Diamper, Synod of

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Convoked by Alexis de Menezes (Alexio de Meneses), the Latin Archbishop of Goa, the Synod of Diamper was held in the parish church of Diamper (Udayamperoor) near Ernakulam, Kerala, from June 20 to 26, 1599. A total of 153 priests and 660 lay representatives attended the Synod, as it was the custom of the Yogam of the Malabar Church to include the laity. Many clergy refused to attend the synod as a mark of displeasure and protest at Menezes' interference. According to Francis Roz, a Jesuit and Menezes' assistant who was present at Diamper and who subsequently became the first Latin Bishop of Angamaly, the synod was not in proper form, nor was there any discussion. Through decrees which had been prepared in advance and translated into the vernacular, and which were neither accurate nor objective, Menezes attempted to correct supposed "errors" and to latinize the St. Thomas Christians. Roz conceded that members of the synod did not understand the proceedings, but were forced to put their signature under duress and pain of excommunication. He further admitted that Menezes modified the synodal acts and unilaterally added new ones.

The earliest authoritative report on Diamper, and its acts and decrees is given by the Portuguese writer Gouvea (Jornada do Arcebispo de Goa Dom Frey Alexio de Menezes, Coimbra, 1606). The official acts of the synod comprised the profession of faith and decrees on the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, corrections of "errors" in liturgical books, the reduction of the juridical status of the ancient Metropolitan See of Angamaly to that of a Latin suffragan see under the Padroado Metropolitan of Goa, and the expurgation of supposed "errors" in the customs and traditions of the St. Thomas Christians.

Looking back, many contemporary historians argue that the synod was invalid on the grounds that it was convoked without authority, because Menezes' authority as the Latin Primate of the East did not extend beyond the Latin sees into the Oriental churches. The synod was not conducted in accordance with ecclesial canons, and it was neither canonically approved nor ratified by Rome, which had merely authorized Archbishop Menezes to investigate the situation of the St. Thomas Christians and to appoint a successor to Mar Abraham should he die without consecrating a successor. Scholars agree that Menezes never received any authorization from Rome to convoke a synod to reform the ecclesial life and traditions of the St. Thomas Christians.

The Synod of Diamper resulted in the latinization of the St. Thomas Christian communities. The synodal decrees condemned many of the ancient indigenous customs and traditions and latinized their East Syrian (Chaldean) liturgy, prayers and devotions. It also resulted in the destruction of a significant number of valuable Syriac manuscripts and books on the suspicion of heresy. Historians are unanimous in concluding that the Synod of Diamper almost destroyed the unique identity and ancient heritage of the St. Thomas Christians in India.

See Also: india, christianity in.

[k. pathil]