In a possible confrontation with the Catholic Church, the Knanaya Church has refused to put an end to the practice of endogamy, where members of the same ethnic background marry one another.
Those who don’t follow the custom are excommunicated.
Dismissing the demand of the Oriental Congregation in Rome to get rid of the practice, the Kottayam archdiocese has declined to allow those who were excommunicated back into the Church.
The archdiocese is planning to approach the Pope and also legally challenge the direction.
In a recent order sent to the bishop of the diocese of Chicago, Jacob Angadiath, the congregation had asked him to take back those who were excommunicated.
Calling the demand of the congregation as unacceptable, Stephen George, president of the Knanaya Catholic Congress said, "We will challenge the direction both legally and at the hierarchy of the Church.”
The congregation had issued the direction on the basis of a report by Canadian Bishop Michael Mulhal of Pembroke diocese, who was entrusted by Rome to study the issue and present a report in 2015.
The bishop filed the report after visiting the state of Chicago and had recommended that the practice be ended.
Demanding the implementation of the report, TO Joseph, President of Knanaya Catholic Naveekara Samithi said that endogamy should be put an end to and those who were expelled should be taken back.
There are a few lakhs belonging to the Knanaya Catholic community and at least one lakh were excommunicated after they married those belonging to other denominations.
This is not the first time that Indian Catholics living in the US have raised the demand for ending endogamy.
This practice is enforced among the Knanaya Catholics who have their archdiocese at Kottayam in India and a diocese at Chicago, in the US.
For years, some people in Kottayam archdiocese and elsewhere have conducted a systematic campaign both in India and the United States to end this practice, which they consider racist.
On July 3, 2013, an all American Knanaya Seminar was conducted at the Chicago Cathedral hall, following which several appeals were made and memoranda sent to leading bishops in the US and India and even to the Pope, to end the practice.
The Knanaya Christians claim to be the descendants of 72 Jewish families who settled in Kerala in the fourth century.
They get their name from a trader named Thomas Kana who led them.
They marry only among descendants of their families in order to preserve their Jewish blood and keep it pure.
Those who marry outside the community get excommunicated.