Scores of priests of Ernakulam-Angamaly diocese have received a threat letter by post which said their hands would be chopped off unless they follow the system of uniform mass adopted by the Syro-Malabar Church in Kerala. The letters were received by rebel priests of the diocese, opposed to the holy mass facing the altar, on three days starting December 14.
The letter titled “2024 - Christmas gift’ says, “This is a gift for the rebel priests of Ernakulam - Angamaly diocese’.
“You who don't obey the Church, go get married and live by conducting holy mass facing people. Like that you can turn completely against the Church. Otherwise, in the wake of the centenary year celebration of the Syro-Malabar church, believers have decided to chop off the arms of the rebel priests and bishops,” the letter said.
The threat letter said the community of believers have done enough planning to execute the punishment during Christmas.
“We proclaim that believers don't need bishops and priests who don’t abide by the church,” said the letter which ended with a doodle of chopped palm.
Many priests have filed police complaints individually. They have now decided to file a joint complaint.
Speaking to TNM priests of the diocese said that this shows how the extreme radicalisation affected the church. “We know the incident of TJ Joseph, whose palm was chopped off by Muslim radicals. This threat is of similar grade, that extreme radicals are growing within the church,” a senior priest said.
Another priest said that there is a clear conspiracy behind it, “It is not just a random threat letter. Police have taken it seriously,” he said.
For more than three decades members of the Syro-Malabar Church had been divided over the manner in which the Holy Mass is to be celebrated. While historically the Church followed the style of mass known as versus populum (facing the people), others are for ad orientem (facing the altar). A compromise was mooted in 1999 of celebrating holy mass versus populum during Liturgy of the Word and facing the altar during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Recently, Cardinal Mar George Alenchery, thes erving head of the Church, who had been facing several allegations including corruption had stepped down from the post after Pope Francis accepted his resignation. In a video message the Pope urged the Church to implement the uniform mass code and advised against confrontation.