Syro-Malabar Catholics Block Archbishop’s House in Protest at Mass Change


Archbishop Antony Kariyil, administrator of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly, resigned on July 26, 2022 at the request of the Vatican after being accused of defying the Church’s Supreme Synod in a dispute liturgy of several decades. He is pictured in an undated photo. Photo CNS/Anto Akkara

Lay people in an archdiocese of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church of India have started a 24-hour vigil to prevent the Vatican-appointed administrator from entering the archbishop’s house.

Lay leaders in the Kochi-based Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly said Archbishop Andrews Thazhath, the apostolic administrator, had unilaterally revoked the dispensation that allowed priests to celebrate Mass facing the people, saying reported Protest groups want to continue the traditional Mass in which the priest faces the congregation throughout, despite a rule that came into effect in 2021.

Under this rule, intended as a compromise, the Syro-Malabar synod ruled that the priest “will face the congregation until the Eucharistic prayer, then again from communion at the end of the mass. From Eucharistic prayers to Communion, the priest will face the altar.”

The vigil at the Kochi residence was launched on October 16, and teams of lay people from different parishes were assigned to provide round-the-clock surveillance, reported.

“We no longer want the apostolic administrator to enter our archbishop’s house,” Riju Kanjookaran, spokesperson for the Archdiocesan Transparency Movement, told Oct. 17.

As Archbishop of Thrissur, Archbishop Thazhath has a residence in Thrissur, about 53 miles or about two hours drive from Kochi.

Pope Francis appointed him administrator of the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly on July 30, with a mandate to settle the liturgical dispute caused by strong opposition to the synod’s decision to have uniformity in the celebration of Mass. .

A few days earlier, the Vatican had asked his predecessor, Archbishop Antony Kariyil, to resign. Archbishop Kariyil had granted archdiocesan priests a dispensation from attending the Synod-approved Mass.

Resistance to Archbishop Thazhath took a turn on September 30 when he ordered all priests to immediately celebrate the Synod-approved Mass and revoked their dispensation.

Most priests publicly defied the order and continued to celebrate mass facing the people. The priests also refused to read Archbishop Thazhath’s message, which announced the revocation of the dispensation and his order to the priests.

More than 450 institutions, including 328 parishes and sub-parishes, refused to follow the orders of the apostolic administrator, Kanjookaran told

The liturgical dispute in the Syro-Malabar Church dates back almost five decades, when the Church launched a review of its liturgy. The simmering controversy was reignited in August 2021 when the synod decided to implement its 1999 decision to introduce uniformity of Mass in all dioceses.

The 35 dioceses of the Syro-Malabar Church, with the exception of the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly, began following the Mass approved by the synod last November.

Archbishop Thazhath, in a video message, defended his decision, saying he was simply following Vatican instructions.

Key words: Bishop Thazhath, Change of Mass, Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly, Yro-Malabar Catholics

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