The so-called 'Udayamperoor Sunhados'

Until the so-called 'Udayamperoor Sunhados' (Synod of Diamper) in 1599 AD, spiritual matters of the St. Thomas Christians were taken care by the prelate sent by the Patriarchiate of Babylon (Seleucia-Ctesiphon). The ‘Palli Yogam’ governed the temporal matters, i.e., Assembly and its head was 'Jathikku Karthavian', meaning “the head of the caste," or the head of the St Thomas Christians. His title was "Archdeacon of All India". The Archdeacon, unlike the East Syrian prelate, was like a secular leader or a King, and was escorted by a number, sometimes several thousands, of soldiers. While the Catholicos Patriarch of Seleucia-Ctesiphon sent his own prelates to the Mar Thoma Nazrani Church, the continuous governance of the Church was done by the Archdeacon serving as the head of all the priests in Malabar and representing the bishop’s will. The East-Syrian Bishops who were mostly natives of Babylon or Persia did not interfere in the local affairs of the Church or the community. However, with the Latin bishops in charge this balance was upset and they even started to question the authority of the Archdeacon as well.


Alexis de Menezes, Archbishop of Goa (during 1595-1617), together with his Jesuit counterparts, decided to bring the Indian Christians under the obedience of Latin Catholic Church. Sixteenth century was the time of inquisition, particularly in Spain and Portugal. Inspired by this, the Portuguese missionaries opened inquisition centre in Goa. They brought a lot of heathens into Christianity, but they also wanted local Christians under their control. The Portuguese wanted Mar Thoma Nazranies to completely accept the ‘Latin’ customs. This implied the separation of Mar Thoma Nazranies from the Chaldaean Patriarchate of Babylon, and place them directly to the hierarchy of Latin Church in Goa. Also, in Malabar, Mar Thoma Nazranies had the monopoly of spice trade and hence it was a requirement of Portuguese to bring Mar Thoma Nazranies under their control for the flourishing of the trade that Portuguese established.


On June 20, 1599, for commandeering obedience to the supreme Bishop of Rome, the Portuguese Archbishop Menezes of Goa summoned a synod at Udayamperoor. They sought the help from the Rajah of Kochi (Cochin). Those who denied to attend the Sunhados were threatened, as commanded by the Portuguese, by the Rajah of Kochi and local Hindu Chieftains. The Raja of Cochin even declared that all assets of Mar Thoma Nazrani Churches that stay away from the Sunhados would be forfeited. The delegates (153 priests and 660 faithful), headed by Archdeacon Giwargis of the cross, who attended the Sunhados were forced to accept the decrees read out by the Archbishop Menezes as the military of Portuguese and Kochi rajah has surrounded the Church. Thus Mar Thoma Nazranies, were made directly a part of the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy in Goa. 


Under the disguise of subjecting the Nazrani Church to the Pope of Rome, what Dom Menezes actually did was to subject the St.Thomas Nazranies to the authority and jurisdiction of Goa. He tactfully endeavoured to eliminate the Bishops sent by the Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon to give spiritual care to the St.Thomas Nazranies. To achieve this end, the impression that the Chaldean Patriarch was Nestorian and therefore, a "heretic" and "opposed to Rome” had to be inculcated in the minds of the Nazranies. Dom Menezes was successful in this endeavour.


Here we should remember the historical fact of the allegiance of the Chaldean Patriarchs to Rome: due to difference in opinion about the hereditary succession of Patriarchal position, Monk Yohannan Sulaqa in 1552 AD, went to Rome to be consecrated and installed Patriarch. Pope Julius III installed him as Patriarch in 1553 AD. His successors till the end of the sixteenth century were 'Abdiso' (1555-1571), 'Aithalla' (1578-1580), and 'Denha Simon' (1581-1600). Abdiso visited Rome and obtained confirmation and the Pallium. Aithalla owing to the old age could visit Rome, nor did he get confirmation from Rome before his death. Denha Simon got confirmation and the Pallium from Rome. It was this Patriarch who was in open communion with Rome that was condemned by Dom Menezes as heretic in the Udayamperoor Sunahados. Since the arrival of Mar Yousef Sulaqa, the brother of Yohannan Sulaqa, in Malabar in 1555 AD as a prelate, the Malabar Church became in full communion with the Church of Rome.


It is also worth mentioning few more facts about the relation that Church of the East and Mar Thoma Nazranies had with Latin Church of Rome. Few examples are listed in the following paragraphs.

