Monday, June 10, 2024

Syro Malabar Church issues ultimatum to dissenting priests: Follow unified holy mass or face expulsion

The Syro Malabar Church on Monday issued an ultimatum to the dissenting priests of the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese to follow the Mass facing the altar during the Eucharist prayer from July 1 or face expulsion from the catholic church, in a move to end its deadlock over the uniform Holy Mass issue in the archdiocese.

The strongly worded circular jointly issued by the Major Archbishop Mar Raphael Thattil and Apostolic Administrator of the archdiocese Mar Bosco Puthur on Monday comes ahead of the meeting of synod, the highest-decision making body, of the Syro-Malabar Church, on June 14 in Kochi.
"We are officially notifying that those who don't abide by this final diktat regarding the offering of the Unified Holy Mass and continue to offer any type of Mass other than the one directed by the synod even after July 3, will be considered as having been ousted from the Catholic Church," said Mar Thattil and Mar Puthur. These dissident priests who refuse to offer Unified Holy mass will be barred, with no more further explanations, from undertaking priestly duties, said the circular. The circular said that this decision would apply to all priests celebrating Holy Qurbana in the Syro Malabar Church.

Despite the Syro-Malabar Synod of Bishops decree that the ad orientem tradition be uniformly followed across all dioceses in August 2021, around 400 priests and lay people in the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese has been refusing to follow the synod-approved Mass that requires celebrants to face the altar during the Eucharist prayer. All other archdioceses of the Syro-Malabar Church have been following the uniform Mass with the exception of some churches in the Archdiocese of Trichur.

The circular also directed the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese priests who have been posted in other dioceses or gone for higher studies to submit a written undertaking to the Apostolic Administrator before July 3 that they will abide by the Synod decisions. "Those who fail to submit the undertaking within the stipulated time will be barred from engaging in priestly duties," said the circular. The higher authorities of the institutions where they are working will be notified for further actions against them, added the circular.

The circular also urged the laity to not attend any form of Holy Mass other than the Unified Holy Mass. "The laity needs to not attend any such Mass conducted by the priests dissenting Unified Holy Mass," said the circular. The circular also cautioned the laity that if they do attend the mass offered by the barred priests, then the Sunday debt won't be deemed redeemed.

Also, the ritual like marriage conducted by these barred priests will be considered null and void, said the circular. "No priest will be eligible to engage in the administration of the parishes or church institutions without the approval of the diocese bishop," said the circular. Only those seminarians and deacons of Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese who give a written statement that they will abide by the Synod decisions regarding the Holy Mass will be allowed to get anointed as deacons or priests," pointed out the circular.

Mar Thattil and Mar Puthur lauded the efforts taken by the priests and laity who have been steadfastly standing by the Synod's decisions.    

The circular also urged the laity and the faithful not be ousted from the Catholic church after being influenced by a handful of dissident priests and those with vested interests.

Highlighting the decisions, the Major Archbishop and the Apostolic Administrator said, "There is no change in the decision to implement the Unified Holy Mass, that was arrived at by the Synod of the Syro Malabar Church and as decreed by the Pope through various letters and even a video message, in all the dioceses of the Church. As per the Unified Holy Mass, the first half of the Mass will be conducted facing the laity followed by the Anaphora ritual that will be conducted facing the altar. The ritual of receiving the Holy Qurbana until the end of the mass will be conducted facing the laity."  

The circular said cryptically that any disobedience to the decree of the Pope and also the Bishop's Synod would pave the way for schism and hence face ouster from the Catholic Church. "As the Pope said, 'where there is obedience there is the church and where there is disobedience schism develops'," said the circular.