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  • vicar@ottawamarthoma.ca
  • Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

About Us

The Mar Thoma Church is a Christian denomination from Kerala, the south-western state of India. The Mar Thoma Church descends from the original Malankara Church that was established by Thomas the Apostle, who came to India in AD 52, around the same time Saint Paul (68 AD) established the church in Corinth.

The official name of the Church is Malankara Mar Thoma Suriyani Sabha or in English Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church. Short form is “Marthoma Sabha” or Mar Thoma Church. Malankara is cognate of the name Maliankara, a place near Muziris, where Thomas the Apostle first landed in Kerala. “Mar Thoma” or “Marthoma” is Aramaic, and means Saint Thomas. The original liturgical language used by Malankara Church was Aramiac and Hebrew. The Bible that was in use was in Hebrew. Later when Syriac replaced Aramiac in eastern countries, Malankara Church also started using Syriac. Members of the church are often referred to as Marthomites.

The Mar Thoma Church defines itself as “Apostolic in origin, Universal in nature, Biblical in faith, Evangelical in principle, Ecumenical in outlook, Oriental in worship, Democratic in function, and Episcopal in character.

The Church currently has over one million members around the world. The membership of the Church is centred in the southern Indian state of Kerala but it has spread with the 20th-century Indian diaspora to North America, Europe, the Middle East, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, in addition to a sizeable population in the rest of India. It is independent and indigenous. Its regular work as well as special projects are entirely financed by contributions from its members at home and abroad.

Early Period

On the south western side of the Indian peninusula; between the mountains and the Erythraean Sea (now Arabian Sea); stretching from Kannoor to Kanyakumari was the land called Cherarajyam, which was ruled by local chieftens. Later this land came to be known as Malabar (now Kerala). It was to this country Kerala, Thomas the Apostle, one of the disciples of Jesus Christ arrived in the first century (believed to be in 52 AD). He landed at Muziris (now known as Pattanam near Cochin on the Malabar Coast).

Even before the time of Christ, during the time of Moses and King Solomon, there was trade in spices and luxury articles between Malabar Coast and Palestine. Excavations carried out at Pattanam in 2008 have given more evidences to the maritime trade between Kerala and the Mediterranean ports. During the second exile (586 BC) some of the Jews came and settled in Kerala. They were known as Bene Israel. During St. Thomas’ stay some among the Jews and the local wise men became followers of Jesus of Nazareth. They were called Nazranis, meaning “followers of Jesus of Nazareth” or Malankara Christians. After leaving Malankara, St. Thomas proceeded to the East coast of India and died a martyrs’ death (72 AD) at a place called Mylapore in Tamil Nadu.

Synod of Diamper

St. Thomas Christians (Malankara Christians) remained in communion with the Orthodox Church of the East until their encounter with the Portuguese Catholics in 1498. The Portuguese started settling in India with the arrival of Vasco Da Gama on Sunday, May 20, 1498. From that time the Portuguese were powerful in the western parts of India and had control over the sea routes. The Malankara Church had hardly any contact with the Christians of Europe. Many of them did not even know that there was a Pope in Rome. But the Portuguese used their power to bring the Malankara Church under the supremacy of Rome. A powerful Archbishop Aleixo de Menezes arrived in Goa in 1595. He then convened a Synod at Udayamperoor, south of Ernakulam, from 20–26 June, 1599. This is known as the Synod of Diamper. Here the Archbishop demanded obedience to the supreme Bishop of Rome. The representatives sent from various parishes in and around Cochin were forced to accept the decrees read out by the Archbishop. The Portuguese Padroado was extended over them. Thus those parishes of the Malankara Church were made part of the Catholic Church under Pope of Rome. But the remaining churches continued their original Apostolic beliefs and practices. The language of liturgy of the Roman Church was Latin and that of Nazranis was Syrian (Aramiac). To distinguish these two groups, later the Roman Catholics called themselves Latin Christians and the other Malankara Nazranis were referred as Syrian Christians.

Coonan Cross Oath (Crooked Cross Oath)

The Portuguese refused to accept the legitimate authority of the Indian hierarchy and its relation with the Orthodox East Syrians. For almost half a centure after the Synod of Daimper these Christians were under the Latin Bishops who were appointed either by the Portuguese Padroado or by the Roman Congregation of Propaganda Fide. Every attempt to resist the latinization process was branded by them heretical. Under an indigenous archdeacon, the Thomas Christians resisted, but the result was disastrous.

On Friday, January 24, 1653 (M.E. 828 Makaram 3), under the leadership of Malanakra Mooppen Thomas, Nazranis around Cochin gathered at Mattancherry church and made an oath that is known as Oath at the Crooked Cross. About 20,0000 people marched holding a rope tied to a Cross vowing that neither they or their descendants to come would have anything to do with the Roman Catholic Church or the Pope; and that they would stop obeying the missionaries.

Mar Thoma Metropolitans

After The Great Swearing at the Crooked Cross, the parish elders (Idavaka Mooppens) of the Church met together and elected Kuravilangad Parampil Thomas Kathanar as Malankara Elder (Malankara Mooppen). Following the ancient custom, twelve Idavaka Mooppens laid their hands on him and appointed him as Malankara Mooppen. However, the Portugese refused to accept his legitimate authority without an ordination by a bishop as was the practice in Portugese (Catholic) churches. Under impending annexation of their Church, the Marthoma Nazranis sent letters to various other eastern Churches asking to send a bishop. Mar Gregorios the Patriarch of Jerusalem, was the first to respond and arrived in India to regularise the ordination. Thus began the relation between the Malankara Church and the Antiochian Jacobite church.

In 1653, Malankara Mooppen Thomas, was consecrated with the title Mar Thoma (Mar Thoma I) by Mar Gregorios. The throne used for this consecration in 1653 is still in the possession of the Mar Thoma Church and kept in the Poolatheen, the residence of the Malankara Marthoma Metropolitan at Tiruvalla, Kerala, India. It has been used in the installation of every Mar Thoma Metropolitan, to this day, so that the continuity of the throne of Mar Thoma is ensured.

MarThoma Church Today!

Our headquarters is located in the city of Thiruvalla in Kerala State, India. Our spiritual father is The Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma, Metropolitan of the Mar Thoma Church. Our Diocesan Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Dr. GeeVarghese Mar Theodosuis, provides spiritual and administrative oversight from the Sinai Mar Thoma Center in Merrick, NY, U.S.A. The church is a reformed Oriental Orthodox Church and has members throughout the world. Our reformed liturgies are based on the liturgies of the Antiochene Patriarchate that have been translated into Malayalam, English, and other regional languages of India.

Our church is very proud of our ecumenical relations. We are one of the founding members of the World Council of Churches as well as the National Council of Churches in India. We are full-fledged members of the Canadian Council of Churches and other regional ecumenical bodies. Moreover, we are in full communion with the Anglican See of Canterbury and all her regional identities – including the Anlican Church of Canada, the Churches of South India and North India, and the Old Catholic Church of Utrecht.