Meeting of Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church with Pope Francis

Meeting of Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church with Pope Francis Photo: AICA

Liturgical Ultimatum in India: Either They Celebrate Mass as Agreed or Are Excommunicated

July 4 is the deadline before the application of canonical sanctions.

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(ZENIT News / Kerala, 17.06.2024).- The Catholic Church of Syro-Malabar Rite in India has endured a prolonged crisis over the way to celebrate Mass. A deadline has been set to resolve the liturgical dispute. The main seat of the Church, located in Cochin, in the state of Kerala, has exacted all dissident priests of the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly to comply, before July 4, with the Mass approved by the Synod, in which the Celebrant looks to the altar during the Eucharist. Those that do not comply will face expulsion.

Major Archbishop Raphael Thattil and Bishop Bosco Puthur, Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese, issued a Pastoral Letter on June 9, setting this deadline. The circular, which was to be read in all the parishes on June 16, urges seminarians and deacons to sign a document committing themselves to follow the Mass approved by the Synod, warning that they wouldn’t be ordained if they refused.

Resistance in the Archdiocese

The Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly, which embraces approximately 10% of the five million faithful of the Syro-Malabar Church, has resisted implementing the approved Mass, preferring that the Celebrants look at the people throughout the ceremony. Despite the fact that the other 34 dioceses of the Church, both in India as well as abroad, have adopted the new practice, resistance in this Archdiocese has been firm.

Riju Kanjookaran, spokesman of the Archdiocesan Movement for Transparency, which represents priests, religious and laity protesting, said: “We are not going to accept the Mass approved by the Synod.” Kanjookaran criticized the decision to impose the new Mass without consulting the priests and local lay leaders, describing it as arbitrary and illegitimate, especially in the light of the Extraordinary Synod, called for June 14 to discuss the dispute.

The Letter issued by the Church’s hierarchy warns that to participate in Masses not approved by the Synod from July 4 will be considered invalid and will not fulfil the Sunday obligation. Moreover, priests without the Bishop’s mandate will not be able to administrate parishes or ecclesiastical institutions.

Despite the warnings, the parishes of the Archdiocese have approved resolutions in support of the traditional Mass and have presented them both to the Synod as well as the Vatican. Kanjookaran reported that some 450 of the 470 priests of the Archdiocese support the traditional Mass. Moreover, a delegation of lay leaders visited Pope Francis in May to express their concerns.

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Elizabeth Owens

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