03/19/2022, 12.57
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Syro-Malabars, laymen burn dummies of two cardinals over liturgy dispute

by Nirmala Carvalho

The gesture against Major Archbishop Alencherry and Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches Sandri in the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly, which does not want to accept the Synod's decision on the "unified" rite of the Holy Qurbana. Just a month ago Pope Francis warned about "liturgical disputes that play into the hands of those who are masters of division."



Kochi (AsiaNews) - A group of Syro-Malabar laity publicly burned in Ernakulam in Kerala two mannequins with images of Cardinals George Alencherry, senior archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches. The gesture - which is causing dismay in this Indian Catholic community with very ancient roots - is yet another black page in the clash that has been going on for years over the issue of the "unified" liturgy, which divides bishops, clergy and faithful.

Last August, the Syro-Malabar Synod established Easter 2022 as the deadline by which a uniform way of celebrating the Holy Qurbana, the Eucharistic liturgy of this Eastern rite, should come into force in all 35 dioceses. A compromise solution with respect to the three different rites in use: it provides that in the first part of the celebration and in the liturgy of the Word the priest turns towards the faithful, and then turns towards the altar ("in the direction in which the faithful also look") in the central part, that of the consecration and the Eucharistic rites. This choice, however, is encountering strong resistance among those communities where - for 50 years now - the Holy Qurbana is celebrated entirely with the priest facing the faithful.

In particular, the archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly, led by the metropolitan vicar Antony Kariyil, has so far allowed communities to continue with the usual form, appealing to Rome. In a letter by Cardinal Sandri, circulated by Major Archbishop Alencherry on March 11, however, the Congregation for the Eastern Churches reiterated that the decision of the Synod "should be considered as law everywhere in the world" and therefore it is necessary to continue with the implementation of the "unified" liturgy.

The burning of the mannequins with the faces of the cardinals took place on March 17 just as 316 priests of the archdiocese were gathered at the Kaloor Renewal Centre. The clergy voted on a motion asking Archbishop Kariyil not to withdraw the exception granted on the issue of the "unified" rite anyway. In the meantime, a group of faithful who call themselves Almaya Munnettam (the "front of the laity") started a clamorous protest outside the building where the meeting was in progress, calling for a boycott of Cardinal Alencherry.

The Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly has distanced itself from the gesture: "These forms of protest - said the spokesman Fr. Mathew Kilukkan - are not Christian. The archdiocese wants a solution through dialogue. For his part, the secretary of the media commission of the Syro-Malabar Church, Fr. Alex Onampally said: "The anger and protest that these acts have caused in the faithful should open the eyes of the rebellious faction.

Just last month, addressing the plenary assembly of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Pope Francis himself had implicitly referred to this long-running clash in India, saying, "The world needs the witness of communion: if we give scandal with liturgical disputes - and unfortunately there have been some recently -, we play into the hands of him who is the master of division."

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