(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 07.12.2023).- Pope Francis himself described as “unusual” the way he chose to communicate with the Catholics of one of the most numerous Oriental Churches in communion with Rome (half a million faithful in the affected diocese alone): the Syro-Malabar Church in India. After numerous litigations regarding the Liturgy, which has implied the resignation of the Archbishop and mistreatment of the Holy Father’s Pontifical Delegate, who visited India on his behalf, the Pontiff wished to communicate directly with the faithful through YouTube. In this way they could listen to him and see him directly, although the Pontiff spoke in Italian.
He invited them not to become a sect, to stay united, and to adhere to the decision on the way to celebrate the Liturgy in the Syro-Malabar rite. However, he also gave them an ultimatum: the date is December 25, 2023. After that period, the Pope suggests that ecclesiastical sanctions will be imposed against clergymen who do not adhere to the unanimous decision, arrived at by the Synod of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, on the way to celebrate the Eucharist. The publication of the video-message coincided with the day in which the acceptance was made public of the resignation of the Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabars, Cardinal Mar George Alencherry.
Here is ZENIT’s translation of the Pope’s message into English.
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Brothers and Sisters of the Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly, I’m close to you!
I’ve been following you for years, I know the faith and the apostolic commitment of the beloved Syro-Malabar Church, which is source of joy and pride for the universal Church and, hence, my heart is saddened today as I address you.
After long and arduous work, your Synod reached an agreement on the way to celebrate the Holy Qurbana. The charity and love of communion have stimulated its members to take this step, although some do not consider ideal this way of celebration. They are the sacrifices that communion exacts!
However, the Church is communion. If there is no communion, there is no Church, it’s a sect.
I know that for some years, those who should be examples and true teachers of communion, especially priests, push you to disobey and to oppose the decisions of the Synod. Brothers and sisters, do not follow them!
When a discussion isn’t peaceful, it generates violence. And there has been violence among you, especially against those who want to remain in communion and celebrate as your Church has established.
I have also exhorted you many times to be docile to your Church. How can there be Eucharist if communion is broken, if there is lack of respect to the Most Holy Sacrament, if there are fights and brawls?
I know there are reasons to be opposed, which have nothing to do with the celebration of the Eucharist or even with the Liturgy. They are worldly reasons. They don’t come from the Holy Spirit. If they don’t come from the Holy Spirit, they come from elsewhere.
Therefore, I have studied carefully and with time the reasons that have been given for years to convince you. I have already written to you several times in the past, but I know that not all have read my letters.
Now I have decided to address you, holy faithful People of God, the clergy, the men and women religious, and especially you, dear lay faithful, who have so much faith in the Lord and who love the Church,. And I do so in this somewhat unusual way, so that no one has doubts about what the Pope thinks.
In the name of the Lord, for the spiritual good of your Church, of our Church, I ask you to mend this rupture. It’s your Church, it’s our Church. Re-establish communion, remain in the Catholic Church!
And you, priests, remember your Ordination and the commitment you assumed. Do not separate yourselves from the path of your Church, walk with the Synod, with your Bishops, with the Major Archbishop. Accept to put into practice what your Synod has established.
I have sent you my Delegate in the person of Archbishop Cyril Vasil. I have come among you and so has he, in my name, I ask you to put an end to the fight, to put an end to the opposition and, sometimes, to the violence — there is violence!
Don’t you see that thus the Church is paralyzed and so many initiatives can no longer be carried out at the service of the holy People of God, at the service of the sanctification of the People of God?
Try, from here until Christmas of 2023, to have your Archdiocese accept, humbly and faithfully, to put yourselves at the height of the rest of your Church, respecting all the indications of your Synod.
Please, be careful! Be careful that the devil doesn’t seize you so that you become a sect. You are Church, do not become a sect. Don’t oblige the competent ecclesiastical authority to take note that you have abandoned the Church, because already you are not in communion with your Pastors and with the Successor of the Apostle Peter, called to confirm all the brethren in the faith and to keep you in the unity of the Church. With great sorrow, then, the opportune sanctions will have to be taken. I don’t want to come to that.
Therefore, for this coming Christmas, may the Qurbana be celebrated in communion, following the indications of the Synod, in the Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly, as well as in the whole Syro-Malabar Church. Remember your Major Archbishop in the Liturgy and pray for him. This has always been an important sign that you recognize yourselves in the unity of the Church. Then it will be Christmas for all your people.
Please, do not continue wounding the Body of Christ! No longer separate yourselves from Him. And even if there have been grievances against you, forgive them generously.
May the Eucharist be the model of your unity. Do not destroy the Body of Christ that is the Church, unless you eat and drink your condemnation (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:29).
May the Lord bless you and the Hoy Spirit illumine you. And, please, don’t forget to pray for me. Thank you.