HomePoliticsProtests have taken place in Kerala Churches

Protests have taken place in Kerala Churches

This Sunday, in a few churches in Kerala, protests erupted over the implementation of uniform holy mass. The cases came forward from a few churches under the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdioceses of the Syro-Malabar Church. This issue has been developing within the churches for two years.

A few Churches in Kerala, like St. Thomas Kattakkavu Forane Church, and St. Joseph’s Church in Kokkunnu, Holy Cross Church in Manjapra, faced resistance by priests and laity to the official Synod-approved mass celebration yesterday, September 20. The mass was abandoned, fearing the violence.

The rector at the principal church of the archdiocese, St. Mary’s Basilica, in Ernakulam, did not participate in the uniform mass, finding a furious and sizable gathering of laymen to protest it.

“Those opposing [unified mass] want to create violence. Because if I come [to perform], they will block me, which will be broadcasted on media and then propagat around the world as if everyone here opposes the unified mass. I don’t want to be a victim of such actions.” said the rector, Fr. Antony Poothaveli.

He added, “I don’t desire to be the reason for any kind of violence or conflict between people. Mass should be conducted in a peaceful environment. When such a situation currently doesn’t exist my dharma is to act wisely. Therefore, I didn’t offer the mass pray today . Until we get clear direction from the higher authorities, there won’t be mass in our churches.”

Whereas, one of the a core-committee members of the lay people’s group (namely Almaya Munnettam), Bobby John, who opposed the uniform mass, said  “After the second Vatican Council, the then Pope and council member had decided that the mass should be conducted in such a way  where the priest faces the people, only then will the mass be holy and complete.  It was also recommended that the mass be conducted in the local language of the parishes so that the message of God is conveyed to the people. Till then, within the Syro-Malabar church, the mass used to be conducted in Syrian, Mar Joseph Parecattil, the then Archbishop of the diocese, had stood infirm support of it.”

“Suddenly, out of nowhere, during the Covid period, in the Changanassery archdiocese, a few priests began conducting the mass facing the altar without any kind of consensus or approval from the Synod. That’s when the problem began. This style of performing mass is being slapped on us without consensus,” he added.John even added that out of 472 priests, 462 have signed the protest resolution against the uniform mass within the archdiocese. 

Reasons for the Kerala Protest

In this way of offering holy mass, approved by the Syro-Malabar Church in August 2021, the priests had to face the congregation in the introduction and the conclusion of the mass. And at the time of consecration, the priest had to face the altar. This caused a large section of priests and laity in the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese to oppose this style of performing mass. Though 34 out of the 35 archeparchies of the churches have adopted it, except the Ernakulam-Angamaly.

The agitation among the protesting priests and laity was fueled when the Pontifical Delegate, Archbishop Cyril Vasil, instructed all parishes under the archdiocese to practice the Synod-approved mass from August 20. His letter said any disobedience to this order would be considered “voluntary, personal, and culpable disobedience to the Holy Father.” He also added, “I hereby warn you that any negligence to fulfill this order will invite canonical punishment as prescribed in the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.” And said that the parish councils can hold the mass in case there are threats of intimidation or violation until the situation is conducive again. He was ordered by Vasil to resolve the growing dispute in Kerala. 

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