Liturgical dispute continues in Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese – Matters India


By Matters India Reporter

Kochi, October 4, 2022: The Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly continues to face the crisis after its apostolic administrator revoked a dispensation granted to it to continue the traditional Mass and ordered its priests to follow the Synodal Mass with immediate effect.

Archbishop Andrews Thazhath, the Apostolic Administrator, in a circular issued September 30, ordered priests in the Syro-Malabar Archdiocese in the southern Indian state of Kerala to begin offering the Synodal Mass and canceled the dispensation given by his predecessor, Archbishop Antony Kariyil.

Shortly after the announcement, Archbishop Thazhath left the Archbishop’s Residence of Ernakulam-Angamaly for his own Archdiocese of Trichur in a taxi car, leaving behind the official vehicle.

During a presbytery meeting, the Prelate insisted that the priest offer the Mass according to the guidelines of the Church Synod instead of the traditional style used in the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly.

“We disagreed with the Archbishop’s request and tried to convince him of the reality in the Archdiocese that no one wants the Synodal Mass, but he was not at all ready to listen to us,” said one. priest on condition of anonymity.

The Prelate also attended the meeting of the newly constituted Curia after the Presbytery meeting and from where a contingent of police officers, including women, escorted the Archbishop out of the Archbishop’s house.

The prelate got into the taxi which was waiting for him in front of the Archdiocese.

A group of lay people inside the Archbishop’s house shouted slogans demanding the resignation of Archbishop Thazhath as he was escorted to the vehicle parked outside.

Bishop Thazhath wants priests in the Archdiocese to read his circular in all churches in the Archdiocese on October 9, but priests refused to comply and said they would burn it in all parishes.

The Prelate also rejected popular demand by priests and laity to accept their traditional Mass as a liturgical variant in the circular apparently asking more than 550,000 believers to line up.

The administrator’s sudden move has angered believers and priests in the archdiocese who have vowed to continue the traditional Mass in which the celebrant faces the congregation throughout.

The synod wants the priest to be facing the people at the beginning and at the end of the mass and facing the altar from the offertory.

Disgruntled lay people burned copies of the circular outside the Archbishop’s house on October 1 and the next day threw its copies in the pubic trash can in protest. They also claimed that they would not allow Synodal Mass in any of the churches in the Archdiocese.

They accused the administrator of betraying them and deceiving the Vatican. The laity also said that they will not allow Archbishop Thazhath to enter the Archbishop’s house in Ernakulam again.

The Mass conflict in the Syro-Malabar Church dates back nearly five decades, however, there was harmony until August 2021, when the Synod of the Syro-Malabar Church decided to implement its decision to 1999 for the uniformity of the liturgy.

The synod presented it as a compromise formula to bring together members of the community and ordered its 35 dioceses to comply with it from November 2021.

According to the new arrangement, the celebrant would face the congregation until the Eucharistic prayer, then turn towards the altar until communion, after which he would again face the faithful.

Except Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese, other dioceses followed the Synodal Mass after initial opposition from a few dioceses including the Archdiocese of Trichur led by Archbishop Thazhath.

On July 30, the Vatican appointed Archbishop Thazhath, who succeeded in crushing the rebellion of his priests against the Synodal Mass, as Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly with the task of implementing the synodal mass and to solve other problems which afflict the archdiocese.

The then-metropolitan vicar, Archbishop Antony Kariyil, was forced to resign after refusing to comply with the synod’s order and exempted the entire archdiocese from attending the Mass of the synod.

Archbishop Kariyil was forced to dispense the archdiocese after his priests and laity went on an indefinite hunger strike and other protests against the Synod Mass.

Archbishop Thazhath, explaining his position in the circular, said he complied with the Vatican’s order because “I had no other option left.”

The Prelate also added that although he revoked the dispensation granted to the Archdiocese, parish priests can seek such a dispensation in case of an emergency.

Riju Kanjookkaran, spokesperson for the Archdiocesan Transparency Movement, told Matters India on October 4 that “the faithful and priests of the Archdiocese do not want a Synodal Mass.”

Kanjookkaran also added that 315 parishes in the Archdiocese passed resolutions in favor of the traditional Mass and handed them over to Archbishop Thazhath, but he misled the Vatican and now imposes the Synodal Mass.

Besides the people, more than 400 priests serving in the archdiocese supported the feelings of the people and called on the Vatican to allow them to celebrate the traditional Mass, Kanjookkaran said.

When over 99% of the faithful and priests in the Archdiocese want to follow their tradition, why would anyone have a problem? He asked. “We will only allow our traditional mass in our churches,” he said.


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