Holy Mass row in Syro-Malabar Church: Protesting priests seek Latin church intervention

The Latin Church and the Syro-Malabar Church are both autonomous churches within the Catholic Church, united under the authority of the Pope.
Last Updated : 18 June 2024, 09:11 IST

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Kochi: Amid the escalating Holy Mass row in the Syro-Malabar Church, the secretary of the presbyteral council of the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese has sent a letter to all archbishops and bishops of the Latin Catholic Church seeking their intervention in the matter.

In his letter on Monday, Fr Kuriakose Mundadan, the presbyteral council secretary of the archdiocese, alleged that the circular issued by the Major Archbishop of the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese and the Apostolic Administrator has threatened the protesting priests of the archdiocese with excommunication if they do not celebrate the Uniform Holy Mass or the Synod Mass by July 3, 2024.

The letter urged the archbishops and bishops of the Latin Catholic Church in India to intervene, stating that although the Syro-Malabar Church is a self-governing church under the Pope, "when the chain of events in that church becomes as scandalous as it can, you have to rethink about the image of the Catholic Church and your responsibility towards the Church."

The Latin Church and the Syro-Malabar Church are both autonomous (sui iuris) churches within the Catholic Church, united under the authority of the Pope.

Speaking about the rising tension in the Church over the Holy Mass row, the letter said, on June 16, 2024, the situation reached a boiling point.

The circular from the Major Archbishop and the Apostolic Administrator was read in only 10 out of 328 churches, filial churches, and Holy Mass centres within the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly, the letter said.

In many parishes, the faithful responded by burning the circular in protest, highlighting the intense dissatisfaction with the directive, it said, adding that "it is high time to think of these reactions in a Catholic spirit."

It claimed that on June 4, 2024, the Major Archbishop's office in Mount St Thomas announced an online meeting of Syro-Malabar Bishops for June 14 to discuss a Uniform Mass in the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly.

Some Synod members were warned of possible objections regarding the excommunication of priests who don't follow the rules, the letter said.

The letter came days after the Syro-Malabar Church issued an ultimatum to those priests who do not comply with its directive to hold uniform Holy Mass in the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese starting from 3 July this year.

The warning was issued by Church head Raphael Thattil and Apostolic Administrator of the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese Bosco Puthoor through a circular signed by them. Thattil is also the major archbishop of the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese.

Various Catholic churches under the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese here on Sunday witnessed protests by a section of laity against the ultimatum issued by the Syro-Malabar Church in connection with the implementation of a uniform Holy Mass.

In his letter to the Latin church priests, Fr Mundadan further alleged that a draft of the Synod's decisions was leaked on social media before the meeting and in response, Major Archbishop Mar Raphael Thattil and Bishop Bosco Puthur released the official circular that night.

During the online Synod on June 14, there were objections to the early release of the circular, so the meeting was rescheduled for June 19, 2024, the letter claimed.

In his letter, Fr Mundadan also criticised the handling of the situation by Archbishop Andrews Thazhath, the former Apostolic Administrator of the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese, accusing him of misusing his power and misleading Pope Francis about the liturgical issues within the Archdiocese.

It said a case was filed against Archbishop Andrews Thazhath with the Superior Tribunal of the Syro-Malabar Church on June 14, 2024.

The complaint, supported by a report Archbishop Thazhath presented to Pope Francis on October 9, 2023, alleges unethical conduct and a misrepresentation of the situation in the Archdiocese.

"It is hardly surprising, given to understand Archbishop Andrews Thazhath that the exact words of vindictiveness and punishment finds place in the joint circular which the present Major Archbishop signed along with the Apostolic Administrator Bosco Puthur," the letter claimed.

The Syro-Malabar Church has not officially reacted to the fresh developments.

A section of priests and the laity of the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese are at odds with the leadership of the Syro-Malabar Church over its Synod's decision in August 2021 to introduce a standardised manner of conducting the Mass.

According to the 2021 decision of the Syro-Malabar Church Synod, priests must face the faithful only in the first and last parts of the liturgical service, turning towards the altar for the rest of the Mass (50:50 formula).

While most dioceses have adopted the Synod-approved Mass, a majority of priests in the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese, supported by their laity, continue to oppose it, citing a departure from the tradition where the priest faces the congregation throughout the Mass.

Published 18 June 2024, 09:11 IST

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