The issue began in late August when the Synod of the Syro Malabar Catholic Church decided to implement a uniform way of celebrating holy mass from November 2021.

Church holy mass file photo
news Church Monday, September 06, 2021 - 19:08

For the past several days, a group of churchgoers and priests belonging to the Syrian Catholic Church in Kerala have been squabbling over whether the priest should face the congregation or the altar while conducting the mass. The issue began in late August when the Synod of the Syro Malabar Catholic Church decided to implement a uniform way of celebrating holy mass from November 2021.

As per the uniform format, the priest would celebrate the mass facing the devotees in the introductory part, the Liturgy of the Word (three readings of the Bible), and during the concluding blessing part. During most part of the holy communion (the Liturgy of the Eucharist), the priest would face the altar. Some churches in Kerala are already following this format while others are not. Believers of the Angamaly-Ernakulam and the Thrissur archdioceses, which have not been following this practice, have objected to the new decision. The priests belonging to these dioceses, too, are divided over this.

Some even went to the extent of protesting outside the Angamaly-Ernakulam diocese, holding placards, a week ago. On Sunday, September 5, a group of churchgoers at the Holy Family parish church at Prasannapuram, near Aluva in Ernakulam district, protested by preventing Cardinal George Alencherry — Major Archbishop of the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese and head of the Syro-Malabar Church — from reading the circular that directed all churches to follow the uniform pattern of mass performance.

The protesters claimed that devotees and priests from 16 parishes under the two dioceses have expressed their dissent to the new pattern of mass celebration. "For the last 50 years, we have been following our practice. Now without considering the sentiments of the believers they have brought this change. We have also appealed to the Pope," a priest from one of the parishes told TNM.

According to the priest, around 500 priests from these dioceses have submitted a petition to rethink the decision by the synod. However, many other priests in the church are not happy with the protests.

The senior leaders of the church have informed that they were executing the Pope's instruction to implement uniform liturgy. According to them, in July this year, Pope Francis had urged all churches to agree on a unified mass celebration.

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