Friday, June 07, 2024

Grand Archbishop wants to settle liturgy dispute with special synod

The Syro-Malabar Grand Archbishop Raphael Thatill has convened a special meeting of his church's synod to discuss the dispute over the form of the liturgy. 

The bishops were informed yesterday by Thatill about the convening of the synod on 14 June, the Syro-Malabar Church announced on Tuesday. 

The only topic of the meeting, which is scheduled to last two hours, will be "issues related to the implementation of the Unified Holy Mass in the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese". 

There have been protests in the archdiocese for years, some of them violent, against the form of liturgy adopted by the synod. 

The Eastern Catholic Church did not provide any further information on the planned consultations.

Despite the protests Thatill recently expressed optimismthat the dispute over the liturgy of the Syro-Malabar Church can be resolved through amicable talks and friendly rapprochement between the parties to the dispute. 

The controversy had been exaggerated, especially in the media, he said in an interview a fortnight ago. The conflicts had arisen from a mixture of egotism and emotions, but were limited: "We have 35 dioceses and no one mentions that 34 dioceses have followed this decision. There are a few difficulties with the implementation in the archdiocese of Ernakulam, the largest diocese and the most important city in Kerala."

Synod is the highest decision-making body

Unlike the Western Church, the Eastern Catholic Churches are generally not led by their supreme bishop alone, but by synods whose decisions are binding. 

The synod of the Syro-Malabar Church is made up of the bishops of its 35 dioceses. 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 envisages the liturgy of the word being celebrated facing the people and the Eucharistic service 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 proposed separating the Grand Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly from the rest of the Syro-Malabar Church and establishing it as a new church under its own law, linked to Rome. as a new church of its own right linked to Rome

Pope Francis has repeatedly called on the protesting faithful to give in and show obedience and communion with the Church, most recently in mid-May on the occasion of the visit of a Syro-Malabar delegation led by the Grand Archbishop to the Vatican.

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.