‘Brahmavar’ is a name that should make every Orthodox Christian in India happy and proud; it is there the Orthodox Syrian Church of the East first opened a mission for the Latin Rite Roman Catholic converts to the Orthodox Church in India. It is very important to make an analysis on the present conditions of this Community.
The Beginning and Reunion to the Mother Orthodox Church from Roman Catholicism
In the year 1889 Fr Alvarez and Fr Nurono along with 5000 Roman Catholic Families reunited with the Orthodox Syrian Church of the East in India. In the same year itself Fr Alvarez was ordained Metropolitan of Goa and Ceylon with the name Mor Julios by Metropolitans Dionysius Pulikkottil and Mor Athanasius Paulos and St. Gregory of Parumala, the Metropolitan of Niranam. The ceremony was held at the Old Seminary, Kottayam, Kerala, India
It is very important to note that those days the Indian Orthodox Church had a large number of believers in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and in the Tiruchirappalli area of Tamil Nadu.
The rift between Orthodox Syrian Church of the East and the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate after the year 1912 affected the Brahmavar Christians deeply. In 1923 Metropolitan Julios Alvarez passed away. The Metropolitan had a very sad and terrible end to his life. The Roman authorities tortured and mistreated him, and when he died, he was buried in a municipal cemetery with no episcopal funeral. The Orthodox Church did have a presence of influence to give him a priestly funeral. His mortal remains were ignored by the Church because of the turbulence experienced by the Orthodox Church as a result of the litigations and rift between the two factions of the Church. For several years it remained in one of the Municipal Cemeteries of Goa till it was recovered by the late Catholicos of the East His Holiness Basilios Marthoma Mathews I. At present the mortal remains are well preserved in one of the Orthodox Churches in Goa.
The Brahmavar community considers Metropolitan Julios Alvarez to be a saint.
The Present Situation
The Brahmavar Christians had followed Latin Rite of worship till 1980. Later Hieromonk Dr. N.J. Thomas translated the Syrian Liturgy into Konkani language along with other prayers of the Church. Parenthetically, it is interesting to learn that FR. N. J. Thomas was ordained for the Latin Rite Orthodox Christians (former Roman Catholics) in Tiruchirappalli. Presently there are four parishes in Brahmavar. There are a number of priests from their own community. Presently there are nearly 700 Orthodox Christian families in Brahmavar.
They know that they are ‘Syrians’ They memorialize the Catholicos of the East in the First Diptych, apart from that they are unaware of the Orthodox Church in Malankara, though they are an integral part of the Church. In all aspects they stay away from the forefront of the Indian Orthodox Church. The Brahmavar Orthodox Christians also run a College and a School.
The Orthodox Church must give high priority and importance to the Brahmavar Mission. It is high time the Church think about the future of these Christian Community.
Threats from Malankara Catholic Rite: Malankara Catholic Rite (An Eastern Catholic Rite in India) has an eye on the on the Brahmavar Christians. They have plans to build a new diocese in the Shimoga area, focusing exclusively on the Brahmavar Orthodox Christians. The Malankara Catholic Rite will definitely aim at the Brahmavar Orthodox Christians
A good amount in the Church budget must be allotted to the total development of the Brahmavar Orthodox Christians. They must be given chance to involve more deeply in all areas of the Church of Malankara (the major geographical area of the Orthodox Church of the East). It would be better to raise their status to a diocese and a full time bishopric can be erected for their spiritual and administrative needs. Help must be given to their overall development. Spiritual organizations of the Church like Orthodox Christian Youth Movement, Mar Gregorios Orthodox Students Movement, Martha Mariyam Samagam (Women’s Fellowship of the Church) must extend their activities to the Brahmavar community. These organization must give importance to deliver Holy Mass in Konkani Language.
The Brahmavar Christians not like them being addressed as Brahmavar Mission. These Christian Community and their first leader Metropolitan Julios Alvarez had undergone large number of problems, physical and mental torture, but they held and still hold strongly on to the holy Orthodox faith. The existing people never wanted to return to the Roman Church, but wanted to remain within the Orthodox Church. It is to be always noted that the Brahmavar Church is not at all a result of any mission of the Malankara Orthodox Church. But they came into existence as a result of the search of a number of committed truth-seekers who found Orthodoxy as the continuation of the apostolic church.
Let the Good Lord give the courage and strength to the Brahmavar Community. May God bless the Leadership and members of the Indians Orthodox Church to bind them and to help them to follow the true Orthodox Faith of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
This article was originally written in the Malayalam Language by this writer (Vice-Chairman-OBL) after his visit to Brahmavar in the year 2007.
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