Indian Catholics burned Saturday an archbishop’s letter instructing parishes to implement a new mode of celebrating the liturgy.
Laymen were pictured Oct. 1 setting light to the circular letter from Archbishop Andrews Thazhath outside Bishop’s House in Ernakulum, southern India.
Archbishop Thazhath, the apostolic administrator of the Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly, published the four-page letter on Sept. 30. He called on parishes to implement a decision taken by the Synod of Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church to adopt a uniform mode of celebrating the Eucharistic liturgy, known as the Holy Qurbana.
The Syro-Malabar Church is the second-largest of the 23 self-governing Eastern Catholic Churches after the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
The uniform mode was introduced in 1999 as a compromise between those who favored the Holy Qurbana celebrated ad orientem and those who preferred it celebrated versus populum. Under the “50:50 formula,” priests face the congregation during the Liturgy of the Word but turn east for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Pope Francis has endorsed the formula, which has been adopted in other Syro-Malabar dioceses. But the majority of clergy in the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese want to continue facing the people throughout the Eucharistic liturgy, a practice they have followed for the past 50 years.
“In the case of those parishes that face difficulties in implementing the unitary mode of Holy Mass, an application seeking the dispensation, to educate the laity about the synodal decision on the Sacred Liturgy, can be submitted to the apostolic administrator or the archeparchy office,” Archbishop Thazhath wrote in the circular letter, according to the New Indian Express newspaper.
“However, even if the parishes get a dispensation, they have to ensure that whenever the bishops arrive they are offered the facility to conduct the unified Holy Mass since the synodal decision has been strictly followed by them.”
In his message to parishes, Archbishop Thazhath cited a Sept. 20 letter from Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Eastern Churches.
Cardinal Sandri said that parishes in the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese had inundated the Vatican with requests for the celebration of the Holy Qurbana facing the people to be recognized as a “liturgical variant.”
But he declared that the possibility was “excluded” and the uniform mode should be introduced “without further delays.”
Archbishop Thazhath has asked for his circular letter to be read out in churches on Oct. 9. The day could prove to be another flashpoint in the archdiocese, which has witnessed street brawls, hunger strikes, and the burning of cardinals’ effigies over the uniform liturgy.
The Hindu newspaper reported that supporters of the Holy Qurbana facing the people plan to burn copies of the circular letter at churches next Sunday.
On Oct. 2, hundreds of members of the archdiocese met at a pastoral center in Kochi to express their opposition to the uniform liturgy.
Archbishop Thazath was appointed apostolic administrator on July 30, following the resignation of Archbishop Antony Kariyil, who had dispensed clergy in the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese from adopting the 50:50 formula.
Archbishop Kariyil published a six-page open letter, in which he said that he was instructed to submit his resignation as archiepiscopal vicar of Ernakulam-Angamaly within 24 hours or face removal.
A reported 50,000 people attended a protest on Aug. 7 following Archbishop Kariyil’s resignation and Archbishop Thazhath’s appointment as apostolic administrator.
Archbishop Thazhath, who is the archbishop of Trichur, formed a new presbyteral council for the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese on Sept. 27.
The archbishop attended a meeting of the presbyteral council on Sept. 29 in Ernakulam, which he left with a police escort.