KOCHI: The Syro-Malabar Church Synod’s decision to implement a uniform mode of conducting the Holy Mass has sparked controversy, with a section of priests deciding to appeal to the Vatican to retain the existing system. Priests belonging to the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese approached Archbishop Mar Antony Kariyil, the Major Archiepiscopal Vicar of the Archdiocese on Saturday. He reportedly assured them that necessary steps will be taken after discussions with bishops.
The priests sought the archbishop’s assistance to take up their concerns about “forcefully” implementing the Synod’s decision and thus “creating divisions”. On Friday, the Synod had decided to enforce a change the way the Holy Mass is conducted, after a letter from the Pope called for a uniform system across all churches. A pastoral letter in this regard was issued by Cardinal George Alencherry, head of the Syro-Malabar Church, directing priests and bishops to read it out in all churches on September 5. The pastoral communication cited Pope Francis’ letter favouring liturgical uniformity, and said it was the duty of every faithful to obey papal directions.
“Pope’s letter is not intended to create any division in the Church. By implementing the new mode of celebration, the unity in the Church will be hampered and we seek Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese to be exempted from it. There are provisions in Canon Laws that permit exemptions in certain situations. Till Vatican takes a decision, we should be allowed to follow the existing form of celebrating the Mass,” Fr Kuriakose Mundadan, presbyteral council secretary, told reporters.
‘Peace in parishes may be disrupted if letter read out’
The priests told the Archbishop that peace in the parishes might be disrupted if the pastoral letter is read out. “Since the pastoral letter has not been issued officially, we have requested the Vicar not to send it to the parishes,” said Fr Sebastian Thaliyan, senior priest of the archdiocese.“Till 1989 the Church followed a uniform of mode of celebrating the Mass in which the celebrants faced the faithful.
“A change was brought about through the involvement of the Changanassery bishop’s house. That was when the celebration by facing the altar began. For close to 25 years the uniform mode was followed. But when it was changed, we did not question it, nor made an issue out of it. Now when a decision is made for uniform celebration, they are not discussing with the priests and the faithful. This is what we are protesting against,” said Fr Jose Vailikodath, another senior priest.
Fr Mundadan said there are 16 Forenas under the archdiocese and most of the parish councils have already passed resolutions saying they will allow only celebration by facing the faithful.