Ernakulam- Angamaly priests ready to leave Syro-Malabar Church over Mass controversy

The demand was raised by the priests at a meeting convened by Bishop Bosco Puthur, who serves as the Apostolic Administrator of the Ernakulam–Angamaly diocese.
Ernakulam -Angamaly diocese priests meting, file photo
Ernakulam -Angamaly diocese priests meting, file photoSave Ernakulam-Angamaly Arch-diocese
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Around 400 priests of the Ernakulam Angamaly diocese have declared that either the Syro-Malabar Church should allow them to conduct mass in their preferred manner of facing the public (versus populum) by recognising it as a liturgical variant or the archdiocese should be permitted to secede from synod of bishops and form a separate Catholic church under the Pope.

The demand was raised by the priests at a presbytery meeting convened by Bishop Bosco Puthur, who serves as the Apostolic Administrator of the Ernakulam–Angamaly diocese. "This clerical meeting was convened to present a plan of action for the implementation of uniform mass celebrations in the Archdiocese when the Major Archbishop and his team visits the Vatican. However, when Bosco Puthur read the first line of Archbishop Rafael Thattil's letter, which stated he would establish a religious court and take punitive measures against the priests who refuse to celebrate the unified mass, the priests collectively expressed that it would be preferable to initiate action against the 450 priests as soon as possible," stated Fr Jose Velikkodath, spokesperson for the Archdiocese Protection Committee of the priests.

The priests are also alleging that a lobby is operating against them, and they have been filing court cases against parish vicars within the Ernakulam Angamaly diocese. In the meeting, the priests warned that parishes involved in such cases will deduct their related expenditures from the funds they are supposed to give to the diocese. The priests urged  Bishop Bosco Puthur to revise the affidavit  submitted by the apostolic administrator to close down churches in the diocese through munsiff court orders.

"Major Archbishop Mar Raphael Thattil should directly meet with the clergy and laity of the archdiocese to find a solution to the liturgical problem. The priests who participated in the meeting strongly condemned the evasion of the Major Archbishop, who succumbed to the influence of the unified mass lobby instead of opting for dialogue," the statement added.

The statement said Bishop Puthur has assured the priests that their demand to observe versus populum will be conveyed to the Vatican.

The dispute revolves around two practices of celebrating the Holy Mass— one, called ad orientem, has the priest facing eastwards towards the altar, while the other, versus populum, has the priest facing the people. In August 2021, the Syro-Malabar Synod of Bishops decreed that the ad orientem tradition be uniformly followed across all dioceses. Several sections of the church, most notably a majority of the priests of the Ernakulam-Angamaly diocese, strongly opposed this and advocated for versus populum.

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