Wednesday 24 April 2024

Opponents of liturgical reform bring church split into play

Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly

In the dispute over the form of the liturgy, opponents of the liturgical reform are calling for a split in the Syro-Malabar Church. 

According to Indian media reports, a convention of over 300 priests from the Ernakulam-Angamaly Grand Archdiocese convened by Apostolic Administrator Bosco Puthur on Friday was unable to defuse the dispute over the direction of the celebration. 

"If the synod is not willing to give our mass the status of a variant liturgy or allow us to continue it, the better way seems to be to be associated with the Vatican as an independent church," a spokesperson for the opponents told UCANews told UCANews on Monday

In this way, the separation of the church would not be linked to a schism, but instead the archdiocese would be elevated to a church of its own right linked to Rome.

The demand for the separation of the archdiocese was raised after Puthur made it clear that the synod would not move away from the standardised form of the liturgy it had decided on. 

The threat of disciplinary action at the meeting against priests who refuse to celebrate the uniform form could not dissuade opponents from their protest. 

The standardised form requires the priest to face the consecration ad orientem, i.e. with his back to the people. The opponents of the liturgical reform want a continuous celebration versus populum, i.e. facing the people. 

According to the protesting priests, a change to the liturgy that has been established for 50 years would not be accepted in their parishes.

St Thomas' Christians already divided into many communities

The liturgy dispute has divided the Syro-Malabar Church for decades and has escalated even further since the 2021 synod decision. 

In December, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Grand Archbishop George Alencherry and the Apostolic Administrator of the Grand Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly. 

At the same time he published a video message to the faithful urging them not to leave communion with the Church and to adopt the unified liturgy. 

In January, the synod of the Syro-Malabar Church elected Raphael Thattil as the new Grand Archbishop

The election was accompanied by the hope for a pacification of the conflict. conflict. 

In response to an Synod's appeal for unity the opponents of the unified liturgy reacted negatively. The Grand Archdiocese continues to be led by an Apostolic Administrator.

The Syro-Malabar Church in south-west India is the largest of today's churches and communities of the Thoma Christianswhich is said to have been founded in the 1st century by the Apostle Thomas on his missionary journeys. 

Through links with the Assyrian Church of the East, it celebrates its liturgy in the East Syriac rite. 

In the course of Portuguese colonisation, the Thomas Christians were forced to adopt Western forms and hierarchies and broke up into several churches. 

There are already two Catholic churches of the Thoma Christians: in addition to the Syro-Malabars, there is the smaller Syro-Malankar Church, which celebrates its liturgy in the West Syrian rite.