UCA News
Contribute

Ancient texts get digital touch

Rare ancient documents given new life in collaborative project
Ancient texts get digital touch
Syriac documents
Published: February 22, 2011 12:36 AM GMT
Updated: February 22, 2011 12:36 AM GMT

An attempt to trace and preserve documents pertaining to St. Thomas Christians in Kerala received a boost when some ancient texts were digitized. “This historic achievement would help establish the Syrian Christians link with Saint Thomas the Apostle,” said Metropolitan Mar Aprem Mooken of Church of East, a day after 180 rare documents were digitized. The metropolitan heads the St. Ephrem Ecumenical Research Institute in Kerala which has undertaken the project in collaboration with the state’s communist government and the Central European University in Budapest. The project aims to catalogue and digitize the documents related to Christians who trace their faith to the apostle, Bishop Mooken said. It wants to find out the roots of religious practices among these Christians who are now scattered in many denominations, including the Catholic Church, the Chaldean bishop said. These Christians believe the saint came to Kerala in 52 AD and preached the gospel before his death in neighboring Tamil Nadu state 20 years later. The digitized documents were in Bishop Mooken’s possession. One of them was a facsimile edition of the canon law practiced by St. Thomas Christians. Its original had disappeared seven centuries ago, Bishop Mooken said. Metropolitan Abdisho Bar Brikha of Nisibis and Armenia, a province of the Church of the East, compiled the canon in his own hand in 1291. Istva Prczel of the Budapest university edited the revived text. Bishop Mooken, 70, said the research center has received another 200 documents from various sources that it plans to digitize soon. He said Syrian Christians lost vital clues about their culture and heritage when the Portuguese missioners burnt large volumes of their literature in 1599. St. Thomas Christians had for centuries followed the Eastern rites and liturgy which brought them in conflict with the Portuguese missioners. The Portuguese wanted to ensure the dominance of Latin liturgy over St. Thomas Christians, he explained. Another retrieved document is Kashkol, a breviary-prayer book, that “miraculously survived destruction by the Portuguese inquisitors,” the prelate said. P.J. Cherian, who heads the Kerala Council of Historical Research, said the facsimile edition of religious texts of St. Thomas Christians is a “turning point” in history. Recent excavations in Kerala have found evidence of a port city that existed more than 2,000 years at a place where Saint Thomas is believed to have landed. Preserving the lost documents would shed new light on the cultural heritage of people of Kerala. IB13373.1642

Help UCA News to be independent
Dear reader,
Trafficking is one of the largest criminal industries in the world, only outdone by drugs and arms trafficking, and is the fastest-growing crime today.
Victims come from every continent and are trafficked within and to every continent. Asia is notorious as a hotbed of trafficking.
In this series, UCA News introduces our readers to this problem, its victims, and the efforts of those who shine the light of the Gospel on what the Vatican calls “these varied and brutal denials of human dignity.”
Help us with your donations to bring such stories of faith that make a difference in the Church and society.
A small contribution of US$5 will support us continue our mission…
William J. Grimm
Publisher
UCA News
Asian Bishops
Latest News
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia