United Kingdom Knanaya Catholic Association (UKKCA)

The United Kingdom Knanaya Catholic Association (UKKCA) stands as a distinguished national charity, duly registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales. It was established in 2001 with the gracious approval of the late Archbishop Mar Kuriakose Kunnaserry, as a lay association uniting the people who migrated from the Catholic Archdiocese of Kottayam in Kerala, India.

UKKCA is committed to the welfare of the immigrant Knanaya community in the United Kingdom. Currently, the association comprises 52 local family units, encompassing nearly 2500 families living across the UK, including Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Regular monthly gatherings at the unit level serve as a cornerstone for the members to come together in unity and support.

The primary focus of UKKCA is to foster the transmission of the Knanaya tradition and Catholic faith to the younger generation. The association works diligently to uphold its members’ faith, emphasizing the cultural and heritage aspects unique to the Knanaya community. Strengthening the bonds of Knanaya fellowship is a pivotal objective, achieved through various initiatives and the organization, including Annual National Conventions.

These conventions, attended by our Arch or auxiliary bishops of Kottayam Diocese, and local Syro-Malabar Bishops, and Chaplains when possible, serve as significant gatherings where the community reaffirms its Catholic faith and fortifies the sense of fellowship among the Knanaya diaspora in the UK. The regular unit-level gatherings and annual conventions provide a platform for social, cultural, and spiritual enrichment and guidance, ensuring a strong connection to the roots of the Knanaya tradition.

The UKKCA stands as a towering and majestic tree, symbolizing strength, unity, and resilience within the United Kingdom. Its expansive branches reach out to provide a comforting shade and a protective canopy for its members across the nation. Rooted in a commitment to fostering community well-being, the UKKCA has extended its embrace to include two vital branch organizations: the UKKCWF (United Kingdom Knanaya Catholic Women’s Forum) and the UKKCYL (United Kingdom Knanaya Catholic Youth League). These specialized branches are dedicated to championing the welfare and empowerment of women and youth, respectively, ensuring a holistic and inclusive approach for enriching their social, cultural, and spiritual wellbeing. Together, under the nurturing canopy of the UKKCA, these organizations thrive in their collective mission to cultivate a vibrant, supportive, and flourishing community for all its members.

UKKCA Charitable Aims and Objectives

Furthermore, UKKCA is dedicated to addressing the diverse needs of its members. This commitment is encapsulated in the charitable aims and objectives, which include:

1. Strengthening Catholic Faith: Facilitating opportunities for community members to deepen their Catholic faith and imparting the Knanaya tradition and heritage to the younger generation.

2. Enriching Knanaya Fellowship: Fostering a sense of community and camaraderie among the migrant Knanaya community in the UK.

3. Social and Financial Support: Extending a helping hand to members facing social and financial challenges, demonstrating a commitment to the well-being of the community.

4. Emotional Wellbeing: Providing support and guidance to enhance and sustain the social and emotional well-being of community members.

In essence, the UKKCA stands as a beacon of unity, faith, and support for the Knanaya Catholic community in the United Kingdom, embodying a commitment to preserving and sharing the rich cultural and religious heritage of its members.

Regular National Level Activities

(a) One day Convention is an opportunity for the UKKCA members to meet and renew their brotherly relationship and this year the same is being was organised at “Bethel Convention Centre”, Birmingham. The program is scheduled to start with the holy mass and will continue for the whole day with various programs including stage performance by the members. The public meeting will be attended by representatives from India and England. Like previous years all members are expected to be actively participating to the various programs and make the convention a big success. Guests will distribute prizes for the winners of the various competition being organised along with the convention.

This is also an opportunity for the members to show their talents by participating at the various community competitions, through which members from each units competed and the winners were rewarded through sponsored prizes.

Individual units also performs cultural stage shows as single family unit and could win prizes for themselves and for their respective units.

(b) Sports Competitions : To promote healthy living within the members and to prove their physical fitness, various completion items for all ages are being organised on 20 September 2014.

(c) Arts Festival : To promote our cultural heritage and to promote members talents, various cultural competition is being organised on 01st November 2014.

(d) Badminton Tournament : Popular games to promote healthy living and to keep the members active throughout their lives, being organised on 06th December 2014.

(e) Regular Printed Newsletters : To keep the members connected and to promote their writing and reading skills, quarterly printed newsletters are being circulated to all members.

(f) Youth Camp : Annual three days camps for the youth were supported and the youth were given the opportunity to organise their own program which was rated highly successful.

(g) Printed Directory : A colour printed directory with all contact details of members were prepared and circulated free of cost, which was considered highly useful to all members.

Unit level Programs

(a) Monthly Prayer Meetings : Promote regular interaction and to encourage members to remain in their faith.

(b) Annual leisure trips : To increase members relations each other.

