Syro-Malabar 'uniform' liturgy continues to divide
by Nirmala Carvalho

On the first Sunday of Advent, the new Eucharistic rite should have come into force in all Syro-Malabar dioceses. However, in the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly, Vicar Antony Kariyil chose to maintain the status quo, citing a letter from the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. Only Cardinal George Alencherry used the new formula, with the celebrant facing the altar in the middle of the service.

Kochi (AsiaNews) – The liturgy continues to divide India’s Syro-Malabar Churches. Yesterday, first Sunday of Advent, the uniform liturgy was supposed to be used to celebrate the Holy Qurbana, the local Eucharistic rite, following a decision taken at the Synod held last August. 

However, faced with strong resistance by a part of the clergy and faithful, Archbishop Antony Kariyil, the Archepiscopal Vicar of Ernakulam-Angamaly, chose to maintain the status quo.

The prelate did so by citing a letter sent from the Congregation for the Oriental Churches authorising the archbishop, as metropolitan vicar, to dispense with any decision if he believes that this could “result in grave consequences" for his community.

Cardinal George Alencherry, major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church and Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly, issued a statement on Saturday, saying that he had not received any communication from the Vatican inviting him to stop the synodal decision.

Hence, he said that he expected all the dioceses of the Syro-Malabar Church to implement from now the single liturgy, which he did during a celebration at Mount St Thomas Church.

The main stumbling block in the liturgical dispute concerns the priest’s position during the service.

The uniform liturgy – a compromise solution between different rites currently in use – provides that during the first part of the celebration and in the liturgy of the Word the priest is turned towards the faithful, and then turns towards the altar (the direction in which the faithful also look) in the middle of the service, that of consecration and Eucharistic rites.

The ceremony ends, after communion, with the celebrant looking again towards the assembly.

Some priests and faithful who currently celebrate with the priest facing the faithful have challenged this solution, viewing the uniform liturgy as a step backwards compared to the Second Vatican Council.

Some people had threatened to hold protests outside the churches on the first Sunday, something that did not happen thanks to Archbishop Kariyil’s decision.

Fr Kuriakose Mundadan, a senior priest at the major archdiocese, is among those who welcomed the decision to maintain the status quo for the time being.

This week, he said, the archepiscopal vicar of Ernakulam-Angamaly met with Pope Francis and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. 

In the letter to Archbishop Kariyil, Cardinal Sandri suggests that, at the next meeting already scheduled for January 2022, the prelate explain to the major archbishop and the synod the difficulties that the application of the decision would entail.