08/18/2023, 14.41
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Syro-Malabar: canonical sanctions for priests who will not celebrate with the 'unified rite'

by Nirmala Carvalho

Ultimatum of the papal delegate Msgr. Vasil for next Sunday in the standoff that for two years has pitted the clergy of the archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly against the rest of this ancient Eastern rite Church of Kerala. But in the meantime a group of faithful has asked the Indian authorities for his expulsion,  dangerously shouting against "foreign interference".

Kochi (AsiaNews) - The priests of the archieparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly will have to celebrate Holy Qurbana next Sunday according to the "unified rite" established two years ago by the Syro-Malabar Synod, otherwise they will face canonical sanctions.

This was written in a letter sent to all the clergy of the "rebel" diocese by the Slovak archbishop Cyril Vasil, appointed by Pope Francis to resolve the crisis.

After being able to enter the basilica of Santa Maria only escorted by the police and the harsh warning in the homily of the solemnity of the Assumption, an ultimatum has now arrived in the harsh stand-off  that is shaking the Christian community of Kerala.

Any failure to adhere - reads the letter from Msgr. Vasil - will be considered "voluntary, personal and guilty disobedience towards the Holy Father" and "will inevitably lead to further disciplinary actions".

The papal delegate adds that if any individual Syro-Malabar priest finds it difficult to celebrate the Eucharistic liturgy according to the synodal decision due to intimidation or threats of physical violence, he is not required to conduct any public celebration until a favorable situation occurs.

Vasil also requests that Pope Francis' letter of March 2022 - a document in which the pontiff urged everyone to adhere to the "unified liturgy" approved by the Syro-Malabar Synod the previous summer - be read on August 20 in all parish churches, branch churches and all other institutions of the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly where the Sunday Qurbana is celebrated.

Once this order has been carried out, the priests will have to send a letter to the chancellor of the archiepiscopal Curia of the diocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly to confirm the reading, which must be attested by the parish priest, any assistant parish priest and other representatives of the parish council.

"I warn you that any negligence in fulfilling this order will result in the canonical punishment foreseen by the Code of Canon Law of the Eastern Churches", continues the letter in which the pontifical delegate urges priests to reflect seriously on the commitment of obedience undertaken to the time of their order.

In canon 1438, the Code of Canon Law of the Eastern Churches provides that whoever deliberately omits the proclamation of communion with the pontiff, the major archbishop and his own bishop in the rite of celebrating the Eucharist "if he does not legitimately recede when admonished, shall be punished with an adequate penalty not excluding excommunication".

The reaction of those in the archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly who oppose the Synod's decision was not long in coming. Yesterday evening some groups of faithful protested in front of the Basilica of Santa Maria, the primatial church which has become the symbol of protest, publicly burning the letter from Msgr. Vasil.

Speaking to the UcaNews agency Fr. Kuriakose Mundadan, secretary of the archdiocese's presbyteral council, announced that local priests will not join: "The Synod has also deceived Pope Francis and now they want us to follow him, which will not be possible", he commented. “Even if priests were ready to adopt the uniform modality of the Mass, they cannot celebrate it in our churches because the vast majority of the faithful oppose it. Considering our liturgy as a variant could easily solve the problems. But the egos of some bishops in the synod have created all these problems, knowing full well that the people and priests of the archdiocese will never accept the uniform modality they rejected two decades ago."

In the meantime, the Almaya Munnetta Samiti - one of the most active groups of faithful in the protests of these two years - has even sent a petition to the President of the Indian Republic, Droupadi Murmu, to the Indian government asking for expulsion from the country as persona non grata of mgr. Cyril Vasil. The text writes that "since in India there are sufficient mechanisms to resolve, judge and decide any dispute, the external help requested of the head of an alien nation by the synod of the Syro-Malabar Church is unjustified, illegal and constitutes an act contrary to the sovereignty of our nation."

It seems unthinkable that such a solicitation would be taken up by the Indian authorities. But the attempt to bring into question the question of Indian nationalism in a context such as that of Kerala is further confirmation of how much damage this affair is causing within the Indian Catholic community.


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