All Things Assyrian
Project to Trace and Preserve Syriac Christian Texts in Progress
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Thrissur, India -- A project to trace, catalogue and digitise lost documents relating to religious practices, culture and heritage of Syrian Christians of Kerala has been launched by the Church in collaboration with some European universities and local historical research bodies.

"The main objective of the project is to unearth valuable 16th and 17th century documents in Syriac, which had either been vandalised or stashed away by Portuguese Missionaries in their quest for bringing the ancient Christian community of India under Papal dominance," Metropolitan Mar Aprem, Metropolitan of the Church of the East, told PTI.

As the initial result of the programme, a facsimile edition of a manuscript has been brought here after its original text was lost seven centuries ago.

According to local church historians and secular scholars, a large volume of literature concerning the Syrian Christian culture and heritage were destroyed by Portuguese Missionaries by burning after the historic Synod of Diamper, held at Udayamperoor near Kochi in 1599, which offered a last chance to non-Catholic denominations to fall in line.

The text, known as Nomocannon of Abdisho of Nisibis (Canon Law), was compiled by the Metropolitan of Nisbis and Armenia in 1291 AD. The prelate died in 1318 AD, he said.

The revived text was edited by Istva Prczel of the Central European University, Budapest, formerly researcher at the Oriental Institute, Tubingen University, Germany.

The manuscript was submitted before the Thrissur district court and obtained the legal approval as the authentic law of the Saint Thomas Christians of Kerala, Aprem said.

Another oldest and most important manuscript "Kashkol" (breviary-prayer book) had also miraculously survived destruction by Portuguese inquisitors, he said.

The St Thomas Christians of Kerala, now divided into various denominations including the Catholic fold, trace their origin to the arrival of St Thomas the Apostle to Kodungallur in Kerala in AD 52 to preach the Gospel.

Over the centuries, the community had followed eastern rites and liturgy, which brought them in conflict with Portuguese missionaries who arrived in Kerala in 16th century and wanted the entire community to be brought under Catholic control.

The Synod of Diamper attacked the customs of Saint Thomas Christians of Kerala and even their version of the Bible, liturgy and theology and burnt many of their texts.

This event, rather than weakening, strengthened the Saint Thomas sect"s spirit to defend their culture and heritage and they fought against the "Latinisation" process unleashed by Portuguese missionaries, Aprem said.

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