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Indian archdiocese calls on Vatican to settle liturgy row

Majority of priests and laity in Eastern-rite Ernakulum-Angamaly Archdiocese insist on their way of celebrating Mass

Indian archdiocese calls on Vatican to settle liturgy row

A Catholic church in Kochuthovala, Idukki, Kerala, India. (Photo: AFP)

Published: March 28, 2022 08:37 AM GMT

Updated: March 28, 2022 09:55 AM GMT

Priests and laity in an Eastern-rite archdiocese in India have appealed to Pope Francis to consider their way of celebrating Mass as “a liturgy variant” to settle a five-decades-old dispute.

An overwhelming 435 of the 465 priests in Ernakulum-Angamaly Archdiocese of the Syro-Malabar Church in the southern state of Kerala have signed a memorandum urging the Vatican to accept its order of the Mass even though it differs from what the bishops’ synod decrees.

Priests across the archdiocese have celebrated Mass facing the congregation for decades but it suddenly became unacceptable after the Syro-Malabar bishops’ synod decided that priests should celebrate the Eucharistic prayer facing the altar.

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The synod decreed that all priests “will face the congregation until the Eucharistic prayer, and then again from communion to the end of the Mass. From Eucharistic prayers until communion, the priest will face the altar.”

The synod’s August 2021 decision also set April 17 as the deadline to comply with its decision aimed at ushering in uniformity in the liturgy.

“We have every right to follow our traditional Holy Mass in which the priests face the congregation throughout as per the Indian laws and also of the customary laws of Vatican,” said Riju Kanjookaran of the Archdiocesan Movement for Transparency.

Both priests and laity in the archdiocese want a solution before April 17, the deadline set by the synod to avoid any further confrontation over the Mass celebration

“Either the Vatican should legalize our liturgy or accord it a special liturgy variant status or allow our archdiocese to function as an independent diocese directly attached to the Vatican,” Kanjookaran told UCA News on March 25.

He added that “hardly five among the 465 priests are favoring the synod mass and a tiny majority of believers who migrated from other places are also with them, but a vast majority of the priests and the laity want our traditional mass to continue.”

A priest who signed the memorandum told UCA News: “We have handed over our memorandum to the metropolitan vicar, Archbishop Antony Kariyil, urging him to intervene with the Vatican.

“We have also directly sent a letter to Pope Francis, the Vatican's Congregation for the Oriental Churches, the nuncio to India and the synod of the Syro-Malabar Church appealing to them to legalize our traditional Mass and settle the dispute once and for all for the welfare of all.”

The priest expressed the hope that “Pope Francis will understand us and allow us to continue our Mass.”

Both priests and laity in the archdiocese want a solution before April 17, the deadline set by the synod to avoid any further confrontation over the Mass celebration as it is becoming a scandal in the Church with priests and laity staging public protests and hunger strikes.

The synod’s 2021 decision was just a reinforcement of its 1999 decision, which could not be implemented because of continued resistance

Most priests in Ernakulum-Angamaly Archdiocese have been opposing the decision since the bishops’ synod sought compliance from all its 35 dioceses starting Nov. 28, 2021. It extended the deadline to April 17 for bishops to implement it by pastorally creating awareness among those opposing it.

The priests opposing the move claim strong backing from many laypeople in their archdiocese.

The new demand for the Vatican’s acceptance of a “liturgical variant” came after Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Oriental Churches, on Feb. 28 ordered the archdiocese to follow the synod decision for uniform liturgy.

The synod’s 2021 decision was just a reinforcement of its 1999 decision, which could not be implemented because of continued resistance.

The rebel group from Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese — the seat of power of Cardinal George Alencherry, the supreme head of the Syro-Malabar Church  — insist that they will continue celebrating Mass facing the people.

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2 Comments on this Story
K M JOHN
Yes we the faithful of Ernakulam Angamaly awaiting for a favourable reply from the Pope. If it delays the un ethical and criminals of the synod Will act with all their weapon's to ruin the eparchy and laities.
JIBIN
The decision of the Pope can be read in the news https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2022-04/pope-francis-bishops-syro-malabar-ernakulam-angamaly-qurbana.html. He wants the Ernakulam Archdiocese to obey the Synod.

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