December 30, 2020
Questions and Answers on Knanaya Community
1. Who is Knanaya?
The Knanaites are descendants of the 72 Jewish Christians families that migrated from South Mesopotamia (present Iraq) to Kodungalloor in the present Kerala in AD 345 under the leadership of the famous merchant Thomas of Kinai and Bishop Urha Mar Joseph. This was primarily a missionary expedition at the initiative of the church in Seleucia -Ctesiphon to revitalize the declining church in the Malabar coast that was established in the first century by St. Thomas the Apostle. This community is now all over Kerala and spread throughout the world.
2. Can an outsider join the Knanaya community or its church?
The membership in the community is gained only by birth from both Knanaya parents. There is no other means to join the community and the church established for the community. Even if a non-Knanaya person marries a Knanaya spouse, he or she cannot become member of the Knanaya community. If the father or mother is a non-Knanaya, that person also cannot claim to be member of the Knanaya Community as per centuries old practice of the community.
The Knanaya community is strictly endogamous in the sense that the members marry only within the community. Those who marry outside the community by their choice voluntarily leave the community and their parish for the family unity of their non-knanaya spouse and children.
3. How old is the Knanaya community?
Since the formation of the community happened in 345 A.D., with the preparation and migration of around 400 people belonging to 72 families from seven clans of the Chaldean church in the Southern Mesopotamia, the community is now (2021) 1,676 years old. The uniqueness of this community is that it preserved its heritage, culture, and faith throughout these almost 17 centuries because of the endogamous nature of the community.
4. Is the Knanaya Community growing?
The community has been steadily growing from 72 families in 345 AD to 50,000 families and from 400 people in 345 AD to 225,000 people. Few had left the community because of their marriage outside the community. Besides the growth in the population, the community is also growing in education, employment, economic status, worldwide migration, and, ecclesiastical set up. Though the community is endogamous in nature, it provides social service, welfare, and charitable services to people of all faith who are in need. The community also provides missionary service all over the world through Syro-Malabar, Syro-Malankara, and Latin churches and religious congregations. Thus, the Knanaya missionaries contribute substantially for the grown of the universal church.
5. Are there different kinds of Knanaya?
The Knanaites have been one in Church setup from 345 AD until the Coonan Cross Oath taken on January 3, 1653 in Mattancherry. Since then, the community follows two faith traditions. The majority are in the Catholic faith and others are in the Jacobite (Orthodox) faith. The Knanaya Catholics are under the Archbishop of Kottayam and the Knanaya Jacobites have been under the umbrella of the Chingavanam Metropolitan. Since some Knanaya Jacobites reunited with the Catholic Diocese of Kottayam, the Holy See allowed them on July 5, 1921, to use the Antiochian Rite they have been practicing in the Jacobite church. So, they are using the Syro-Malankara Rite within the Archeparchy of Kottayam. Thus, there are Syro-Malabar Knanaya Catholics and Syro-Malankara Knanaya Catholics in the Archeparchy of Kottayam and the Knanaya Jacobites who practice the Antiochian Syrian Rite. Though they differ in liturgical rite and church structure, they are all considered as one Knanaya Community and work in collaboration with one another.
The Knanaya Global Foundation NFP, a non-profit organization registered in IL, USA that also undertakes many other projects on worldwide Knanaya Community hosts Knanayology.