Liturgy argument sparks protest and violence

Efforts to introduce a new liturgy are being met with protests and violence in Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese in Kerala State, India.

Instructions from the Syro-Malabar Church head, Major Archbishop Raphael Thattil, and from the archdiocesan administrator Bosco Puthur, were supposed to be read at Masses last week.

The synod required that Mass be celebrated facing the people during the Liturgy of the Word and facing the altar during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Priests were warned in writing they would be excommunicated if they were to conduct any Mass other than in the synodal form after 3 July. Nor would parishioners attending such a Mass fulfil the Sunday obligation.

Defying the warning, clergy and parishioners from 321 churches in the archdiocese refused to do so.

They say they intend to stick to the full people-facing Mass even after the deadline.

Protests and verbal assaults

Protesters have set the archbishop’s instructions on fire, thrown them into water and binned them.

At the Udayamperoor synodal church, some of the laity started an argument over the Archbishop’s instructions during Mass..

Churchgoers reportedly pushed and shoved at each other over the issue.

Police had to intervene (see image) to maintain law and order.

Why defy the instructions

Clergy refused to read the instructions because they said facing the people throughout the celebration of the Mass represented their local tradition. It is also more in keeping with the liturgical teachings of the Second Vatican Council, they argued.

Over 450 priests and every parish committee in the archdiocese have stated multiple times before the Synod and the Vatican that they will offer mass only where the priest faces the congregation throughout the ritual. So says a “Lay People to the Fore” protest group spokesman.

“But the Church leadership has never considered the stand of the diocese or intervened to find a solution and instead has always tried to impose its agenda.”

Abominable clericalism

One priest wrote to all the bishops in India.

“Archbishop Andrews Thazhath misused his power as the Apostolic Administrator and has obviously misguided and misinformed Pope Francis on the liturgical issues of the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly.

“His unethical acts and reports have snowballed for the worse, which significantly is a minor issue of a rubric to a serious issue of ecclesial communion.

“This is, to say the least, utterly un-Christian and against the basic Gospel principles.”

It was “abominable” he says.

Another priest says Thazhath was once the strongest proponent of the Mass versus populum (facing the people), “while now he has shamelessly backtracked by contending that the narrative and the theology is erroneous”.

“One cannot miss the cruel, irresponsible and wild allegations … in the latest circular … which has pronouncedly condemned the people of the Archdiocese to be eternal victims of hierarchal apathy and highhandedness.”



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