India: Syro-Malabar Church Asks Pope to Appoint a Delegate

Source: FSSPX News

Synod of the Syro-Malabar Church, presided over by Cardinal George Alencherry

At the end of the meeting of bishops, Cardinal Alencherry announced the request made to the Sovereign Pontiff for the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly, which has rejected the “unified” rite for the celebration of Mass. In the meantime, the local basilica, which has been closed for more than 200 days, will be reopened, but the Mass can only take place according to the form of the rite established by the Synod.

The Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabars, Cardinal George Alencherry, in a circular issued at the end of the special Synod held in recent days, said that the bishops have requested the appointment of a papal delegate to the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly.

This great diocese has long been at the center of a major dispute that has divided this Indian Catholic Church. The dispute arises from the compromise on the unique form of the celebration of the ‘Holy Qurbana,’ the local traditional Mass, decided by the Syro-Malabar Synod in the summer of 2021, in response to Pope Francis’s repeated calls call for unity.

Cardinal Alencherry's note explains that the task of the delegate would be to promote true synodality, understood as “walking together with the people of God.” The Synod insisted that the unified form service will be implemented and that opposition from any diocese will not influence this decision.

The crux of the liturgical dispute is the orientation of the priest during the celebration. In the “uniform” or “unified” liturgy – a compromise between the different practices previously used – foresees that in the first part of the celebration and in the liturgy of the Word, the priest is turned towards the faithful, then turns towards the altar (in the direction in which the faithful also look) during the central part, that of the consecration and the Eucharistic prayers.

Finally, in the concluding part, after communion, the celebrant turns around again to look towards the assembly. This solution – in force since the start of Advent 2021 – has been strongly opposed by the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly, whose clergy, supported by the faithful, have so far refused to apply it.

“Representatives of the Synod held discussions at various levels,” writes Bishop Alencherry. “We urge the Holy Father to create a situation in which more productive discussions can be held.”

To this end, the prelate urges the Pontiff “to allow a papal delegate for the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese” in order to “correct anti-Church stands and explain the necessity of synodality. The Holy Father has given assurances that he will consider this.”

“The Synod does not intend to divide the archdiocese or change its geographical boundaries. Instead, it intends to appoint an archbishop with independent governing powers.” For this reason, it “has urged the Holy See to make arrangements to this effect.”

Meanwhile, the Synod decided to reopen the Basilica of Ernakulam, which was ordered closed for 202 days due to the ongoing dispute. The decision was taken during a discussion held on Wednesday during a meeting of the episcopal committee appointed by the Syro-Malabar Synod and representatives of the basilica.

The synod announced that there would be no Eucharistic celebration in the basilica until the unified liturgy decided by the Synod is implemented. No other rite or form will be allowed. Vicar Mon said the Holy Qurbana can only be celebrated according to the form of the rite approved by the Synod. Otherwise, the basilica will be closed again. This decision was greeted by protests in front of the church.