• Catholic Church is instituted by Jesus Christ, the Son of God who has taken the form of
    man. Christ is the head of the church and church is the body of Christ (Col. 1:18; Eph
    5:23).Church the body of Christ has grown up through the communion of various churches
    founded on the teachings of the apostles. St. Paul speaks of these churches as the church in
    Rome, church in Corinth, church in Antioch etc. During this time itself in India, by the missionary
    activities of St. Thomas, the church of Mar Thoma Christians was formed. The church instituted
    by Christ is the only, holy, apostolic and Catholic Church. Other churches are formed as
    independent churches separated from the Catholic Church through false doctrines and the
    consequent divisions. The Holy Catholic Church has four main characteristics- the Church is (1)
    the only One, (2) Holy (3) Apostolic (4) Catholic.

    Church is the Only One (Unique)


    “One Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph 4:5). God is the only one. Church instituted by
    Christ, the only Son of God, is the only one Church. It is the mystical body of Christ. Those who
    are not united with this mystical body act against the unity and oneness of the Church. Catholic
    Church is the one church instituted by Christ Himself, Jesus being the corner stone and the
    apostles its foundation. Later churches assumed their existence by separating themselves from
    the Catholic Church. The popes, successors of St. Peter, the head of the apostles, are the
    powerful signs and witnesses of the oneness of the Church.


    Church is Holy

    The source of the holiness of the church is God Himself. We say the Church is holy
    because of the holiness of the members of the church. Jesus sanctified the church, glorified it
    and consecrated her to Himself holy and without blemish (Eph 5:26-27). All the members of the
    Church are called to holiness. This holiness is centered on Jesus. It is by this holiness, the
    Church remains as the light of the world and salt of the Earth (Mt. 5:13-14).


    Church is Apostolic


    “Built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the
    cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the
    Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God” (Eph 2:20-
    22).(Rev 21:14) Since church is built on the foundation of the apostles, it is apostolic. It is the
    Catholic Church that maintains the Paternal (patrimony) gift of the word of God transmitted
    through the apostles, with fidelity and authenticity. Catholic Church alone can claim this
    unbroken chain of apostolic tradition.


    Church is Catholic (Universal)

    The Son of God became man to save the whole humanity. The term ‘Catholic’ means
    ‘for all’. The Greek term “katholicon” means ‘universal’. It is a universality of oneness in faith
    going beyond the borders of caste, color, creed etc. Since church is sent by Christ with a mission
    for the whole humanity, Church is Catholic or Universal.


    Catholic Church is a Communion of Churches

    Catholic Church is a communion of various churches. The members of the Church have
    the same faith, same sacraments and same hierarchy. But there are variations in liturgy,
    spirituality, discipline and theology. Various churches in Catholic Church are called individual
    Churches. Thus Catholic Church has 24 different individual Churches.


    Other Christian Churches


    In the ups and downs or vicissitudes of history there arose various church communities
    in the world. They are isolated themselves from the Catholic Church due to various reasons and
    still continues in Christian faith. They are called by the term “the other Christian churches”. It is
    not practical to include all those churches here. Yet a few impportant ones are given below:

    Oriental Orthodox Churches

    Some of the societies did not accept Christological decisions of Chalcedonian Council
    of 451 A D Oriental Orthodox Churches are a term given to all the church communities who
    questioned Chalcedonian Council and are secluded themselves from the communion of the
    churches. It was a religious sanyasi (hermit) of 6th century named Jacob Burdaya organized and
    led these churches. They are called Jacobites in the sense that they accepted the leadership of
    Jacob Burdaya. There are mainly four church communities in this group. They are Antiochean,
    Alexandrian, Assyrian and Armenian.


    Greek Orthodox Church


    From Chalcedonian Council to 11th century, it was a time for the growth of the church.
    Individual churches had full freedom in the field of administration. This freedom was clear in
    liturgy, discipline, and system of administration and election of hierarchy. There was a difference
    of opinion between the Eastern and western Churches regarding certain doctrinal subjects.
    Slowly in course of time, these differences of opinion strengthened and lead to divisions in the
    church. The differences of opinion intensified at the time of Pope Nicholas I and the patriarch
    Photius, the leader of the Greek Church. The division was complete at the time of the patriarch
    Cerularius, the successor of Photius. In 1054, the representatives of Pope Leo IX
    dethroned/expelled patriarch Cerularius. Greek churches did not accept this. They
    disconnected themselves from the Pope and formed an independent church, with the name
    ‘Greek Orthodox Church’.

    Protestant Churches

    Protestant churches were formed by the division in the Catholic Church in Europe under
    the leadership of Martin Luther (1483-1546), John Calvin (1509-1564) and Ulrich Zwingli (1484-
    1531) in the 16th century. Religious, social, cultural and political factors are reasons for this split.
    Later new churches arose depending on individual interests and of certain sections of the
    society. Thus several protestant church communities were formed.
    Important Church communities in the protestant Church are, 1. Lutheran Church, 2.
    Presbyterian Church, 3. Brethren Church, 4. Baptist Church, 5. Methodist Church and 6.
    Salvation Army. Though these churches have differences in ideologies, all of them accept two
    ideas i.e., justification by faith and Bible alone is the source of divine revelation. Under the
    leadership of king Hendry VIII, Anglican Church was formed in England.


