Syro-Malabars: those who do not follow the ‘unified rite’ out of church from 3 July
by Nirmala Carvalho

A new ultimatum to the rebels by Major Archbishop Thattil and the apostolic administrator of the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese. The date chosen is that of the feast of the Apostle Thomas, to whose descendants Syriac-rite Christians refer. The harsh retort by Almaya Munnettam, the group that most vehemently rejects the liturgical solution adopted by the local Synod in 2021: copies of the circular were burnt in front of the bishop's csa.

Kochi (AsiaNews) - A new ultimatum in the dispute over the liturgy that has deeply divided the Syro-Malabar Church for years now. But also a new refusal by organised groups of priests and laity who in the archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly refuse to adopt the ‘unified rite’ in the celebration of the Eucharist. Despite the replacement of the senior archbishop and the call for unity reiterated a few weeks ago by Pope Francis, there is a new clash in this ancient Indian Eastern Rite Church.

The Major Archbishop Raphael Thattil and the Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly Bosco Puthur have ordered members of the archdiocese and priests to follow the unified Mass system as of 3 July 2024, the date on which the feast of St Thomas, from whom Catholics of Syriac tradition all over the world claim descent, is celebrated. Disregarding the circular and not adhering to the unified liturgy recommended by the local synod,’ the two clergymen warn, ’would be tantamount to defying the pope, leading to a schism. The circular states that the rite in force since 28 November 2021 in the Syro-Malabar Church - and which, in a compromise solution between two different celebratory forms, envisages the celebrant turning towards the altar only during the Eucharistic prayer - must also be adopted from 3 July in the archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly, which has always rejected it until now, arguing that it is necessary for the priest to turn towards the assembly during the entire rite.

From that day,' Archbishop Thattil and Mgr Puthur write, ’priests who disobey will be considered out of communion with the Catholic Church. Without any other warning, therefore, they will be forbidden to perform priestly functions in the Syro-Malabar Church. Priests who are outside the archdiocese for reasons of service or study are also asked to submit a written statement to the apostolic administrator by 3 July in which they express their willingness to adhere to the ‘unified rite’. The bishops also expressly ask the lay faithful not to participate in ‘liturgies celebrated in contrast with the unified rite’ and declare that even marriages blessed by priests no longer in communion with the rest of the Syro-Malabar Church will not be considered valid.

The new ultimatum has already been rejected at sender by Almaya Munnettam, the lay association of the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese that most vehemently opposes the unified rite. The group declares its intention to prevent the reading of the circular in parishes, which Archbishop Thattil requested for 16 June. The group also burnt some copies of the text in front of the bishop's house. For spokesman Riju Kanjookkaran, ‘no attempt to impose a decision on the Mass issue will be accepted, since the archdiocesan synod will meet here on 14 June to discuss it’. The rebel group has also threatened to only mention the pope's name in prayers during the liturgy after 3 July, if the synod insists on implementing the unified rite.