Making sense of HG Athanasius’ peace proposals
I have by now translated two parts of Athanasius thirumeni's peace
proposals. I believe there exists a third part as well. If I get
access to it, I will try to translate that as well. Many thanks for
the positive feedback on the translation from our respected Thomas
and also from Jacob Kuruvilla. Hope there are others who also found
the translation useful.
The translator's duty (or dharma) is to convey the message in
another language, faithfully and accurately without altering the
meaning. Additionally, the translator's own views on the matter
should not be allowed to influence the message in any way. I believe
I've accomplished the latter requirement completely, and the former,
to the best of my ability.
Since I've invested some time and energy in studying the subject, I
thought it is entirely appropriate that I should come out with a
separate posting to offer some guideposts for readers to understand
Athanasius thirumeni's proposals. To make it more reader-friendly, I
will divide this into three sections.
I. Suggestions Based On The Supreme Court Judgement.
Some of the suggestions made by Athanasius thirumeni are based on
the Supreme Court final judgement of 1995. They may appear radical
to people who have not studied the subject. I would like to utilise
this space to put them in context.
>>The Evangelical Association of the East, Honavar Mission and
Thronal Churches will have the right to an independent existence.<<
(suggestion from part I)
The Kerala High Court division bench had ruled that the three are
not an integral part of Malankara Sabha and that they are not to be
administered by the 1934 Constitution. The Supreme Court in its 1995
majority judgement upheld the same. I quote: ``We see no grounds
to depart from the concurrent findings recorded by the learned
Single Judge and the Division Bench. We affirm their judgment and
decree in this behalf.''
My view: Thirumeni is merely restating what the Supreme Court has
already ruled. Far from an independent existence, the three are now
directly ruled by the Patriarch according to Article 5 of the Syriac
>> The Catholicos of the East can continue to use the words `seated
on the throne of St. Thomas' in his title.<< (suggestion from part I)
My view: This too is from the Supreme Court majority judgement of
1995. The court ruled that the patriarch must have deemed to have
given up all his objections to the use of the title.
I have dwelt on the matter in detail in my earlier
series, `Malankara's Mythical Minefields'. Those who are interested
can look it up in the ICON website:
II. Suggestions Based On The Constitution And The Liturgy
Some of the suggestions made by Athanasius thirumeni are based on
the 1934 constitution and the liturgy. Again, these too may appear
radical to people who have not studied the subject. Let me put them
>>The pride of place in the priestly order belongs to the Patriarch.
His name should be remembered ahead of that of the Catholicos.<<
(suggestion from Part 2)
This is actually from the first diptych (too-bden). Whenever we have
Holy Qurbano, we mention the patriarch's name ahead of the
My view: We have no hesitation in affirming that the Patriarch is
the first among equals and the spiritual superior of the Catholicos.
Our problems are with attempts at overlordship. Thirumeni's
suggestion is in order.
>> The Patriarch of Antioch should be formally invited to the
consecration ceremony of the Catholicos. If he accepts the
invitation, he will be the chief celebrant at the ceremony.<<
(suggestion from Part 2)
My view: This is nothing but Article 114 of our 1934 Constitution
which states that if there is a Patriarch accepted by Malankara
Sabha, he should be invited to be the chief celebrant at the
installation ceremony of the Catholicos. In 1964, for the first
time, there existed a Patriarch accepted by Malankara Sabha. He was
graceful enough to accept our invitation and install Mor Timoteus
Augen as the new Catholicos.
>>If a complaint is leveled against the Catholicos on matters
involving faith using the institutionalised mechanism, the Patriarch
has the opportunity to head the committee appointed to investigate
the same.<< (suggestion from Part 2)
My view: Has he given ground here? No way. The above suggestion of
Athanasius thirumeni is nothing but Article 118 of the 1934
Constitution. Again it applies only if there exists a Patriarch
accepted by Malankara Sabha.
III. Suggestions/Points On Which I've Misgivings
I am not comfortable with a few of the suggestions/points made. This
posting will be incomplete if they are not included.
>>Indeed, even when the Jerusalem Patriarch claimed the title, the
canon had it that he was administratively beholden to the
Metropolitan of Caesarea.<< (point from Part 2)
Thirumeni notes that some people believe that the title of Patriarch
is somehow superior to that of the Catholicos, and, therefore, want
the Catholicos to be renamed as the Patriarch of India. Using the
illustration of the Jerusalem Patriarch, Athanasius thirumeni states
that the Patriarch title has neither the character, nor the
indication, of supremacy.
I agree with his contention that there is no need to alter the title
of Catholicos of the East, which enjoys ancient and canonical
status. But my disappointment is with the wrong illustration used.
This is especially so because in some quarters, Athanasius thirumeni
is considered as a scholar in the line of the late PMG thirumeni.
I've no intention here to go into the history of the Jerusalem
Patriarchate. My take-off point is his reference to the canon.
Thirumeni is directly referring to the Hoodoyo Canon (Kethabha dhe-
Hudhaye) by Gregorius Bar Hebraeus, and indirectly to the Nicene
Canon since Bar Hebraeus attributes his reference to the Jerusalem
Patriarch to the decisions of the first council.
