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Indian lay leaders meet pope to end liturgy row

The meeting came a week before the leaders of the Synod of Eastern Rite Syro-Malabar Church are scheduled to visit the Pontiff
A delegation of Indian Catholic lay leaders met Pope Francis in the Vatican to inform him about existing situation of decades-old liturgy dispute in Eastern-rite Syro-Malabar Church on May 6.

A delegation of Indian Catholic lay leaders met Pope Francis in the Vatican to inform him about existing situation of decades-old liturgy dispute in Eastern-rite Syro-Malabar Church on May 6. (Photo supplied)

Published: May 13, 2024 11:56 AM GMT
Updated: May 14, 2024 06:07 AM GMT

A delegation of lay leaders from an Eastern-rite archdiocese met Pope Francis in the Vatican, appealing to him to settle the ongoing liturgy that has threatened to divide their Syro-Malabar Church based in southern Indian Kerala state.

The delegation told the pope on May 6 that the Synod of Syro-Malabar Church, the top decision-making body, has failed to settle the dispute, a source told UCA News on May 13.

The four-member delegation included two men and two women. The men were Kurian Joseph, a former judge of the Supreme Court of India, and K. P. Fabian, a former Indian Ambassador to Rome. The women members were Monamma Kokkad, a former Kerala State Women Commission member, and Lida Jacob, a retired bureaucrat.

The visit came a week before the permanent members of the Synod, including its new head, Major Archbishop Raphael Thattil, are scheduled to meet the pope in person.

“The delegation apprised Pope about the clandestine Synod decision in August 2021 that led to the current crisis in the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly,” Riju Kanjookaran, the spokesperson of the Archdiocesan Moment for Transparency (AMT) told UCA News.

He said the Synod pushed for the uniform Mass in the archdiocese, where the vast majority of priests and laity are opposed to the Synod-approved Mass and insist on their traditional Mass.

Eastern-rite Church has about five million members and 35 dioceses in India and abroad. The archdiocese is home to about 10 percent of the church’s members.

The synod in August 2021 ordered all dioceses to adopt Synod Mass or a uniform mode of mass to ensure liturgical uniformity.

The Synod-approved mass wanted the celebrant to face the altar for Eucharistic prayer, unlike the traditional mass in which the celebrant faces the congregation throughout.

The Synod also had fixed November 2021 as the deadline to comply with its order.

Except for the Ernakulam-Agamaly Archdiocese, which is the seat of power of the Major Archbishop, others adopted the Synod Mass after initial opposition from 12 dioceses.

However, the priests and laity in Ernakulam-Angamaly refused to follow the Synod, arguing that the decision was taken clandestinely against the people's and priests' will.

The stalemate continued in the archdiocese after the Synod refused to accept the demand to accord liturgy variant status to their Mass.

Over the past years, the division has led to street protests, physical violence, and the closure of the cathedral church, among other things. Recently, hundreds of priests and laity warned of a possible split from the Church if their demands for traditional liturgy are not met.

Thattil, along with the members of the permanent Synod and the apostolic administer of the archdiocese, Bishop Bosco Puthur, is reportedly scheduled to meet with the Pope on May 13 to discuss the division in the archdiocese.

“The delegation,” Kanjookaran added, “also informed Pope about the concerns of the faithful for their traditional Mass and the priests and sought his intervention.”

“They also provided the evidence in support of their demand, including resolutions passed from the parish councils, photographs among other documents, and the pontiff agreed to look into their concerns”, he said.

The archdiocesan priests and lay leaders accused the Syro-Malabar Church leadership of misleading the Vatican.

This “forced us to arrange this special audience of the pope with the lay leaders to apprise him of the factual position existing in the archdiocese” ahead of the meeting of the bishops of the permanent Synod, he added.

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2 Comments on this Story
CHHOTEBHAI
This is excellent news. Hope that the Pope will see the light.
GOPAL K
The layman beaten up a bishop from rome send byHoly See. These types of people also settled in Manipur and acquired vast tracks if land illegally as only Kukis can only own that
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