    Other Christian Churches in Kerala


    Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church


    There was a split in Kerala among the Marthoma Nazarenes on 3rd January 1653 by
    ‘Koonan kurisu Sathyam’.Those who kept a distance from the Catholic Church established a
    relationship with Antiochian Jacobite church through bishop Mar Gregorios who came to Kerala
    in 1665. He belonged to the Antiochian Jacobite church. Step by step this relationship grew.
    They accepted Antiochian liturgy and established hierarchical relationship with the Patriarch of
    Antioch. This is known as Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church or Jacobite Church.

    Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church

    There was a council at Mulanthuruthy in 1876 under the leadership of Peter III, the
    Antiochian Jacobite Patriarch and the community of those who came under Antiochian church
    completely. Those who objected to this established a catholicate at Vattacherry in 1912 under
    the leadership of Bishop Mar Divanyasius. With this again the Jacobite church divided itself into
    two. Those who sided the Antiochian Patriarch came to be known as ‘Bava Kakshi’ and those
    who stood with Mar Divanyasius came to be known as ‘Methran Kakshi’. The first division is
    known as Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church (Jacobite Church) and the second section is
    known as Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. There is no difference between them in faith,
    celebrations and liturgy.


    Assyrian Church of the East


    In 1874, a group of Marthomite Christians separated themselves from the Catholic
    Church, accepted Persian Bishop Melus Elias as their head, Nestorian doctrine and became a
    small church community. It is the Assyrian Church of the East in Kerala.


    Marthoma Syrian Church

    In the beginning of 19th century Anglican missionaries came pto Kerala and started
    working among the Syrians. This led to the spread of protestant ideas in Jacobite church. The
    then British resident Colonel Monroe encouraged and helped this. This led to a split in the
    Jacobite church into those who supported and those who objected to the protestant ideas.
    Under the leadership of the Jacobite Bishop Mar Divanyasuis Cheppatt, there was a
    council at Mavelikara in 1836. This council decided that the relationship of the Jacobite church
    with the Anglican Church is harmful and put an end to their relationship with the Anglican Church.
    One section of the Jacobite church attracted by the Anglican ideas formed a new church
    with the title ‘Marthoma Syrian church’ under the leadership of Palakunnath Abraham malpan
    integrating the ideas of protestant and Jacobite churches. It is known as Marthoma Church.


    CSI Church (Church of South India)


    CSI Church was formed in Madras in 1947 combining Anglican Church, British
    Methodist, South India Methodist churches and Boston Mission. This church has four dioceses
    in Kerala. They are 1) South Kerala Maha Edavaka 2) Central Kerala Maha Edavaka 3) North
    Kerala Maha Edavaka 4) Eastern Kerala Maha Edavaka.


    Ecumenism is the process of developing unity or communion between the Catholic
    Church and other churches, who have been separated themselves from the Catholic Church
    due to several reasons at different times, through official discussions for unity with
    understanding and thus forming a communion. To be united with divided church communities is
    the desire of Jesus and the need of the day. Difference in ideas and social and emotional
    reasons are blocks to total unity. Still ecumenism is a stage/ area where we can work in unity in
    the fields where it is possible to have common opinion and unity.


    Why Should We Be Catholics?


    It was martyr St. Ignatius of Antioch in the first century who called the Church, instituted
    by Jesus, by the name Catholic Church. Then there was only one Church. The only , holy,
    apostolic and universal Catholic Church which includes all who believe in Jesus. She alone
    keeps up the Gospel truths entrusted to her by Jesus in its apostolic tradition uninterruptedly.
    Jesus instituted His church on the foundation of Peter, the rock (Mt. 16:18). Catholic Church
    alone is the one led by bishops, the successors of apostles with pope as their head. The priestly
    mission of Jesus also is continued uninterruptedly by the Catholic Church. Sacraments,
    channels of divine life, too are administered without changes in Catholic Church. Hence fullness
    of salvation which Jesus promised is realized in Catholic Church.Church is the mystical body
    of Jesus and Jesus is her head. By this very fact, only the
    members of the mystical body have relation with the head. Therefore to have full expeprience of
    salvation obtained through JESUS, one need to be a member of this Catholic Church.

    II. Let us Discuss


    1. I am proud that I am a Catholic. Why?
    2. Communion of churches is the need of the day.


    III. Activity

    I will try to bring back to Catholic Church those who have isolated themselves from her due
    to various reasons.


    IV. Let us Enlighten our Hearts

    “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower” (Jn 15:1).


    Find out Answers

    Let us Enlighten our Hearts