Orthodox Church of the East was an ancient Orthodox Church existed in the Eastern lands centered at Persia. Basically Oriental Orthodox in christology after the 5th Century following the Council of Chalcedon, this church competed with the Nestorian Church in Persia.

The church was headed by Catholicos of the East .The Catholicos was also known as the Mapriyano to distinguish it from the Nestorian Catholicos who later adopted the title of the Patriarch of Baghdad. The Orthodox Catholicos exercised jurisdiction over all Orthodox Christians in the East outside the Roman Empire.

The book Paesi Nouamente Retrouati et Nouo Mondo da Alberico Vesputio Florentino intitulato (Newly Discovered Lands and New World) in Vicenza in 1507[1] recounts that the Indian and Chinese Christians were subject to a great bishop, called "Catholica", who lived in what the original Italian text[2] calls "Armenia" and who appointed two "patriarchs", one for India and one for China. Later versions have, in place of "Armenia", "Great Armenia"[3] or "Armania".[4] It has been surmised that this was a mistake for "Aramea", i.e. the region where Aramaic was or had been spoken.[5] The book states that "Marco Polo ... wrote that there are two groups of Christians one called Jacobites and the other Nestorini and that they have a Pope called Jacolita about whom the above said Joseph relates."[6] It is perhaps unclear whether the Catholica Jacolita, who ordained the Indian priest Joseph, was a Jacobite (i.e. belonging to Oriental Orthodoxy) or was a Nestorian (i.e. belonging to the Church of the East). In favour of the latter it could be argued that Jacolita is named immediately after the mention of the "Nestorini" and that there certainly were many Nestorian Christians in China (see The spread of Assyrian "Nestorianism"). It is clear from the book that the person in charge of the St.Peter's Throne in Antioch is connected with the Catholica, who appointed Joseph the India. This clearly refers to Jacobite Patrarich of Antioch and Catholica connected with him. Catholica is believed to be seated in the throne of St.Thomas not St.Peter.

Other sources say unequivocally that it was from the Assyrian Church of the East (which others denominated as "Nestorian") that the Saint Thomas Christians of southern India received their bishops.[7][8][9][10][11][12] They used the liturgy of that Church, the Holy Qurbana of Addai and Mari.[11] Only in 1665, with the arrival in Kerala of Mar Gregorius Abdul Jaleel of Jerusalem, who was brought in a Dutch ship, did some of them became connected with the West Syrian Church, which is instead of Oriental Orthodox tradition.[11][7][8][12][10]

With the advent of Islamic rule in Persia, the Church deteriorated in the Persian region. However, in countries to the further East like India the Church grew. The Indian Christians being part of the Orthodox Church of the East was accepting the Papal jurusdiction of Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and the Spiritual leadership of the Catholicos/Mapiyana of the East in those days also[clarification needed].[13] The seat of Catholicos was moved to India in the early 20th century with the support of this Patriarch of Antioch.

From the late 19th century, the jurisdiction of the Church of the East was reallocated. All those areas that once formed Persia, now came under the direct rule of Patriarch of Antioch and the jurisdiction of Catholicos of the East was limited to Indian Orthodox Christians alone. As such, at present there is no Orthodox Church of the East like that of the past.

There are about 2.5 million Orthodox Christians in India at present.


  1. It was reedited at least six times in the next 14 years and a facsimile of a 1508 printing was published in 1916 in Vespucci Reprints, Texts and Studies VI (Antony Vallavanthara, A. M. Mundadan: India in 1500 AD: The Narratives of Joseph the Indian, Gorgias Press LLC, 2001 ISBN 0971309701, 9780971309708, p. 333).
  2. Reprinted on page 168 of India in 1500 AD
  3. India in 1500 AD, p. 169
  4. India in 1500 AD, p. 168
  5. India in 1500 AD, p. 274
  6. India in 1500 AD, p. 168-170
  7. 7.0 7.1 Christians of Saint Thomas
  8. 8.0 8.1 The Encyclopedia of Christianity: Volume 5: Si-Z, by FAHLBUSCH, Erwin Fahlbusch, Geoffrey William Bromiley (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2008 ISBN 9780802824172)
  9. Mar Thoma: The Apostolic Foundation of the Assyrian Church and the Christians of St. Thomas in India
  10. 10.0 10.1 The Syro-Malankara Catholic Church
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Church of the East in India
  12. 12.0 12.1 Indian Christianity
  13. "Paesi Nouamente Retrouati et Nouo Mondo da Alberico Vespulio Florentino Intitulato" Publised in Italian in 1507 AD.

See also

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