Uniform mass: crisis in the Catholic Church of Kerala over a directive

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The KERALA-based Syro-Malabar Catholic Church has plunged into a crisis over the implementation of a uniform method of offering Mass, the main worship procedure in the Christian world.

Bishops and priests from several dioceses in Kerala and elsewhere in the country spoke out on Saturday against the directive of the head of the Church, Cardinal George Alencherry, to apply the uniform code of mass from November 28.

For several decades, the dioceses of the Syro-Malabar Church have followed different modes of celebration of Mass. While a section of priests offers Mass in front of the people, another faces it at the altar. In some other dioceses, the Church follows a mixture of the two.
Bishops and priests were divided over the conduct of Mass.

In accordance with the uniform method of offering the Mass, priests and bishops throughout the Church in all dioceses are to perform the ritual facing the altar throughout the service.

After several rounds of deliberation, in July of this year, Pope Francis approved the uniform mode of Mass offering and called on the Catholic Church in Kerala to implement it as soon as possible.

However, in a serious setback for Alencherry, who was mired in shady land deals in the past, his subordinate and Archbishop of Ernakulam Antony Kariyil issued a directive to the priests and people of his diocese that the status quo (face to the people) will continue as far as offering Mass. Kariyil also claimed he had Vatican consent to issue such a directive.

The clash between Alencherry and Kariyil reached a flashpoint after the former claimed that there was no such directive from Rome to Kariyil. Kariyil subsequently published the Vatican letter, embarrassing Alencherry. In Thrissur, Archbishop Andrews Thazhath was gheraoed by a section of priests and laity on Saturday evening demanding that the uniform mode not be implemented.

Church sources said the issue would spark protests on Sunday in many dioceses where priests are unwilling to follow Church direction. Previously there was a division between the bishops of the Catholic Church on liturgical matters.


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