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Deepening discord over Indian Church's liturgical dispute

The Kerala-based Eastern-rite Syro-Malabar Church is divided as archdiocese threatens to snap ties with the Vatican

Published: November 25, 2022 11:20 AM GMT

Updated: November 25, 2022 11:49 AM GMT

A Catholic archdiocese in India is effectively heading to snap all ties with the Vatican as the crisis over a protracted liturgical dispute deepens.

The priests and laity in Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese of the Eastern rite Syro-Malabar Church in the southern state of Kerala, have boycotted the Vatican-appointed administrator Archbishop Andrews Thazhath. They have also laid a siege on the Archbishop’s House until their demand is approved.

The latest stalemate came after the archbishop issued an order to the parish priest at St Mary’s Cathedral Basilica of the diocese to facilitate him at the Eucharistic celebration to be held in the format approved by the church’s synod. It requires the priest to face the altar against the congregation during the Eucharistic prayer to Communion.

On the contrary, protesters have been demanding approval for a traditional form that involves the priest facing the people throughout the Mass. Since the order was passed, about 100 Catholics from different parishes called on the parish priest and the rector asking them to ignore the communication from Archbishop. The priests reportedly accepted the request and pledged to support their struggle.

Lay people in Ernakulam-Angamly archdiocese in the southern Indian state of Kerala take a pledge to not allow Arhcbihsop Andrews Thazhath, the apostolic administrator, to enter the Archbishop’s House, on Oct. 16

Lay people in Ernakulam-Angamly archdiocese in the southern Indian state of Kerala take a pledge to not allow Arhcbihsop Andrews Thazhath, the apostolic administrator, to enter the Archbishop’s House, on Oct. 16. (Photo supplied)

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Jesuits in Timor-Leste have launched a project to provide drinking water to thousands of people in rural areas. The project is vital for people in this Catholic-majority country where a third of the population does not have access to clean water.

Jesuit Mission said last Thursday that the project in collaboration with village leaders over the past four years and in partnership with the Jesuit Social Service brings clean water to more than 15 rural villages and transforms the lives of over 5,000 people.

Timorese children enjoy clean water after the service was inaugurated in Railaco, Ermera municipality in October. (Photo: Timor-Leste's Jesuit Social Service)

Access to safe water has enabled local communities with more agricultural opportunities and improved standard of hygiene for people including children who no longer need to walk a long distance to collect water before and after school.

The project will continue to run 18 new water systems in rural communities over the next three years. About 45 percent of the estimated 1.3 million people in Timor-Leste are poor. 


A research team from Japan has discovered a letter from 17th-century Japanese Catholics to Pope Paul V, making it the first artifact of its kind found outside the Vatican.

The discovery of the scroll in Florence, Italy is part of an on-site study program titled “Vatican & Japan: The 100-Year Project” jointly sponsored by two Japanese foundations and the Vatican. Japanese Catholics sent the letters as appreciative notes in response to Pope Paul V’s letter of encouragement to Japanese Catholic converts who faced persecution by feudal authorities.

Japan's Imamura Christians celebrate 150 years since another secret Catholic community made contact with them on Feb. 26, 2017 at the Imamura church in Fukuoka Prefecture. (UCA News photo)

Church records say Portuguese missionaries brought Catholicism to Japan in the 1540s. The missionaries successfully evangelized and converted people including several feudal lords.

Beginning in the late 16th century, Christians came under extreme persecution from military rulers when hundreds were killed, about 137 churches destroyed and thousands were forced into hiding. The ban on Christianity was lifted in the 19th century.

Catholics in Indonesia have rushed aid to the victims of a deadly earthquake that killed more than 250 people and displaced over 7,000. Caritas Indonesia coordinated teams from the Catholic charity in three dioceses – Bogor, Bandung, and Jakarta – along with other Catholic groups to provide assistance to victims across four districts.

Initially, Caritas has allocated funds worth about 63,630 US dollars for humanitarian assistance. The 5.6-magnitude earthquake struck 10 kilometers southwest of the Cianjur district in West Java province on Monday.

One of the houses damaged by the earthquake that struck Cianjur district, West Java province on Nov. 21 (Photo: Caritas Indonesia)

A majority of those killed in the district were children at an Islamic school who had finished classes for the day and were attending extra lessons. Videos circulating on social media showed several buildings in Cianjur were almost destroyed, while roads were cracked.

The earthquake also damaged more than 3500 houses and public facilities and close to 7000 have been displaced from their homes. Cianjur Parish Church and Mardi Yuana Catholic School belonging to Bogor diocese were also damaged.


A women’s rights group in the Philippines has urged President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. to support a pending divorce bill following a recommendation from the United Nations Human Rights Council.

During a recent session, the UN body asked the Catholic-majority nation for the passage of pro-women and gender-sensitive laws by legalizing divorce and same-sex marriage. Gabriela Women's Party, a nationwide grassroots network advocating for women’s rights, said the government should not reject the UN recommendations.

Philippine Catholic faithful holding a banner as they take part in a "Walk for Life" protest at a park in Manila on Feb. 24, 2018. (Photo: AFP)

The response came as Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla recently commented that the UN’s recommendations were “unacceptable” to the Filipino people “as of the moment.”