(c) Additional workshops and seminars : On current educational and community development issues.

Kottayam Diocese

The Diocese of Kottayam was erected exclusively for the Southist (Knanaya) Catholics in 1911. The Knanaya Community traces its origin from a group of Jewish-Christian emigrants from Southern Mesopotamia to the South Indian port of Cranganore in A D 345, who formed themselves into an endogamous community. They co-existed peacefully in the Indian nation and fulfilled their missionary purpose of re-invigorating the Church of St Thomas Christians. The original community consisted of about 400 persons belonging to 72 families of seven septs headed by Thomas of Kynai. A bishop by name Uraha Mar Yousef, four priests and several deacons were among them.

As the Catholicos of the East had promised the emigrants that he would send from time to time bishops to India, Uraha Mar Yousef had successors till the end of the 16th century. Under the East Syrian Bishops, the Knanaya Community had their own churches and priests distinct from those of the non-Knanaya St Thomas Christians. This system continued also under the Latin Rite European bishops, who governed the St Thomas Christians.

When a ritual separation was effected for the Catholics in Kerala between the Orientals and Latins in 1887, all the Knanaya Catholics de facto were in the Apostolic Vicariate of Kottayam, and the Holy See ordered Bishop Charles Lavigne to appoint a separate Vicar General for the Knanaya Community. When the Vicariates Apostolic were re-organized into Trichur, Ernakulam and Changanassery and three indigenous bishops were appointed for the Syro-Malabarians in 1896 the bishop appointed for the Vicariate of Changanassery was Mar Mathew Makil, the former Vicar General for the Knanaya Community.

On August 29, 1911 the Vicariate Apostolic of Kottayam was re-constituted exclusively for the Knanaya Community by the Apostolic letter “In Universi Christiani” of His Holiness Pope St Pius X.

On December 21, 1923 the Vicariate Apostolic of Kottayam was raised to an Eparchy by Pope Pius XI. When the territorial limits of the Syro-Malabar Church was extended in 1955, the jurisdiction of the Eparchy of Kottayam also was made co-extensive with the then extended territory of the Syro-Malabar Church.

By the Apostolic Brief “In Universi Christiani” of August 29, 1911, Pope St Pius X erected the Vicariate Apostolic of Kottayam exclusively for the Southists Catholics. The Eparchy of Kottayam in the state of Kerala was instituted for the Southists Community among the St Thomas Christians of India. The Southists later known also as Knanaya are descendants of a group of Jewish Christians who immigrated into Kerala from the Middle East in AD.. 345. Those immigrants were led by an enterprising merchant called Thomas of Kynai. A Bishop named URAHA Mar Yausef, four priests and several deacons were with them to look after their spiritual needs. They settled in Kodungalloor (Cranganore) enjoying many esteemed privileges granted by Cheraman Perumal, the then ruling emperor of Kerala.

The gist of the Southists tradition is the following: The Church established by St Thomas the Apostle in India was at that time languishing without ecclesial ministers. The Catholicos of the East in Seleucia-Ctesiphon came to know about the sad plight of the Indian Church. Then, as directed by the Catholicos, Thomas Kinayi (knayi, knay, kinan) organized seventy-two Christian families to immigrate into India together with the above said bishop, priests and deacons.

On reaching the Malabar coast with the immigrants, Thomas visited the then ruling Perumal and obtained from him land at Cranganore and highly esteemed privileges. The influx of these immigrants with a bishop and clergy reinvigorated the Indian Church, enabling it to prosper as a privileged community in India. The immigrants following their Judeo-Christian traditions remained as an endogamous community. Hence, among the Christians of St Thomas there is now the ethnic community of the Southists distinct from the majority community of the Northists.

In the caste-ridden social system of India, those Jewish Christian immigrants from Southern Mesopotamia and their descendants comfortably remained an endogamous community. Residing on the southern portion of Cranganore they came to be known as the Southists in distinction from Northists, who were descendants of the native Indians converted by Apostle St Thomas and were living in the northern portion of the town. The Southists remained an autonomous unit also ecclesiastically with their own churches and priests distinct from those of the Northists. In the course of the time the Southists spread out to other parts of Kerala, especially to the capital towns of several kingdoms, such as Diamper, Thodupuzha (Chunkom), Kaduthuruthy, Kottayam and Kallissery.


Before the synod of Udayamperoor in 1599, the Knanites had five churches of their own: Udayamperoor, Kaduthuruthy, Kottayam, Chunkom and Kallissery. In some other churches they had one half the share along with other Syrians (Northists). So Knanites were called Ancharapallikkar (owners of five and half churches).

