Protest priests threatened with excommunication

Grand archbishop sets ultimatum in liturgy dispute

Ernakulam - A liturgy dispute has been raging in the Syro-Malabar Church in India for years and there is no end in sight. Grand Archbishop Raphael Thattil is now threatening to excommunicate priests who oppose the new liturgy.

Published  on 11.06.2024 at 11:51  – 

In the liturgy dispute in the Syro-Malabar Church in India, Grand Archbishop Raphael Thattil and Bishop Bosco Puthur have issued an ultimatum to opponents of the liturgical compromise agreed by the synod. Priests who do not face the altar during the celebration of the second part of the Holy Mass, the Eucharist, from 4 July onwards must fear excommunication, according to a pastoral letter from the Grand Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly published on Sunday. The letter, signed by Grand Archbishop Thattil and the Apostolic Administrator of the Grand Archdiocese of Puthur, is to be read out next Sunday in all parishes of the Grand Archdiocese.

The pastoral letter also calls on all deacons and seminarians to sign a declaration in which they undertake to celebrate the divine service in accordance with the current guidelines. Those who refuse to do so must expect not to be ordained. Lay people who attend a mass from 4 July onwards that is not celebrated according to the liturgy decided by the synod would not be fulfilling their Sunday duty. However, the protest movement against the liturgical compromise announced that it would not honour the ultimatum. "I make it very clear that we will not accept the mass decided by the synod," Riju Kanjookaran told the news agency "UCA News" on Monday. Kanjookaran is the spokesman for the Archdiocesan Movement for Transparency, which was founded by opponents of the new liturgical rules.

Special synod meets on 14 June

The ultimatum is a unilateral decision by Thattil and Puthur, which was not made with other priests or representatives of the laity, said the spokesman for the protest movement. "Therefore, no one is bound by the document." In view of the special synod of the Syro-Malabar Church scheduled for 14 June to resolve the dispute, the publication of the pastoral letter is questionable. "It clearly shows that the synod does not want to listen to either priests or laity. It is only interested in imposing its own opinion."

The liturgy dispute has divided the Syro-Malabar Church for decades and has escalated even further since the synod's decision in 2021 to introduce a standardised liturgy. Opponents of the liturgical reform want a continuous celebration versus populum, i.e. facing the people. The standardised form is a compromise solution and provides for the liturgy of the word to be celebrated facing the people and the Eucharistic service to be celebrated facing the altar.

According to the protesting priests, a change to the liturgy that has been established for 50 years would not be accepted in their parishes. Opponents of the liturgical reform have recently even proposed separating the Ernakulam-Angamaly Major Archdiocese from the rest of the Syro-Malabar Church and establishing it as a new church under its own law, affiliated with Rome. The liturgical reform has already been accepted in the 34 other dioceses of the Church. (rom)