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Catholics burn Vatican appointee’s circular on Indian liturgy row

Archbishop Andrews Thazhath’s circular insisted on following synod-approved Mass rejected by the majority of priests and laity
Catholics burn the circular of Archbishop Andrews Thazhath, the Apostolic Administrator of Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese, on June 25, 2023 in front of St Mary's Cathedral Basilica in the southern Indian state of Kerala

Catholics burn the circular of Archbishop Andrews Thazhath, the Apostolic Administrator of Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese, on June 25, 2023 in front of St Mary's Cathedral Basilica in the southern Indian state of Kerala. (Photo: supplied)  

Published: June 26, 2023 11:51 AM GMT
Updated: June 26, 2023 01:10 PM GMT

In a public protest against the Vatican-appointed apostolic administrator of an Indian archdiocese, a group of lay people burnt his circular that insisted on a controversial form of Mass, which has been the center of a five-decade-old liturgical dispute.

Parishioners of the St.Mary’s Basilica, the Cathedral in Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese, burnt copies of the circular of their Apostolic Administrator Archbishop Andrews Thazhath on June 26 in Kochi city, the commercial capital of southern Kerala state.

The cathedral, the seat of the Major Archbishop of the Eastern-rite Syro-Malabar Church, is closed since December 2022 following physical violence inside it over the liturgy dispute.

The majority of the priests and laity in the archdiocese have rejected an order of the Mass approved by the Church’s synod, which demanded priests turn to the altar during the Eucharistic prayer. The archdiocesan laity and priests want the celebrants to face the people throughout the Mass.

The dispute has led the synod to have a special gathering this month, which agreed to request the Vatican send a delegate to decide on the issue. As the Church waited for the delegate, Archbishop Thazhath issued the circular insisting on the archdiocese following the synod-approved Mass.

“What is the need for the administrator to issue such a circular?” asked Riju Kanjookaran, the spokesperson of Archdiocesan Movement for Transparency, which led the protest in front of the closed cathedral in Kochi.

The group shouted slogans against Archbishop Thazhath, who is also the president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI), the national body of Catholic bishops in the country.

The administrator in his June 22 circular ordered Cathedral Vicar Father Antony Narikulam to celebrate the synod-approved Mass in the Cathedral before July 2 and threatened to transfer him without any prior notice if he fails.

The circular also warned of action against the parish council for opposing the decision of the synod on matters like liturgy where it has no role to play.

The administrator also said these actions have been agreed upon during the special synod of the Syro-Malabar Church held between June 12-16 in Mount St Thomas, the headquarters of the Church in Ernakulam district.

The special synod was held following directions from the Vatican to find a lasting solution to the liturgy dispute in the archdiocese. However, the 56 bishops who attend it could not reach a consensus and recommended to the Vatican to send a papal delegate to settle it.

“When the synod has decided to leave the matter for final adjudication to the Vatican, this circular is only aimed at creating trouble for the faithful and the priests in the archdiocese who are ready to work with the papal delegate for a final settlement,” Kanjookaran told UCA News on June 26.

“We have complained against the administrator to the synod and would soon inform the Vatican about his coercive actions aimed at creating more trouble ahead of the visit of papal delegate,” he said.

Church officials said the Vatican is yet to inform the synod about the details and date of arrival of the delegate.

“At the movement, we only know that the synod has requested the Vatican to send a delegate. Nothing else is clear,” said a bishop who attended the synod.

Kanjookarn said the administrator was continuing “terror acts” against some half a million Catholics and close to 400 priests in the archdiocese.

A senior priest who did not want to be named told UCA News on June 26, “It is better for everyone to maintain peace as the ball is now in the court of the Vatican”.

The liturgy dispute has been simmering in the Church since the 1970s with one group wanting to revive the liturgy in its pristine purity and another group demanding revision on modern lines.

The traditionalist wanted the celebrants to face the altar throughout the Eucharistic celebration, while the modernists want them to face the congregation.

The archdiocese’s 500,000 Catholics form some 10 percent of Catholics of the Eastern Rite Church.

