Schism possible – bitter liturgical dispute gets nastier

a schism

A schism with the Vatican is possible in the Syro-Malabar Catholic archdiocese in the southern Indian state of Kerala.

The priests and laity are demanding a liturgy variant status to their traditional Eastern rite Syro-Malaba Mass.

Regardless of the outcome, they’ll do what they think is right, even if it means splitting with the body of the Church, they say.

The latest round of protests – which have been ongoing for several years – have seen the priests and laity blockading the Vatican-appointed administrator Archbishop Andrews Thazhath’s house.

He has put himself in the firing line with his diocese by ordering a parish priest to follow the approved format when celebrating the Eucharist.

Around 100 members from different parishes in the archdiocese have called on the parish priest and the rector asking them to ignore Thazhath (pictured).

Both the priest and rector reportedly accepted the laity’s request and pledged their full support in their struggle.

The laity later announced the Vatican administrator will not be allowed to enter any Church institution until he withdraws the order.

“When more than 99 percent of priests and faithful are in favour of the traditional Mass, why is it not accepted?” said a priest who did not want to be named.

The priest also hinted that in case the administrator tried to have his way or initiate action against the parish priest and the rector, it may lead to the archdiocese “going its own way”.

The nearly five-decade-old row over the way the Mass is celebrated revived last year after the synod of bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church issued a diktat that all its 35 dioceses should celebrate the Mass in a uniform way.

There was initial resistance in other dioceses, but they began following the synod-approved Mass last November.

The resistance continued and took a turn for the worse in the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese.

It is India’s second-largest Catholic diocese.

The archdiocese is home to around 10 percent of the Syro-Malabar Church’s five million Catholics.

“We will not call off our battle until our demand is met,” the convener of the Archdiocesan Protection Committee says.

The Committee claims that around 500,000 faithful and 460 priests in the archdiocese support him.

These priests and laity accuse Thazhath of playing “dirty politics” and “misleading the Vatican”.

Many Catholics are concerned as Thazhath, besides being the archbishop of neighbouring Trichur, is also the newly elected president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.

He wants the Vatican to step in immediately and settle the dispute, hinting a schism could follow if the dispute continued.

“If the protest movement is allowed to continue for long, there is a possibility the archdiocese might declare itself as an independent Church,” said a Christian leader who did not want to be named.


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