Row over uniform code for Mass rages

Reading of pastoral letter prevented at several parishes, copies also burnt

The controversy over the way the Mass is celebrated in the Catholic Syrian Church took a new turn on Sunday with groups of parishioners at several parishes, including at Holy Family Parish Church at Prasannapuram, near Aluva, preventing the reading of a pastoral letter from Cardinal George Alencherry, Major Archbishop of the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese and head of the Syro-Malabar Church, and burning copies of the letter.

The pastoral letter contained a directive from the synod of the Syro-Malabar Church advising priests and parishioners on celebrating the Mass in a uniform way. The uniform way involves celebrating the Mass with the celebrant (priest) facing the congregation during one half and facing the tabernacle (holy of holies and away from the congregation) during the other half.

Priests, parishioners, and the faithful from the Ernakulam-Angamaly, Irinjalakuda, and Thrissur dioceses are among those who have opposed this instruction stridently.

These dioceses are among the ones that have been following a system of celebrating the Mass in which the priest faces the people for the entire duration of rituals. A delegation of more than 500 priests from the three dioceses had submitted a petition to the Syrian Church authorities not to impose the uniform system of celebrating the Mass.

Riju Kanjookkaran of Almaya Munnettam, a combine of lay people, the religious, and priests calling for more transparency in the church administration, said 16 parishes had appealed to keep the synod decision on uniform Mass celebration in abeyance.

“We have been celebrating the Mass for more than half-a-century facing the people and it will be against the will of the parishioners to impose another system,” said a senior priest of the Syro-Malabar Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly.

He said those who opposed the new directive from the synod had gone in appeal before Pope Francis. Until a decision was taken by Rome, the system would remain suspended and the Mass celebrated as earlier.

A priests’ delegation from the Ernakulam-Angamaly and Thrissur archdioceses and the Irinjalakuda diocese had appealed to maintain status quo with regard to the celebration of the Mass.

The group also claimed that archdiocesan administrator Archbishop Antony Kariyil had assured them that, in consultation with the bishops, the decision to implement a uniform code for the Mass would be re-examined.

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