dance to their tunes, and we see that they succeeded in their attempt to a great extent.

1. Portuguese ways imposed

Soon after the synod of Diamper, the Roman administrative system was imposed on the Malankara Church. Not only were the Church assemblies deprived of their autonomy, but they were declared as the parishes of the Roman Church, and the bishop appointed ‘Vicars’ to rule these parishes. The Portuguese bishop himself paid them a salary and the vicars started imposing the Roman faith and customs on the Malankara Church, which gradually lost its own faith and independence. The principle of collective responsibility shared by the minister and the believers gave way to the rule by the Vicars (hierarchy) of the Roman Church. Consequently the faithful became mere ‘laity’ under the ‘vicars’ and were forced to accept the Roman faith unquestioningly. The Jesuits could keep on with these Roman reforms with the support of the native Kings. They managed things in such a way that the Malankara Church became economically dependent on the Roman Church; Economic dependence infused Roman faith into the people.

Besides this, the Jathikku Karthavyan (the leader of the caste) who was accepted as the national leader, and who ruled this Church, was reduced to the position of the ‘Arch-deacon’ (equal to the Vicar