Discrimination in the Constitution of the Syriac Church

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Editor – TMUNT – 6/12/2019

The Constitution of the Syriac Orthodox Church has a peculiar clause, which is ‘ Article 36.

Article 36

1- His Beatitude the Catholicos, the Metropolitan of the Knanaya Archdiocese, the Metropolitans of the churches of the Antiochian Apostolic See in India, and the Metropolitan of North America of the Malankara Archdiocese. All the above shall elect but may not be elected.

2- Their Eminence the Archdioceses Metropolitans, the Metropolitan Patriarchal Assistant, and the Metropolitans Patriarchal Vicars who are appointed to archdioceses.

Article 36, explicitly states that none of the Metropolitans in India and those governing Indian dioceses abroad are eligible to be elected as the Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church.

Given ¾ the population of Syriac Church are Indians, it is strange that no Indian is qualified to become the Patriarch.

The Maphrian (often referred to as Catholicos) from Indian or of Indian origin is not allowed to be elected to the Patriarchal throne. However, historically Maphrians of the Syriac-Arab origin were elected/consecrated as the Patriarchs of Antioch. In 1222, for the first time in the history of the Syriac Church, a Maphriyan (Ignatius Dawid) was elected as the Patriarch of Antioch. Later at several instances (around thirteen times), Maphriyans were elected to the Patriarchal throne. Whether the Maphriyans were elected from the East or from the West, they were all of the Syriac-Arab origins. The Maphrianite in India was newly established in 1964, (even though the Schismatics claim that it was re-established). According to the constitution of the Syriac Church, the Maphriyan or Catholicos of India (who is of Indian origin) is eligible to cast his vote in electing the Patriarch, but he may not be elected.

The Maphrian, the Metropolitan of the Knanaya Archdiocese and those Bishops who fall under the direct jurisdiction of the Patriarch are allowed to vote in the election. To make it more clear, the rest of the Bishops of Indian or non-Arabic/Syrian origins does not have voting rights, and hence the Synodal conciliarity practiced within the Syriac Church is under question. While Bishops of Syriac-Arab ethnicity are eligible to cast votes, the majority of the Syriac-Malankara Bishops are deprived of their rights.

There are around 28 Bishops of non-Arab/Syrian ethnicity, who are sidelined and deprived of their rights to vote to elect the Patriarch. Why are the majority of Indian origin bishops not allowed to elect a Patriarch and be elected as a Patriarch?

The Schismatic Church in India projects itself as part of ‘ Akamana Suriyani Sabha’ or roughly translated as ‘Universal Syriac Church’. Why would a church which projects itself as universal similar to the Roman Catholic Church forbid voting rights for Metropolitans and deny Indian bishops from being elected as Patriarch? Even the Roman Catholic Church has no such clause in their constitution.

The Assyrian Church of the East had practises like the Syriac Church until it was changed during the elections of the current Catholicos-Patriarch.

Within the Armenian Church, the Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia is eligible to be elected as the Catholicos-Patriarch of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. The current Catholicos-Patriarch Karekin II was formerly the Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia. Within the Armenian Church, the Catholicate of Cilicia is second to the Mother See and it recognizes the primacy of the Mother See as well.

However, such things are not possible in the Syriac Church. It is indeed sad that as per the current Syriac constitution, the Maphriyan could not be elected to the Patriarchal throne, even though such things were practiced in the past.

Soc-wus.org. (2019). Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch – Archdiocese of the Western U.S.. [online] Available at: http://www.soc-wus.org/ourchurch/constitutioneng.html [Accessed 2 Dec. 2019].

Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition. (2019). Maphrian Catholicos [Syr. Orth.]. [online] Available at: https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Maphrian [Accessed 2 Dec. 2019].

Mako, S. and Donabed, S. (2019). Ethno-cultural and Religious Identity of Syrian Orthodox Christians. 1st ed. [ebook] Rhode Island: Feinstein College of Arts and Sciences. Available at: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/0ca1/ded8702c1ec654b8c92fc89ed9d765157a54.pdf [Accessed 2 Dec. 2019].

Editor – TMUNT

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