Liturgy row: laypeople block archbishop from his house

Laypeople block archbishop’s house

Laypeople in an archdiocese of India’s Syro-Malabar Catholic Church have begun a round-the-clock vigil to block a Vatican-appointed administrator from gaining entry into the archbishop’s house.

The protest revolves around how apostolic administrator Archbishop Andrews Thazhath, unilaterally revoked the dispensation allowing priests to celebrate Mass facing the people.

The protesters want to continue with the traditional Mass in which the priest faces the congregation throughout, despite a rule that took effect in 2021.

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

Lay leaders in the Kochi-based Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese launched the vigil on 16 October. Teams of laypeople from different parishes are keeping a 24-hour vigil.

“We no longer want the apostolic administrator to get inside our archbishop’s house,” says Riju Kanjookaran, spokesman for the Archdiocesan Movement for Transparency.

Pope Francis appointed Thazhath as the administrator of the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese in July. He was given the mandate to settle the liturgical dispute caused by stiff opposition to the synod’s decision to have uniformity in the celebration of Mass.

Resistance to Thazhath changed on 30 September when he ordered all priests to celebrate the synod-approved Mass immediately and revoked their dispensation.

Most priests publicly defied the order. They continued to celebrate Mass facing the people. They also refused to read out Thazhath’s message, announcing the dispensation had been revoked and his order to the priests.

The liturgical dispute in the Syro-Malabar Church dates back nearly five decades, when the church initiated a revision of its liturgy.

The simmering controversy was revived in August 2021 when the synod implemented its 1999 decision to introduce uniformity in Mass across all the dioceses.

All but one of the Syro-Malabar Church’s 35 dioceses began following the synod-approved Mass last November.

Thazhath, in a video message, defended his decision, saying he was merely following instructions from the Vatican.


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News category: Palmerston, World.

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