About Knanaya Archdiocese

 

     In the year 345 A.D., Knai Thoma, a rich merchant, and 72 families from Edessa (or modern Urfa),  immigrated to Malabar (presently Kerala) and established their colony. This Syrian Christians consisting of 72 families belonging to 7 clans with instructions from the Patriarch of Antioch Mor Eusthathius, came to the Malabar coast of India. The group included men, women, children, priests, deacons and their bishop Mor Joseph of Urfa (Uraha/Edessa). The names of the seven clans, according to Mr. E M Philip, were: Bagi, Belkuth, Hadai, Kujalik, Koja, Mugmuth, and Thegmuth. The legend is that Mor Joseph had a startling dream (vision) in which he saw the plight of the Christian church in Malabar established by St. Thomas, the Apostle, in the 1st Century. Meanwhile, Knai Thoma, who frequented the shores of Kodungallur in search of spices and other Indian wealth to be exported back to the World trade ports of Baghdad and Egypt, noticed on the shores of Kodungallur, local men who carried on their bare trunk, crosses to mark their religious beliefs. But they were not of high disposition as they were subjected to persecution by their chaste brethren in lieu of their belief in an unknown and unseen God. Thomas interviewed them and found that they were the descendants of formerly high ranking brahmin families who had accepted the way of the cross as preached by St. Thomas between 52 – 72 AD. But after the martyrdom of the Saint, they became orphaned for want of a spiritual guide who could nourish the fledgling Nazarene community.

 

     The arrival of Knai Thoma and his people (Knananites) re-established the Church founded by St. Thomas the Apostle in India. They helped the disintegrating Malabar Church both spiritually and socially. Furthermore they brought the Syriac (Church of Antioch) traditions and teachings to Malabar that are practiced by millions today.

 

     On January 21 (Makaram 8), 1882, with the blessings of Mor Joseph Pulikkottil, eleven Knanaya priests assembled at St. Stephen's Knanaya Church, Veliyanad, and formed an organization called "Malankara Syrian Knanaya Committee". The meeting unanimously elected Mr. E. M. Philip Edavazhickal as the secretary and Uthuppan Thomma Puthenpurackal (Vazhayil) as the treasurer. The formation of this Knanaya Committee was a significant turning point in the Knanaya history. The Knanaya Committee codified rules and guidelines for the administration of the nine Knanaya churches which existed as of that date. Further, the Knanaya Committee was instrumental in bringing together the Knananites spread from Ramamangalam to Ranny based on their endogamous nature. In 1910, upon the Knanaya Committee's request, Patriarch Ignatius Abdulla created a Knanaya Diocese with personal jurisdiction considering their ethnic background (i.e., all Knananites and their churches, irrespective of location, will be administered by the Knanaya Diocese). On August 31, 1910, the Patriarch ordained Fr. Geevarghese Edavazhickal (Mar Severious) as the first Knanaya Bishop.The Knananites remain an ethnically distinct diocese of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch.

 

The Knanaya Diocese which started with 9 churches now has more than 100 churches spread all over the world.