The problem with the reference is that Bar Hebraeus, a scholar
extraordinaire who should have known better, unfortunately based his
reference on the spurious Arabic Canons about Nicaea than the real
Since both the real Nicene Canon and at least one spurious Arabic
Canon are available online now, let's do some crosschecking.
This is what the real Nicene Canon says about Jerusalem:
>>Since custom and ancient tradition have prevailed that the Bishop
of Ælia [i.e., Jerusalem] should be honoured, let him, saving its
due dignity to the Metropolis, have the next place of honour.<<
(Canon VII of Nicaea)
Even after nearly 1,700 years, nobody is sure about the identity of
the Metropolis referred to. Some think it's Caesarea. Others feel
it's Antioch or Jerusalem itself.
But the spurious Arabic Canon harbours no such doubts, and declares
it to be Caesarea :
>> How the bishop of Jerusalem is to be honoured, the honour,
however, of the metropolitan church of Cæsarea being preserved
intact, to which he is subject.<< (Arabic Canon No. 10)
Bar Hebraeus combined the above with other material from spurious
Arabic Canons to state that there would be only four Patriarchs in
the world, the chief among them being the Patriarch of Rome. All
this when the original Nicaean Canon No. 6 had no such restrictions
on the number of Patriarchs and any overlordship of Rome. You may
look up No. 39 of the Arabic Canon here to identify the source of
The Paris Canon of 1898 (i.e. the authentic Hoodoyo) has faithfully
reproduced all this from the Arabic Canon. But when the Jacobites
forged the Hoodoyo (Exhibit 18 Canon), they deleted the reference to
the Pope being the chief among the four, and brazenly inserted other
references to India being under Antioch, the Catholicos of the East
being obedient to Antioch, etc. (Exhibit 18, Udayagiri publication.
Chapter VII, Posuko I)
My view: Athanasius thirumeni's argument is correct but the illustration can be
faulted for its accompanying baggages. To illustrate his contention that there
is no need to alter the Catholicos title, all he had to do was to state that the
title came into existence in the 3rd century CE itself (Papa Bar Aggai of
Persia) while the title Patriarch came into vogue only in the 4th century CE.
Additionally, he could have pointed to the Armenian Orthodox Church where two
Patriarchs (of Jerusalem and
Istanbul) serve under the Supreme Catholicos of Ejmiadzin.
>>The Malankara Orthodox Church will accept the Patriarch of Antioch
as the primate of the united Orthodox Syrian Church. But his
consecration should be done with the co-operation of Malankara
The Syrian Orthodox Church and the Malankara Orthodox Church, are
divisions of the united Orthodox Syrian Church…<< (suggestions from
In our 1934 constitution, three churches are mentioned. Malankara
Sabha, the Orthodox Syrian Church (Article 1), and Orthodox Syrian
Church of the East (Article 2).
Since Article 1 explains that the Patriarch of Antioch is the
primate of the Orthodox Syrian Church, we can confirm that it's
nothing but the present Syriac Orthodox Church.
Article 99 of the Constitution states that in the Orthodox Syrian
Church of the East, the Catholicate was re-established in 1912. This
makes it clear that it's not the Nestorian Church since no re-
establishment of the Catholicate took place in that church in 1912.
Therefore, we can be certain that the Orthodox Syrian Church of the
East is nothing but the Orthodox Church of Persia, established by
The relationship between Malankara Sabha and Orthodox Syrian Church
is that the former is a division (or part) of the latter. On the
other hand, Malankara Sabha is included in the Orthodox Syrian
Church of the East (Article 2) and the primate of that church is the
Catholicos. Malankara Sabha does not have a Catholicos for itself.
Rather, the Catholicos of the Orthodox Syrian Church of the East has
been co-opted as its Catholicos by making him the president of the
Episcopal Synod (Article 104). Also, the Orthodox Syrian Church of
the East is neither a division nor included in the Orthodox Syrian
Thus the three are completely separate entities sharing a common
faith, with two of them sharing the same primate. There are no
combinations or merged entities.
Athanasius thirumeni too lists three entities. But their names are
completely different from that given in the 1934 Constitution.
The names he uses are the Syrian Orthodox Church (A), Malankara
Orthodox Church (B), and the Orthodox Syrian Church (C).
By Syrian Orthodox Church he means the Syriac Orthodox Church. But
by Orthodox Syrian Church he means a superstructure formed by the
combination of the Syrian Orthodox Church and Malankara Orthodox
Church, i.e. A + B= C. He then goes further and says that the
Malankara Orthodox Church will accept the Patriarch of Antioch as
the primate of the united Orthodox Syrian Church. However, a little
later he hastens to add that a united administrative set-up is seen
neither in the Hoodoyo Canon nor the 1934 constitution.
My view: This proposal of Athanasius thirumeni that Malankara
Orthodox Church will accept the Patriarch of Antioch as the primate
of the united Orthodox Syrian Church is not acceptable to me because
our constitution does not speak about any combination or merged
I am wrapping up my explanatory note on Athanasius thirumeni's two-
part proposals here. I am broadly endorsing his bold and imaginative
proposals and invite other forum members to debate the same and
generate many more path breaking ideas which can supplement
thirumeni's proposals. Simultaneously, let us await the third
installment of his proposals, which I learn, is addressed to the