Sunday, 25 September 2016

The Struggle for Identity Among Syro-Malabar Catholics, by Jaisy Joseph



The Syro-Malabar Catholics claim origin with the Indian mission of the Apostle St. Thomas. They adopted the East Syrian liturgy of the Nestorian Christians, but came into communion with the Roman Catholic Church in the 17th century with their cousins, the Chaldeans of modern-day Iraq. This book looks into sociological questions of identity among the Syro-Malabar Catholics, particularly in the USA. They often experience tensions with the combined identity of being Catholic but Syro-Malabar and being American, yet Indian. Such questions of identity are similar to those experienced by other immigrant groups, though perhaps particularly acute for Syro-Malabar Catholics because of the complexities of their origin.

In the historical introduction, the author defends the claim that the St. Thomas Christians really did begin with the mission of St. Thomas. She points out evidence of trade links between the Roman Empire, ancient Persia and the Malabar coast of India, suggesting that it was both possible and plausible that the apostle travelled to India. She also goes on to look at how the Portuguese Catholics attempted to impose Latin traditions on the Syro-Malabar community, which makes for depressing reading.

This is an interesting look at an easily forgotten, but very venerable branch of our Catholic Church.

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