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Between Europe and the Middle East: The Convergence of Christian Traditions in the Syro-Catholic Literature from Malabar at the Turn of the Seventeenth Century

Wednesday, March 22, 2023, 5:40 pm – 6:45 pm

Between Europe and the Middle East: The Convergence of Christian Traditions in the Syro-Catholic Literature from Malabar at the Turn of the Seventeenth Century 

Radu Mustață

My presentation will address the production of so far unexplored Catholic literature in Syriac that emerged among the Malabar Christians from South India in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as a result of the interaction between the East Syriac Christians from Malabar, their ‘Nestorian’ and Chaldean bishops coming from Iraq to Malabar,  and various Catholic missionaries working under Portuguese rule on the coastal regions of South India. This newly created Syro-Catholic literature is  a synthesis of both European and Middle Eastern literary, theological and liturgical elements that were put together and adapted for an Indian Christian audience. It bears witness to the interconnectedness between the Malabar Christians and the rest of the Christian world, at that time.

The focus of my talk will be a collection of sermons, which I have conventionally called “the Malabar Sermonary”. The core of the collection comprises Syriac compositions arguably written by Francisco Ros, a Syriacist Jesuit and the first European Archbishop of the Malabar Christians (1601-1624) after the Synod of Diamper (1599). The synod decreed the imposition of Tridentine Catholicism on the Malabar Christians, by cutting off their connection with East Syriac Churches from Iraq; it also decided to subject the Malabar Syriac Church to the authority of the Portuguese Royal Patronage. Besides European Catholic material, these sermons incorporate East Syriac elements, as they were meant to adapt Catholicism to a Christian community very fond of its connection with the Church of the East from Iraq.  

The manuscript tradition and reception history of the Malabar Sermonary bears witness to the metamorphosis of the community of the Malabar Christians at least up to the eighteenth century. Despite their initial allegiance to the Church of the East, the Malabar Christians were forced to accept Tridentine Catholicism at the turn of the seventeenth century; then, in 1653, they revolted against the Portuguese and their European Jesuit Archbishop. After the revolt, a part of the Indian Christians gradually turned towards the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch, which belongs to the West Syriac tradition. The Malabar Sermonary bears witness to this changes in the ecclesiastical life of the Malabar Christians: after being initially composed in order to adapt Catholic doctrine and exegesis to an Indian audience which belonged to the East Syriac tradition of theology and liturgy, the collection of sermons was reedited and adapted, after 1653, for a Syriac Orthodox audience. In my talk, I will discuss the literary networks of the collection with various Christian traditions, both Eastern and Western, and the influence of the sermonary on other Syro-Catholic texts produced in Malabar.

Radu Mustață studied Classics at the University of Bucharest and Medieval Studies at the Central European University, where he defended his doctoral dissertation entitled: “The Malabar Sermonary: The Syriac Legacy of Francisco Ros SJ: (1559-1624) in South India” in 2022. Between 2016 and 2017 he worked as associate researcher in the ERC Project: JEWSEAST (Ruhr University Bochum). He received various scholarships from: Accademia Vivarium Novum (Rome), the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library (Collegeville, MN), the Leibniz Institute for European History (Mainz), the Gotha Research Centre of the University of Erfurt, and the German Historical Institute (Rome). His most important publication is: “Sermon on Saint Thomas the Beloved Apostle: A Syriac Catholic Panegyric from Seventeenth Century Malabar” (Piscataway NJ: Gorgias Press, 2019).

You can attend the seminar either in person or via Zoom. 

Please note that external guests need to register for events. If you are an external guest, please send an email to by March 21 at the latest. We will request a visitor card for you, which you can pick up from the reception desk when you arrive for the event on Wednesday, March 22.

If you plan to attend online, the zoom link:…

Meeting ID: 973 6330 1326

Passcode: 360110

Time: Mar 22, 2023 05:30 PM Budapest