There are two Indian Orthodox parties. One that is loyal to the Syrian Patriarch whom we commemorate in Liturgy and the other to a Catholics. Both sides claim legitimacy; and condemn one another as heretics. With regard to the Independent Malankara Church, I learned the following:
I haven't found much of the Syrian defense against the claims of the Independent Indian Church. They claim however that the Catholics that was ordained by a bishop that was excommunicated in the Syrian Church, which is why they see the Independent Church as illegitimate. Also, the Syrian Church does talk about the rudeness of the Indian Independent Church, such as Indian priests and bishops forcing themselves in a Jacobite Church even though they know they are not in communion.
- Its first patriarch is St. Thomas, thus having legitimate apostolic succession.
- I was told there was an Oriental Orthodox Council of which our blessed (who we all consider saint even if he's not canonized as one yet) Pope Kyrillos VI in Addis Ababa in 1965, of which all the patriarchs of the Oriental Orthodox, including the Syrian, recognized the independence of the Malankara Patriarch Augen, the successor of St. Thomas.
- That same Syrian Patriarch (Mar Yakub) wrote a letter to the Catholicos Augen and told him that their patriarchal system is not a true successorship and that St. Thomas wasn't even a priest!!!
- That Catholicos Augen sent a letter back to the Syrian Patriarch further explaining his position on why St. Thomas wasn't a priest. Instead the Syrian Patriarch ordained a counter Catholics and some bishops of which are loyal to the Syrian Patriarch. According to the Independent Malankara Church, this is against Oriental Orthodox canon in that a sister church must not interfere in the affairs of another church.
- The Independent Malankara Church is now accusing the Syrian Orthodox Church of believing in Petrine Primacy like the Roman Catholic Church does, and is also accusing this sister church of ordaining bishops and priests of rich men and sometimes "illegitimate" men, that is those who haven't even completed their elementary school education. The Syrian Church is also accused of using the Protestant Mar Thoma bishops and Melkite bishops in the Eucharist services.
There're also other incidences of violence in Kerala, India between the two Oriental Orthodox churches. In reading many email forum messages, all I see is nothing but insults between the two types of Orthodox Christians.
They are both Oriental Orthodox, and they are both in communion with us the Coptic Church, but they are both not in communion with each other, and everyday, the situation gets worse. We even have Oriental Orthodox liturgies that invite the Syrian Church and their "obedient" Malankara bishops, but not the independent. The Independent Church sees this as an insult to them, as if they are rejected from the Oriental Orthodox COMPLETELY. The situation is so sad, that it is ripping families apart, and making people of the Orthodox faith leave the Church or at least become negligent of the Church teachings, as I have witnessed myself.
Is there anything done by the other Oriental sister churches, INCLUDING us the Coptic Church to study and solve the situation? What is the Coptic view of this situation?
Are any of these accusations valid? Is it true that the Syrian Patriarch is teaching Petrine primacy and that St. Thomas wasn't a priest? Is it true that the Independant Malankara Church is "rude" and illegitimate in its priesthood?
It is sad to see how Satan manages to create divisions within the Church and new Churches are surfacing in the world today. Efforts are continuously made to unify all the Churches specially those of the Orthodox families. Unfortunately, the progress is always very slow and at many instances, politics hinder the advancement towards the one goal of a unified Church.
St. Thomas as a founder of the Church in India is not only considered a priest but the first bishop or patriarch of the Church of India.
I am not aware that the Syrian Patriarch is teaching Petrine primacy. Sometimes the Internet forums are a field for some fanatics who just spread rumors and accusations with no basic truth. I hope that the real picture is not so grim.
Although the Ethiopian and the Coptic Churches have a little disagreement; concerning the ordination of the Eritrean Patriarch, our relationship is a decent one with respect and no insults.
Let us raise our hearts and pray for the peace of the Church not only in the liturgies but every day that Satan fails to cause more divisions and that unity of the whole Church be soon.