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Kerala parishioners approach President Murmu to deport Vatican delegate

The Pontifical Delegate visited Kochi to put an end to the row over the Syro-Malabar Church's decision to implement a uniform way of celebrating Holy Mass in churches under the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese.
Last Updated : 17 August 2023, 20:40 IST
Last Updated : 17 August 2023, 20:40 IST

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An organisation of parishioners in the crisis-hit Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese of Syro-Malabar Church has approached President Droupadi Murmu, seeking the deportation of Papal delegate Archbishop Cyril Vasil, a foreigner, from India.

The Pontifical Delegate visited Kochi to put an end to the row over the Syro-Malabar Church's decision to implement a uniform way of celebrating Holy Mass in churches under the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese.

In its petition to the President, the organisation called Almaya Munnetta Samiti, claimed to have the support of parishioners in 328 dioceses under the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese, accused Vasil of interfering in its administration and threatening the faithful with dire consequences.

A Samiti core committee member confirmed that they have submitted representation to the President on April 16.

"Any attempt of Mr Cyril Vasil to execute decree of Syro Malabar Church is a violation of his Visa norms. In such a case, Mr Cyril Vasil, is liable to be deported declaring persona non grata", the Samiti said in the representation.

The Almaya Munnetta Samiti, which also enjoys the support of a significant section of priests belonging to the archdiocese, made similar representations to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.

It said Vasil should be prosecuted as per Indian law for acting against the country's sovereignty. The samiti alleged that he was acting against India's interests under the cover of diplomat/official Visa possessed by him.

The move by the organisation, which also enjoys the support of a significant section of priests and nuns belonging to the archdiocese, came days after Vasil entered the St Mary's Cathedral of Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese by ignoring the protests by a significant section of its laity, priests and nuns.

"As there are enough mechanisms existing in India to resolve, adjudicate, and decide any dispute originated and existing in India, the external help sought to the head of an alien nation by synod of Syro Malabar Church is unwarranted, unlawful, and amounts to an act against the sovereignty of our nation", the Almaya Munnetta Samiti said in the representation.

It claimed that the police authorities, including the State Police Chief, were duly alerted regarding the unlawful activities of Cyril Vasil in due course.

"Shockingly, on the eve of Indian independence day of 2023, with the assistance of hundreds of police person, Mr Cyril Vasil acting under the mandate of ruler of State of Vatican City forcibly entered the premises of St Mary's Basilica Church at Ernakulam acting against the resistance of citizens present there and forcibly installed one Fr Antony Puthuvelil as its administrator in execution of his assignment", it alleged.

The Almaya Munnetta Samiti further alleged that the act of the Government of Kerala extending police force to Cyril Vasil to exercise his powers against Indian citizens in their territory under mandate received from the Head of State of Vatican City is unconstitutional and a clear case of abuse of power.

"By such acts, the Government of Kerala is subjecting the citizens of this country to the whims and fancies of a foreigner and an alien sovereign. These acts of the Government of Kerala are unconstitutional, a denial of fundamental rights to citizens, misuse of power, and a failure of the rule of law in the state, hence present Government of Kerala warrants dismissal in due course", it said.

The row erupted in the country after the Syro-Malabar Church Synod introduced the uniform way of celebrating Holy Mass in August 2021.

According to it, the priest celebrating the Holy Mass faces the faithful in its first and last parts. The priests turn towards the altar for the rest of the Mass.

While all other dioceses under the Syro-Malabar church adopted the synod-approved Holy Mass, the majority of the priests of the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese, supported by their laity, opposed it, saying that they could not depart from the traditional way of celebrating Mass with the priest facing the faithful.

Hardening its stand on the matter, the Vatican today issued a stern warning to priests who oppose the implementation of uniformity in celebrating Holy Mass in churches under the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese and said disobedience will invite canonical punishment.

In a hard-hitting letter addressing priests in the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archeparchy, Pontifical Delegate Vasil directed them to practice the Syro-Malabar Church Synod-approved Holy Mass celebration from August 20 and said any disobedience to this order would be considered 'voluntary, personal, and culpable disobedience to the Holy Father.

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Published 17 August 2023, 20:40 IST

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