The Philippines is the only country, apart from the Vatican, that does not allow divorce legally. In July, Edcel Lagman, a lawmaker from Albay Province, re-filed the “Absolute Divorce Act” seeking to legalize divorce. A previous divorce bill didn’t pass through the parliament during the regime of former President Rodrigo Duterte.


Two international Church groups have expressed grave concerns over attacks on churches and Christians in conflict-torn Myanmar.

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The leaders of the World Council of Churches and the Christian Conference of Asia issued a statement last Friday deploring the deteriorating humanitarian, human rights, and political situation in Myanmar since last February’s military coup. They lamented that ongoing conflicts have devastated the country and as a result, the poverty rate has climbed to nearly 50 percent.

In this picture taken on May 13, 2018, internally displaced people and local villagers attend a church service in Myitkyina, Kachin state. (Photo: AFP)

The leaders appealed to all members of the international community to show active solidarity and humanitarian support for the people of Myanmar, and “to redouble their advocacy and engagement for justice, peace and the restoration of democracy in Myanmar.” The appeal comes as the Southeast Asian nation faces humanitarian, political, and economic crises triggered by the military’s seizure of power.

At least 92 religious sites including churches, convents, and other Christian institutions have been subjected to air strikes and shelling by the military in the Christian strongholds of Kachin, Kayah, Chin, and Karen states.


As the soccer World Cup kick started in Qatar last Sunday, an international Catholic group has sought justice and prayers for hundreds of Asian migrants who died as the West Asian country prepared for the global sports event.

“Bread 4 Today” prayer group of the Redemptorist Congregation in Oceania published a video titled ‘World Cup Prayer’ on their YouTube channel, which speaks against migrant worker abuse, discrimination against the LGBTQ community, and CO2 emissions.

Rights groups have documented abuses and deaths of migrants workers in Qatar leading up to FIFA World Cup 2022. (Photo: John Holmes for Human Rights Watch)

The prayer campaign was launched as Human Rights Watch released a report to point out the abuse meted out to the migrant workers in Qatar. The right group stated that between 2010 and 2020, there were over 6,751 deaths in Qatar of people from five South Asian Countries. About 69 percent of the deaths of migrant workers were from India, Nepal, and Bangladesh.

Besides, the workers reported other abuses such as unpaid overtime, arbitrary deductions, delayed wages, withholding of wages, unpaid wages, or inaccurate wages.


Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen announced his government will send three demining experts to help train de-miners in the war-torn Ukraine following a request from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Hun Sen made the announcement at the closing ceremony of the National Convention on Mine Action in Cambodia on Tuesday. Since 2006, Cambodia has dispatched landmine clearing teams under the United Nations to Sudan, South Sudan, Chad, Mali, Central Africa, Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen.

A Cambodian de-miner from the Cambodia Self Help Demining (CSHD) probes for mines after being detected with metal detectors in the field at the Training and Mine Unexploded Ordnance Clearance Center (TMCC) in Oudong, some 40 kilometers north of Phnom Penh on Nov. 27, 2011. (Photo: AFP)

Zelenskyy made the request on the sidelines of the ASEAN Leaders’ Summit held in Phnom Penh earlier this month when Hun Sen also agreed to visit Ukraine at an “appropriate time.” Cambodia itself emerged from the decades-long civil war and suffered from the curse of land mines.

Hun Sen pointed the country has declared five provinces – Phnom Penh, Stung Treng, Kep, Prey Veng, and Sihanoukville – land mine free and another eight provinces soon would also be mine-free.


Police in Thailand arrested Li Nanfei, Chinese dissident and veteran rights activist living as a refugee for allegedly failing to produce a passport shortly after he staged a one-man protest against the “oppressive dictatorship” of China’s President Xi Jinping.

Li is an UN-registered refugee stranded in Thailand for years seeking resettlement in a third country after fleeing China. During his protest, Li held a placard that read: "His Majesty President Xi, put an end to dictatorship in China! Give the people back their freedom!”

Li Nanfei was arrested in Bangkok, Thailand, for protesting against Chinese leader Xi Jinping with a placard reading, 'His Majesty President Xi, put an end to dictatorship in China! Give the people back their freedom!' (Photo: RFA/Twitter)

The Chinese leader was in Bangkok to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. The fate of Li is yet to be known as Thai police and immigration officials are yet to comment on his arrest and subsequent proceedings against him.

There have been many cases of arrests and deportation of Chinese dissidents from Thailand, which sparked concern among rights activists.


Malaysians are bracing for a hung parliament following the general election on Monday, which saw no political party emerge with a clear majority while a conservative Islamist party made major gains.

Anwar Ibrahim’s Pakatan Harapan coalition secured 82 seats in the 222-member parliament while former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s Malay-based Perikatan Nasional bagged 73 seats. Media reports say post a meeting of the royal households on Thursday, King Sultan Abdullah announced Anwar as the leader as he was convinced that he had the support of most of the parliamentarians.

Abdul Hadi Awang (center), president of the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) waving during the general election in Marang, Malaysia's Terengganu state, in this handout photo released by Malaysia's Department of Information on Nov. 21. (Photo: AFP)

Anwar was sworn in as the new Prime Minister on Thursday in what was dubbed as a remarkable journey for a politician who, in 25 years, has gone from heir apparent to the premiership, to a prisoner convicted of sodomy, to the country's leading opposition figure.

A majority of Malaysia's 33 million people are Malay and Muslim, but the country is also home to sizable ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities. The country has about 10 percent Christians.

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