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21 Comments on this Story
WILLIAM DSOUZA
This is wrong totally. When it is agreed in the Bishops synod and approved by the Pope, then it should be followed without any question. Why this mid aged people defying the collective wisdom of the church. This is open revolt and inspired by Satan to break the one body of Christ.
SHIBU PAUL
There is no Syrian and Latin.we are followers of Jesus Christ. In India we are making our church on Indian soil. We should respect Indian culture and not sing praise of Israel or other countries
ANITA BRADLEY
We have to stay faithful to Jesus before the pope and the synod. Remember in the history of the church several popes were anything but Christ like. And many catholics were appalled by the Spanish inquisition and rushed to realise the victims when that pope died.
JOE
This report is false. It isn't a case of the majority of them rejecting the common system for all. It is only Ernakulam - Angamaly diocese that has issues. And it is just the priests of the region who is instigating for political and power related reasons
CHHOTEBHAI
The question really is, How did Jesus celebrate the Last Supper? He sat among his people. Even in the Vatican the main altar is in the centre with the people all around. How can any rite or group claim to be better than Jesus and the universal church?
A P THOMAS
The dispute has nothing to do with theology or dogma.It is basically a tug of war for control of wealth and power.Primarily it is the dissident clergy who are behind this dispute.Most laity are against the obstinacy of the dissidents.It is a she that some of the dissidents conspired even to forge documents to implicate the Cardinal in a corruption case.The controversial land deal was a well laid trap in which the credulous Cardinal fell. The mudslinging has lowered the standing of the community in the state. Greed for wealth, vulgar display of the same by way of palatial priestly residence and churches and emphasis on running institutions that generate money charaterises the spiritual bankruptcy and decay of the church. A bishop even made a statement that if the minimum price of rubber was maintained at Rs 300/- the hindutva forces could be rewarded with a member in the Kerala assembly.
T BALA SHOW REDDY
Preaching and teaching Word of God in the Catholic Church is very important than turning to the Altar during Eucharistic Prayer. Please do not behave like gentiles, majority people are becoming drunkards including priests. Where are we going will Our Saviour Jesus Christ accept all these. Please think
STANY REBELLO
Blind faith v/s wisdom
S CHANDRAN
So much like the Liliputian issue - should the egg be broken at the bigger end or the smaller end?
C T LEONARD
Those who disagree please pray at home and wait for the holy spirit enlightenment. Amen .
LILLY
Pray to Jesus through fasting and ask him what is pleasing to HiM He replis
JOHN MASCARENHAS
IT IS A SHAME THAT MATTERS HAVE COME TO THIS STAGE AND I BLAME THE VATICAN FOR SHITTING ON ITS PEOPLE, INSTEAD OF CLEARING UP THE SHIT. CATHOLIC CHURCHES ALL OVER THE WORLD HAVE ADOPTED THE NEW STYLE OF MASS WHERE THE PRIEST FACES THE PEOPLE ALL THE TIME DURING MASS. WHY IS THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN KERALA STILL BACKWARD IN THE 18TH CENTURY? I BELIVE THAT THE WORD OF CHRIST HAS BEEN LOST IN ALL THE MEANINGLESS CHURCH TRADITIONS, BESIDES THE MANIFESTATIONS OF CORRUPTION AND CRIMINALITY.IT IS THE PRIESTS AT THE BOTTOM LEVEL SERVING THE PEOPLE THAT HAVE PEOPLES TRUST.THE TOP CHURCH LEADERS ARE JUST OCCUPYING POSITIONS FOR THEIR SELF-INTERESTS AND IMPORTANCE. POPE FRANCIS HAS ASKED PEOPLE NOT TO KISS HIS RING, WHY DO BISHOPS IN INDIA EXPECT PEOPLE TO KISS THEIR DIRTY FINGERS??? THE CHURCH IN INDIA NEEDS A CLEAN UP OF ALL THE DEAD WOOD AND CRIMINAL ELEMENTS OTHERWISE IT WILL FOLLOW THE WEST WHERE ONLY OLD PEOPLE ATTEND SERVICES LEADING TO CHURCH CLOSURES. AMEN.
JMATHEW
You seem to have a very distorted idea of human societies hence very simplicitic concept of church. Oriental churches are different from the Western church. The article is abt an oriental church, Syro Malabar church. Unity and uniformity are not the same.
JACOB ABRAHAM
It is high time Indian Catholic community should abandon any foreign dictates and setup Indian Catholic bodies with their head and toe being Indian.
ANIL THOMAS
What nonsense. Living life following the teachings of Christ is Christianity. Whether facing forwards or backwards, what difference does it make. This is just the arrogance of wealth and power of a few members of the community and fight for political benefits by a few clergy. An idiot bishop talking of love/drug jihad, promising votes for rubber prices, hobnobbing with politicians for the scrap from their table - selling Jesus once again for 30 pieces of silver. We don't need these fake "Christians" whether from clergy or community.
JOHN MASCARENHAS
YOU HAVE HIT THE NAIL IN THE RIGHT SPOT!
NISHA
Is the Vatican bothered about suffering Christians in Manipur
PS
What they did is right.Man don't have right to change the GOD'S words not even a single word.God will give answer for every thing whats going in INDIA. People of India open your eyes only Christian people are suffering n scattering because of Selfish political leaders in centre.Now we combined to pray not to quarrel among us . please be in Christ alone we have pray for our people n nation . North eastern states n southern states even in central states , some of northern state who are in Christ alone are need our prayer support.pray for them pease .
JOHN MASCARENHAS
what is RIGHT? who told you it was 'gods words'???
JOHN MASCARENHAS
JMATHEW: THE SYRO MALABAR CHURCH JOINED THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. WHY? IF THE SMC TRADITIONS ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN COHESION AND COMMON LITURGY, LEAVE.
JOSE ABRAHAM
Excommunicate those that stand against the church. They shouldn't be allowed inside the church.
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