Project to trace and preserve Syrian X”ian texts in progress
Thrissur, Feb 20 (PTI) A project to trace, catalogue and digitise lost
documents relating to religious practices, culture and heritage of
Syrian Christians of Kerala has been launched by the Church in
collaboration with some European universities and local historical
“The main objective of the project is to unearth valuable 16th and
17th century documents in Syriac, which had either been vandalised or
stashed away by Portuguese Missionaries in their quest for bringing
the ancient Christian community of India under Papal dominance,”
Metropolitan Mar Aprem, Metropolitan of the Church of the East, told
As the initial result of the programme, a facsimile edition of a
manuscript has been brought here after its original text was lost
seven centuries ago.
According to local church historians and secular scholars, a large
volume of literature concerning the Syrian Christian culture and
heritage were destroyed by Portuguese Missionaries by burning after
the historic Synod of Diamper, held at Udayamperoor near Kochi in
1599, which offered a last chance to non-Catholic denominations to
fall in line.
The text, known as Nomocannon of Abdisho of Nisibis (Canon Law), was
compiled by the Metropolitan of Nisbis and Armenia in 1291 AD. The
prelate died in 1318 AD, he said.
The revived text was edited by Istva Prczel of the Central European
University, Budapest, formerly researcher at the Oriental Institute,
Tubingen University, Germany.
The manuscript was submitted before the Thrissur district court and
obtained the legal approval as the authentic law of the Saint Thomas
Christians of Kerala, Aprem said.
Another oldest and most important manuscript ”Kashkol”
(breviary-prayer book) had also miraculously survived destruction by
Portuguese inquisitors, he said.
The St Thomas Christians of Kerala, now divided into various
denominations including the Catholic fold, trace their origin to the
arrival of St Thomas the Apostle to Kodungallur in Kerala in AD 52 to
preach the Gospel.
Over the centuries, the community had followed eastern rites and
liturgy, which brought them in conflict with Portuguese missionaries
who arrived in Kerala in 16th century and wanted the entire community
to be brought under Catholic control.
The Synod of Diamper attacked the customs of Saint Thomas Christians
of Kerala and even their version of the Bible, liturgy and theology
and burnt many of their texts.
This event, rather than weakening, strengthened the Saint Thomas
sect”s spirit to defend their culture and heritage and they fought
against the “Latinisation” process unleashed by Portuguese
missionaries, Aprem said