Under the Chaldean Bishops some records can be interpreted in the sense. that at one time in the sixteenth century the Southists and Northists had their own archdeacons who exercised ecclesiastical jurisdiction over their own respective communities. From the year 1600 onwards, the Latin Bishops of the Portuguese Padroado as well as of the Propaganda Fide, who governed the St Thomas Christians, respected and preserved this distinction between the Southists and the Northists also ecclesiastically, instituting separate parishes for these communities, and appointing only priests of the respective community as parish priests. After the Holy See effected a ritual separation between the Orientals and the Latins in Kerala and erected the Vicariate Apostolic of Kottayam and Trichur for the Orientals in 1887, Msgr Charles Lavigne, S.J., the Vicar Apostolic of Kottayam, appointed two pontifically privileged Vicars General, Msgr Mathew Makil for the Southists and Msgr Emmanuel Nidhiri for the Northists. In 1896, the Holy See re-distributed the St Thomas Christians into three Vicariates Apostolic-Trichur, Ernakulam, and Changanacherry. Then the first Vicar Apostolic appointed for Changanacherry was Mar Mathew Makil, a Southist. When Pope St Pius X erected the Vicariate Apostolic of Kottayam (1911), Mar Makil was transferred from Changanacherry to Kottayam.

When the Syro- Malabar hierarchy was constituted by the apostolic constitution Romani Pontifices of December 21, 1923, the Vicariate Apostolic of Kottayam was raised to an eparchy along with the eparchies of Trichur and Changanacherry and the arch-eparchy of Ernakulam. On April 29, 1955, Pope Pius XII extended the jurisdiction of the Syro- Malabar Church to a larger territory comprising the whole of Kerala State and beyond. Then the eparchy of Kottayam was given jurisdiction over all the Southists within the entire extended territory by decree number 1812/48 dated April 29, 1955, issued by the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. As His Eminence Accacio Cardinal Coussa interpreted, in matters such as determining the proper parish priest having jurisdiction to bless the marriages of the Southists or the Northists, the distinction between these two communities of the Northists and the Southists has the same canonical force as the distinction between two individual sui juris Churches. Thus all along the past 16 centuries, ecclesiastical authorities have recognized and confirmed the special individuality of the endogamous community of the Southists among the St Thomas Christians of India.

Bi-Ritual Eparchy: Knanaya Catholics of Syro Malankara Rite

The Syro-Malankara Southists in the eparchy of Kottayam deserve a special mention. Their history may be summed up as follows: After the unfortunate event of the Coonan Cross Oath of 1653, and the subsequent introduction of Jacobitism into Kerala, about a third of the St Thomas Christians became Jacobites, among whom were also the Southists in about the same proportion. In the following centuries, several attempts were made for re-union, but for one reason or another they were not successful until the first quarter of the 20th century. From 1921 onwards a few priests of the Southist Jacobites joined the Southist Catholic Eparchy of Kottayam. By a decree of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches on July 5, 1921, these reunited priests were allowed to officiate in their own West-Syrian (now Syro-Malankara) Rite. After the re-union of Mar Ivanios and Mar Theophilos in 1930 and the institution of the Syro- Malankara hierarchy on May 18, 1932, the Congregation for the Oriental Churches approved an agreement made between the then Bishop of Kottayam Mar Alexander Chulaparambil and Mar Ivanios agreeing to that those who had already reunited and would reunite later from the Southists Jacobites could continue as part of the Southists Eparchy of Kottayam, keeping of course, their own Malankara Rite (cf. Letter to the Delegate Apostolic on May 20, 1932, port.76l/31). This agreement has worked well until now with slight modification – in effect granting to the Southists at the time of reunion an option to join the eparchy of Kottayam or an eparchy under the Syro-Malankara hierarchy. Most of the reunited Southists now belong to the Eparchy of Kottayam, only a few having opted for membership in a parish belonging to the Eparchy of Tiruvalla or the Arch-eparchy of Trivandrum. According to the statistics gathered in 2000, the fifteen Syro-Malankara Rite parishes of the Eparchy of Kottayam have three thousand and three hundred members. Ministry for them is now coordinated under an Episcopal Vicar of the Malankara rite.

Some of the reunited Malankara Southists have been requesting the. Holy See for their own Bishop to provide ecclesiastical ministry in their own Rite. It is notable that the corresponding community of the Southist Jacobites have about 60 thousand members. An effort is being made if they or at East a part of them can be induced to make an ecumenical communion with the Catholic Church.

Knanaya Jacobite diocese of Chingavanam

The diocese was erected in 1910, with jurisdiction over all Knanaya Jacobites wherever they may be. The present Metropoletan is Koobberneethi Hakkeemo Abraham Mar Clemis, with the title Chief Metropolitan of the East (1951-). At present there are 1,00,000 faithful with 60 churches in India and 10 abroad (Indian Christian Directory, 2000, pp 1018-19).


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