Syro-Malabar Rite

The Syro-Malabar rite is suffering it’s own problems. In this case, the Holy See is siding with those who support the traditional practice of Mass facing the altar]

Kerala church now divided over how to say Mass – (on-line news from India)

D Jose in Thiruvananthapuram

The Nazrani Catholic Priests’ Conference and the Liturgical Action Committee have rejected the decision of the Syro-Malabar Bishops’ Synod, the highest decision-making body of the Church, to introduce a uniform Mass format in the 21 dioceses spread throughout India.

A joint meeting of the two organisations held at Kochi today has called on the priests standing for Indianisation of liturgy to defy the Synod’s decree and celebrate Holy Mass in the form they have been demanding for the last two decades.

They prefer celebrating the Holy Mass facing the people.

A resolution passed at the meeting said the Synod decision to introduce a mixture of three forms prevailing in the Church at present from July 3, 2000 was an attempt at compromise. “Matters related to faith cannot be compromised”, the resolution said, and added that the Mass form recommended by the Synod was not up to the spiritual aspirations of a majority of the faithful.

The liturgy adopted by the Synod is one in which the priest would face the people till half of the Mass and the altar for the rest.

This form, along with the other two forms of celebrating the Mass facing the people and facing the altar till the end, are in vogue in the Church now. The different factions were allowed to select the form of their choice following a dispute in 1989.

The bishops had then promised to bring out a Mass form acceptable to all the factions within the next five years. However, the bishops failed to keep their word, plunging the church in unrest.

The Liturgical Action Committee, which subsequently came into being, has been agitating since then for a uniform Mass form acceptable to all.

The rebels had taken up the issue at higher forums, including with the Vatican. The rebels said they had not received justice from the Holy See as the Congregation of Oriental Churches in Rome sided with the faction clamouring for the Mass form facing the altar. This forced the rebels to run a campaign against the Oriental Congregation, much to the displeasure of the Pope.

The rebels had made an open appeal to the Pope during his recent visit to India demanding freedom from Oriental Congregation, which they alleged was trying to enslave the Syro-Malabar Church under the Chaldean (East Syrian) patriarchy. LAC vice-president Fr Jose Vayalikkodan said the unified Mass form being imposed on the priests and the faithful was a betrayal by the bishops.

“They have cheated us”, he charged Fr Vayalikkodan told that the new form was not acceptable to the priests’ conference and the LAC since they view it as part of a conspiracy to impose Chaldean rituals.

“If we allow the introduction of the unified mass, they would force the other Chaldean liturgical forms on us”.

He alleged that the bid was part of a move to keep the Syro-Malabar Church under the Oriental Congregation. The ties between the Persian (oriental) and the Indian churches were severed even before the Oriental Congregation was established in 1917.

Vatican had notified it in 1897 and had made it clear that any attempt from any quarters to restore the ties between the two would be treated as insubordination and revolt against the Holy See. ”

Despite this, the Oriental Congregation has been trying to impose Persian control on the Indian church”, Fr Jose said. The defiant stand taken by the priests’ conference and the LAC on the liturgy adds to the discomfiture of the Church on account of a legal battle questioning the relevance of religious courts.