Vatican delegate asks Indian Church: Are you with the pope?

with the pope

A Vatican delegate has told a congregation from India’s Eastern rite Syro-Malabar Church that they were either “with the pope or against him”.

“Move away from the illegal Mass the archdiocese has been following, where the celebrant faces the people,” Archbishop Cyril Vasil (pictured) told the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese laity and priests at Mass last week.

Those who reject the Vatican-approved Mass effectively reject the Catholic Church, he said.

A decades-old controversy surrounds the archdiocese’s priests and laity refusing to accept a liturgy approved by their church’s synod. The synod is the Syro-Malabar Church and the Vatican’s highest decision-making body.

“There will never be God’s blessing on illegal protest and rebellion,” Vasil said.

He prayed for forgiveness for anything on the part of “anyone who may have given any reason for any real or supposed justification for this rebellion.

“Likewise, on my knees, I also ask you to no longer participate in this sin against our Lord and the Catholic Church.

“Answer in your heart. Are you with the Holy Father?” the Vatican delegate asked.

“Do you wish to remain priests and members of the Catholic Church and of your Syro-Malabar Church?

“Or do you wish to give preference to the voice of troublemakers who lead you towards disobedience to the Holy Father, to the legitimate pastors of your Syro-Malabar Church and to the Catholic Church?”

To this end, the Vatican asked Vasil as its delegate to remove Archbishop Andrews Thazhath, the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese’s apostolic administrator.

Syro-Malabar rejects request

Traditionalists want priests to face the altar throughout the Eucharistic celebration, while modernists wanted them to face the congregation.

The Church’s synod in 1990 proposed a change to the Mass, asking priests to face the altar during the Eucharistic prayer and face the people at other times, which was seen as a comprise formula.

By November 2022, all 35 dioceses of the Church – except Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese – implemented the synod-approved Mass.

“We have informed our difficulty to engage with him any further,” said an Ernakulam-Angamaly priest who was among a five-member delegation sent to speak to Vasil.

He and his confreres handed the Vatican delegate a copy of a memorandum which said they cannot cooperate with him for such a mission.

“We hereby reiterate our loyalty to the Holy Father Pope Francis.

“But, we have reservations to put into practice the exhortation regarding the uniform mode of celebration of Mass,” the memorandum said.

“You have categorically stated that there is no room for dialogue and that you have no mandate to report our requests and concerns to the Holy Father… your language and approach are at times threatening rather than of dialogue…

“We have decided not to have any discussion or dialogue with Archbishop Vasil” as he is not ready to listen to us.”

Pope is aware

In 2021, the Synod of Bishops prepared an order of the Mass and all its rubrics. The Vatican also approved it for implementation as “the uniform mode of celebration in the entire Syro-Malabar Church,” Vasil said. That decision is not negotiable.

In 2022 Francis wrote to the priests, religious and lay faithful “renewing his request for prompt implementation” of the uniform liturgy.


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