St. Gregory III, a Syrian by birth was the Pope during 731-741 AD.

Mar Johannan, Archbishop of the Mar Thoma Nazranies, and afterwards the Patriarch of India, and his Suffragan Bishops in 1119 AD to Rome and received the ‘Pallium’ from Pope Calixtus II. During his visit, he exposed the Pope and the Cardinals the miracles that were wrought at the tomb of St. Thomas in Mylapore.


There were many attempts in the past from the Church of the East for communion with the Rome from AD 1247 by Patriarch Sabrisho V and by Mar Jaballaha III in 1288.  Moreover during the time of crusades, so many cultural exchanges happened. Rabban Sauma and Monk markose went to Rome and celebrated the East Syriac Qurbana there and made a deposition to the Pope “With the pardon of my faults and sins which I have received thee, O Father, I desire of thy fatherliness, O’ Holy Father that I may receive communion from thy hands, so that I may have complete forgiveness.”

The Mar Thoma Nazranies paid the expenses of John De Marignoli in the year 1348 AD because he was Papal Delegate.


Pope Julius III said that the discipline and liturgy of the Chaldeans had already been approved by his predecessors, Nicholas I (858-867), Leo X (1513-1521) and Clement VII (1523-1534) at the time of confirming of Yohannan Sulaqa as Chaldean Patriarch in 1553 AD. The same letter also mentions the former Patriarch, Simon Mama, of good memory, as Patriarch of the Christians in Malabar.

Moreover, at least a faction of Nestorians had communication with and sometimes even influences from, the Latin Church.  For example, the Mysteries of ancient Church of the East are unique. It presents an alternative list of sacraments with distinct theology, which exist alongside the sacramental theologies of Greek and Latin Churches. Later in fourteenth century, one can see a list of seven Mysteries. This is due to the interaction of Church of East with Latin Church via missionaries. The Dominican missionary Rocoldo de Monte preached in the Churches of Baghdad in 1290 AD.


From the documentary evidences, one cannot say that Mar Thoma Nazranies had ever rejected the Primacy of the Pope, but there are documentary evidences to show that there was communication between the two Churches directly or indirectly. But the absence of facilities for communication in the previous centuries was interpreted by Latin Missionaries as absence of Communion! The Nazranies were related to Rome through the Catholic Patriarch of Babylon, infrequently at different times from 13th century onwards and in full communion with 1555 AD with the arrival of Yousef Sulaqa.


The result of the so-called ‘Udayamperoor Sunhados’ was thus the destruction of the old rite of Mar Thoma Nazranies. Customs and traditions of Mar Thoma Nazranies were officially declared as heretical and their manuscripts were condemned to be either corrected or burnt.


The 15th decree of the so-called ‘Sunhados’ ordered that all the Syriac manuscripts should be handed over to the Archibishop or his deputy on visit to the Churches. Some of the other books which are said to be burnt at the synod of Diamper are,

1.The book of the infancy of the savior (history of our Lord)
2. Book of John Braldon
3. The Pearl of Faith
4. The Book of the Fathers
5. The Life of the Abbot Isaias
6. The Book of Sunday
7. Maclamatas
8. Uguarda or the Rose
9. Comiz
10. The Epistle of Mernaceal
11. Menra
12. Of orders
13. Homilies (in which the Eucharist is said to be the image of Christ)
14. Exposition of Gospels.
15. The Book of Rubban Hormisda
16. The Flowers of the Saints
17. The Book of Lots
18. The Parsimon or Persian Medicines

There are only very few Syriac manuscripts which 'survived' the destruction.


For a number of reasons the Udayamperoor Sunhados cannot be considered as valid.

  1. The synod was convoked without authority, conducted not according to the Canon of the Church and was never properly approved by Rome.
  2. Mar Thoma Nazranies did not have a chance to participate in discussions during the synod as the medium was not Syriac or Malayalam, the languages of Nazranies.
  3. Archbishop Menezez was accused that he made his preplanned agenda accepted by the Nazranies.
  4. It has been accused that many points were added even after the completion of the Synod.
  5. Since Bishop Francis Roz was aware of the invalidity of the Synod, he summoned another Synod called Angamaly Sunhados In 1603 AD.



  1. Cardinal Tisserant, Eastern Christianity in India
  2. A. E. Medlycott, India and the Apostle Thomas: an inquiry, with a critical analysis.
  3. Mar Aprem Metropilitan, The History of the Assyrian Church of the East in the Twentieth Century with special reference to the Syriac literature in Kerala.


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