Protesters promised 'a permanent solution' by the metropolitan vicar of the Eastern-rite Syro-Malabar Church
A Syro-Malabar church in Kochuthovala in India's Kerala state. (Photo: AFP)
Priests and laity have called off their indefinite hunger strike after a bishop conceded to their demand to ignore a bishops' synod decision to have a uniform celebration of Mass in the Eastern-rite Syro-Malabar Church.
They were protesting the decision of their synod to follow a uniform liturgical celebration in its 35 dioceses and put an end to a dispute stretching back more than four decades.
Archbishop Antony Kariyil, the metropolitan vicar, issued a circular on Jan. 20 expressing his inability to support the synod decision on a uniform Mass. He also promised to “initiate steps for a permanent solution” to the vexed issue.
Archbishop Kariyil further said that he had personally called on Cardinal George Alencherry and apprised him of the dangerous situation in the archdiocese due to the growing public support for the hunger strike, warning that it could even lead to loss of life.
The decision was also conveyed to the permanent synod and the Vatican.
Soon after the circular was shared among the protesters, Father Jose Vailikodath, public relations officer of the archdiocesan protection committee, announced that the hunger strike had been called off.
The synod in August 2021 decided to implement the uniform Mass and almost all dioceses except Ernakulam-Angamaly agreed to the decision
Father Vailikodath in a statement said that “since Archbishop Kariyil has assured us that he will not insist on us to follow the synod Mass, we have called off the hunger strike.”
However, he asserted that the priests and the laity in the archdiocese will continue their protests “in the form of prayer and fast against the synod Mass to ensure that it will not be allowed to disturb the peace in the archdiocese ... any further”
The synod in 1999 had ruled that the priest “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 in August 2021 decided to implement the uniform Mass and almost all dioceses except Ernakulam-Angamaly agreed to the decision.
Father Babu Joseph Kalathil of Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese started his fast in the archbishop’s house on Jan. 12, followed by Father Tom Mullanchira and two laymen.
The priests opposing the synod decision want to celebrate Mass facing the people as they have been doing for the past five decades.
When they threatened to boycott Mass, Archbishop Kariyil exercised his power and gave dispensation to the entire diocese from following the synod Mass on Nov. 27, a day before its implementation.
The situation was aggravated when the synod in its circular on Jan. 15 reiterated its stand and asked Archbishop Kariyil to issue a circular in favor of the synod decision on Jan. 23.
The synod also said Archbishop Kariyil had agreed to their demand as a sign of settlement.
The archbishop refused to withdraw his dispensation and instead sided with the priests and laity.
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