A brief history

Syriac Orthodox Church

An Overview

The Syriac Orthodox Church is an autocephalous Oriental Orthodox church based in the Middle East with members spread throughout the world. It is one of the five churches that comprised what is now the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church before the Great Schism. It is a major inheritor of Syriac Christianity and has Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic, as its official language. The church is led by the Syrian Patriarch of Antioch. The church is often referred to as Jacobite or Monophysite, but these terms are misleading, and not appreciated by the some of the church today. In 2000, a Holy Synod ruled that the name of the church in English should be the Syriac Orthodox Church. Before this, it was, and often still is, known as the Syrian Orthodox Church. The name was changed to disassociate the church from the polity Syria. The official name of the church in Syriac is `Idto Suryoyto Trisuth Shuvho, this name has not changed, nor has the name changed in any other language.

The Syriac Orthodox Church is held to be the first church of Christianity established by the Apostle St. Peter.

The foundation of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch goes back to early Apostolic days. This event in the history of Christianity is recorded in the Book of Acts 11:26 . Apostle Peter Himself established his See 37 AD. He is, therefore, rightly considered the founder and first Patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch.

The history and name of our Church is also intimately associated with the Arameans or Syrians, the inhabitants of the land of Aram or Syria where Antioch is located. The dialect of the Arameans (Aramaic) became the common language of that area. Still later, just before and after the opening of the Christian era, Aramaic underwent a particularly rich evolution. This evolved new form of Aramaic known as “Syriac”, the language of the amalgamated or unified Syrian People.

The current head of the Syriac Orthodox Church is the Patriarch H.H. Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, who resides in Damascus, the capital of Syria. The Church has about 26 archdioceses and 11 Patriarchal Vicariates.

The church in Malankara, Malankara Jacobite Syriac Orthodox Church is an integral part of the Syriac Orthodox Church with the Patriarch of Antioch as its supreme head. The local head of the church in Malankara is the Catholicose of India, currently His Beatitude Baselios Thomas I, ordained by and accountable to the Patriarch of Antioch.

The Syrian orthodox divine liturgy is performed in Syriac.

Both it and the Chalcedonian Antiochian Orthodox Church claim to be the sole legitimate church of Antioch and successor of the Apostle St. Peter. There are also three uniate churces headed by Patriarchs of Antiocha: The Syrian Catholic Church, the Maronites and the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. There is also an unrelated (so- called Nestorian) Assyrian Church of the East.


In the early centuries the Christians in the Persian and the Roman Empires were subject to religious persecutions, so the Church spread its wings without the help of any of the imperial authorities. After the Roman Emperor adorned Christianity in 315, the church in Rome was spared from atrocities, but from then onwards the Persian Kings became much more hostile towards those Christians in Persia as they were considered as agents of the former. It was during this period the office of the Great Metropolitan, which later came to be known as the Catholicate of East, was established in Persia. As the enmity between the empires increased; the leaders of the Church in Persia found it nearly impossible to continue ecclesiastical commune with the universal church. Meanwhile some in the Catholicate of Persia found it more convenient to adopt the Nestorian Christology which was earlier officially dejected by the universal Christian councils for its remarks on the Mother of God; thus they tried to convince the Persian rulers that they distance themselves from the mother Church and the Roman (Byzantine) Empire. By this act, the Christians in Persia who accepted Nestorian Christology could easily win the favour of the Persian rulers while those of non-Nestorian faith suffered severe persecution. As the office of the Catholicate fell into heresy, the Orthodox faithful were wandering in wilderness. The Catholicose of Seleucia meanwhile took over the title ‘Patriarch’, thus trying to be equal in status with the Patriarch of Antioch.

Even though the Church in Persia had officially accepted Nestorius as a Church father, a substantial group of Christians in Mosul, Niniveh and Tigris (Tagrit) continued to keep their loyalty to the old faith. A few decades later the Orthodox wing of the Church in Persia that continued to be under the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch & all the East, got reorganized under St. Ya`qub Burdono and installed St. Ahudemmeh as ‘The Great Metropolitan of the East’, but he too experienced it difficult to discharge his ecclesiastical duties smoothly. However by the 7th century the situation changed for better which finally led to the formation of an office of the ‘Maphrianate of the East’ at Tigrit (Tagrit).

In AD 629, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East elevated St. Marutha (Marooso) as the first MAPHRIYONO OF THE EAST for the rejuvenated Syrian Orthodox (Jacobite) Church in Persia. Later the centre of the Maphrianate was shifted to St.Mathew’s Dayro in the city of Mosul in Iraq and continued there till the middle of 19th century. In 1860 the office of Maphrianate was abolished as per the decision of the Syrian Orthodox Church Synod held at Deyrul’alZafran Monastery (Kurkumo Dayro) under Patriarch Ignatius Ya`qub II. The same was re-established in India in 1964 by the Universal Synod held at Kottayam, presided by Patriarch Mor Ignatius Ya`qub III. From the days of the establishment of this Maphrianate in India, the Church started to officially use the title ‘Catholicos of the East’, with his jurisdiction limited to India in the East. In 2002 the office of the Maphrianate was renamed as ‘Catholicose of India’ in accordance with its actual jurisdiction. Present headquarters of this ancient Maphrianate/Catholicate of the Syrian Orthodox Church is at Puthencuriz, Cochin, with Catholicose Mor Baselios Thomas I as the Chief of the Church in India.

