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Malabar Christians

Malabar Christians. The Christians of the state of Kerala on the Malabar (SW) coast of India. They number over 2 million, now divided into several communities (see SYRIAN CHURCHES). They are known as ‘ Thomas Christians’ from their claim—taken seriously by some W. scholars too—that their ancestors were evangelized by St Thomas. In any case, by the 6th cent. there was a Church in the region using Syriac in its liturgy and dependent for bishops on the (Nestorian) catholikos of Baghdad. After heavy-handed missionary work by the Portuguese, the Church was formally purged of Nestorianism, brought under Roman obedience, and thoroughly Latinized at the synod of Diamper (Udayamperur, near Cochin) in 1599. Latin government of the Church continued as a source of tension down to the 20th cent. There was a defection of a large body eventually to the Syrian Orthodox in the 17th cent.; this schism gave rise to another in the 19th cent. with the creation of the Mar Thoma Church. The Catholics are now styled the ‘Syro-Malabar Church’, having been granted their own metropolitanate of Ernakulam with Indian bishops in 1923.

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