Project to trace and preserve Syrian X''ian texts in progress

Thrissur,Feb20 (PTI) A project to trace, catalogue anddigitize lost documents relating to the religious practices,culture and heritage of Syrian Christians of Kerala, has beenlaunched with the support of some European Universities andlocal historical research bodies.

The project''s main objective is to unearth valuable 16thand 17th century documents in Syriac vandalised or stashedaway by Portuguese Missionaries in their quest for bringingthe ancient Christian community of India under Papaldominance, Metropolitan Mar Aprem, Metropolitan of the Churchof the East, told PTI.

As the initial result of the programme, a facsimileedition of a manuscript has been brought here after itsorginal text disappeared seven centuries ago.

Local church historians and secular scholars togethermaintain that a large volume of literature concerning theSyrian Christian culture and heritage had been destroyed byPortuguese Missionaries by burning after the historic Synod ofDiamper, held at Udayamperoor near Kochi in 1599,which offereda last chance to non-Catholic denominations to fall in line.

The text, known as Nomocannon of Abdisho of Nisibis (CanonLaw),was compiled by the Metropolitan of Nisbis and Armenia in1291 AD in his own hand.The prelate died in 1318 AD,he said.

The revived text was edited by Dr Istva Prczel of theCentral European University, Budapest, formerly researcher atthe Oriental Institute, Tubingen University, Germany.

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

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

The St.Thomas Christians of Kerala, now divided intovarious denominations including the Catholic fold, trace theirorigin to the arrival of St Thomas the Apostle to Kodungallurin Kerala in AD 52 to preach the Gospel.

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

The Synod of Diamper called by them attacked the customsof Saint Thomas Christians of Kerala and even their version ofthe Bible, liturgy and theology and burnt many of their texts.

This event, rather than weakening, strengthened the SaintThomas sect''s spirit to defend their culture and heritage andthey fought against the "Latinisation" process unleashed byPortuguese missionaries,Aprem said. .

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