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Syro-Malabar Catholic Church’s deadline to solve liturgy dispute

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Syro-Malabar Catholic Church - The Catholic weekly
Pope Francis shakes hands with Indian Archbishop Raphael Thattil, the major archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly, during a meeting with bishops, priests and faithful from the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church at the Vatican 13 May, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The crisis-ridden Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in India has set a deadline to solve its decades-old liturgy dispute.

The church based in southern Kerala state has asked all defiant priests in Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese to follow the synod-approved (or “uniform”) Mass, in which the celebrant faces the altar only during the Eucharistic prayer, on or before 4 July or face expulsion.

The church’s head, Major Archbishop Raphael Thattil, and Bishop Bosco Puthur, the archdiocese’s apostolic administrator, set the deadline in a joint pastoral letter issued 9 June. The church leaders also asked that the circular be read in all parishes 16 June.

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Except for the archdiocese, which also is the seat of power of the Syro-Malabar church, all 34 dioceses of the church in India and abroad have implemented the synod-approved Mass.

Syro-Malabar Catholics in India, especially in the church’s primary Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly, have been embroiled in a controversy for more than two decades over the celebration of the Eucharistic liturgy, which they call the Holy Qurbana: Some priests faced the altar during the entire liturgy, while others faced the congregation throughout the liturgy.

In 1999 the synod of bishops of the Syro-Malabar church issued uniform rubrics allowing the priest to face the altar during the Eucharistic prayer but face the congregation during the Liturgy of the Word and again after Communion.

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