In Episcopal dignity the Catholicos rank second to the Patriarch and, as His Holiness’s deputy, presides over the provincial Holy Synod. He and all the clergy of the faithful in India pledge loyalty to the Patriarch of Antioch of the Syriac Orthodox Church, the supreme authority of the Syriac Orthodox Church throughout the world. There are many instances when a Maphrian (Catholicos) was elevated to the position of the patriarch in the Syrian Orthodox Church.

A brief history

A Timeline Overview

Formative Years

The history of the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom can be traced back to the 1970’s when our faithful started to migrate from Kerala for furthering job opportunities and better life. In 1972, a congregation was formed from members of different churches in Kerala, under the name, Kerala Christian Fellowship (KCF) in London under the leadership of Rev. Fr. Abraham Aluckal (now HE Dr. Mor Severios Abraham Metropolitan.
It was a milestone of the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church in the UK when the late lamented Catholicos of the East, His Beatitude Aboon Mor Baselios Paulose II arrived in the UK and celebrated the holy mass at St. Pancras Church in London on 30th September 1979. At this UK visit H.B. the Catholicos visited the major churches and had cordial discussions with prelates of sister churches. Since then, there were periodic visits by the late Metropolitans, H.E. Mor Osthatheos Thomas, H.E. Mor Ivanios Philipose, H.E. Mor Coorilos Kuriakose and H.E. Dr Mor Severios Abraham and H.E. Mor Themotheos Thomas who celebrated the Holy Qurbana during their respective visits to the U.K.

In 1989, the first parish of the Jacobite Syriac Orthodox Church was established in London by Rev Fr Jose Pallathatta (HE Mor Gregorios Joseph Metropolitan) with the help and support of Mr Chandi Thomas, Mr K A Alias, Mr M V Thankachan, Mr A M Chacko, Mr V Ipe, Dr P P George,Mr Joy Tharakan and Dr Valsa. The holy services were regularly conducted once in every month, and also on feast days. Since then, this Congregation was led by the following Vicars Fr George Vadathu (1992-1994), Fr Eldhose Koungampillil (1994-2003) and Fr Job Thottathil (2003).

Establishments: Dioceses of Europe

In 2003, Malankara Jacobite Syriac Orthodox Church in Europe had only 4 Congregations at Vienna, London, Switzerland and Newcastle. Due to the increased number of parishes, HH Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka Iwas appointed HE Mor Gregorios Joseph as the first Metropolitan-in-charge of the above congregations in 2002 and HE laid the foundation for the growth of the churches in Europe.

In 2004, HE Dr Mor Theophilose Kuriakose was appointed as successor in Europe. Under the leadership of His Eminence, new congregations were started at Liverpool, Bristol, Birmingham, Leicester, Peterborough, Portsmouth, Northampton, Manchester and Belfast. In 2006 His Holiness Moran Patriarch appointed the first European Council consists of 36 members include priests and representatives from the parishes in Europe. Under the leadership of His Eminence, four European Family Conferences were held at Vienna (2005), London (2006), Switzerland (2007) and Ireland (2008). As more faithful migrated to Europe, more parishes were established during this period.

Establishment: Dioceses of UK

As per the recommendation of the local Episcopal Synod in India, His Holiness Moran Patriarch divided the Europe into 3 Patriarchal Vicariates in 2008 and appointed HE Dr Mor Coorilos Geevarghese as the first Patriarchal Vicar of the UK, HE Mor Diascoros Kuriakose as the Patriarchal Vicar of Ireland, and HE Dr Mor Theophilose Kuriakose as the Patriarchal Vicar of the Central Europe.
In January2009, HE Dr Mor Coorilos Geevarghese convened a joint meeting of the vicars, office bearers and parish representatives. At this meeting, an administrative body of the Patriarchal Vicariate called “MSOC Council – UK” was elected. The meeting charted the future course of action for the growth and development of the MSOC – UK. Henceforth started more congregations in Aberdeen, Oxford, Leeds, Cambridge, Basingstoke and Londonderry. In 2009, MSOC – UK conducted the first UK family conference at London which was blessed by the presence of His Beatitude Mor Baselious Thomas I. In 2010, the second Family Conference was held at Belfast. The leadership of the Patriarchal Vicar and the hard work of the MSOC Council helped to transform the MSOC – UK into one of the leading Patriarchal Vicariates under the Holy Throne of Antioch.

In 2011, HE Mor Aphrem Mathews was appointed as the Patriarchal Vicar of the UK.  During His Eminence’s tenure, Family Conferences were conducted at Bristol, Manchester and Oxford, and established the Jacobite Syriac Orthodox Student Movement (JSOSM) in UK.  The following parishes were also started at North London, Basildon, Poole and Preston.

In 2014, the new Patriarchal Vicar HE Mor Philexinos Zacharias was appointed. On 26th November 2016, His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II,the Prince Patriarch of Antioch made the Apostolic visit to the UK and blessed the faithful. It was a remarkable blessing for the MSOC – UK.During HE Mor Philexinos Zacharias’s tenure, two Family Conferences were conducted at Liverpool and Aberdeen and new parishes were started at Hampshire and Redditch.

In 2017, HE Dr Mor Anthimos Matthews was appointed as the Patriarchal Vicar. Family conference was conducted at Worthing and new parishes were started at Exeter, Stoke-on-Trent, South London and Ashford. MJSSA – UK, Vanitha Samajam and Youth Association were restructured in MSOC -UK.