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Archbishop Andrews Thazhath: Be a peace-maker, not a wrecker of the Church

Marydasan John,

Former Senior Assistant Editor, The Hindu,


Archbishop Andrews Thazhath,

Apostolic Administrator of Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese

Sub: Be a peace-maker, not a wrecker of the Church

Respected Archbishop,

I pen down these lines from Switzerland where I have come on a visit for a few days.

It is pertinent to share a few thoughts based on my experience in this overwhelmingly Christian country (61 % Christians of which 33 per cent are Catholics). This piece could be of some relevance in the context of keeping the Ernakulam St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica closed for over 200 days.

In one of the Catholic parishes here (in Switzerland), there are about 6,500 members. Do you know how many of them attend Sunday Mass there. Please hold your breath for a moment …. on an average merely 200 people attend Sunday Mass; this is the number of participants taken together in three Masses -- on Saturday evening and Sunday.

This means, just 3 percent, yes 3 percent, of Catholics attend Sunday Masses. In rural areas of Switzerland, this number could go up to 7 per cent. In some Churches, I am told that one can count the number of people attending the Holy Mass in one’s fingers.

My enquiries with another friend in Germany too yielded more or less similar number of church-goers in most Catholic parishes there.

In these countries, priests plead to people to come to church, but it is not happening. The church doors are open to them, but people don’t bother to enter it.

Let me also cite my experience in the catholic churches in North India. The parish priests happily allow even non-Christians to participate in the Holy Mass. The only restriction is that they are not allowed to receive holy communion. That is the extend to which churches receive people -- with open hands, and hearts. This is what Jesus has taught us -- allow people come to God.

In the background of what I witnessed in European countries, let me point out certain self-destructive decisions taken under your imprimatur.

1. St Mary’s Cathedral Basilica in Ernakulam, where people want to attend the Holy Mass and take part in other sacraments and prayer services, is closed for over 200 days. In one part of the world, the church wants its members to attend the church services, while in another part, the bishop himself takes the lead in closing down the church. This is nothing but a sign of your megalomaniac mind. Your love is limited to yourself; you have no love either for Jesus Christ or the Church instituted by Him.

2. Your circular giving an ultimatum to the Parish Priest of the Basilica to fall in line regarding the 50:50 Mass (nowhere in the world such a Mass is celebrated. Splitting Mass in a ratio of 50:50 is unheard) is most unfortunate, unchristian, unwanted, undesired and unwelcome. The parish priest of Basilica, as I understand, is a scholar in liturgy who can give a lesson or two in this regard.

3. You have made some hair-splitting observations regarding the Parish Council quoting canon laws and ‘Particular Laws’. But you have forgotten what Second Vatican Council had said about the role of the laity in the Church. You have touched the nadir of haughtiness by threatening to take action against the parish council members who want to attend Holy Mass in Basilica; they have been participating in the same Holy Mass for several decades. Denying them that right shows your interest lies somewhere else, not in Jesus Christ and His teachings.

4. Is it not absurd that the Holy Mass which is offered in as many as 320 parish churches in the arch-diocese is not allowed to be celebrated in the Basilica. What logic is that, Archbishop? What is the reason behind this preposterous decision? What sense you make out of this non-sense? How is that a Mass which is valid in more than 300 churches becomes invalid and forbidden in the Basilica? What crime has been committed by the parishioners of the Basilica so that you have closed down their church? Closing the door of a church on the faithful is an affront to their right to practice religion guaranteed under the Constitution. It shows that you believe neither in the Constitution of the country nor in the Christian values preached by Jesus Christ.

5. The Holy Mass offered in various churches in Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese has not been held invalid (I would be grateful if you show me one document in this regard). It is as valid as any other Holy Mass offered anywhere in the catholic world, including the one offered by the Pope. Hence, there is no valid reason, under any law, to disallow the same to be offered in the Cathedral Basilica.

6. You have ‘boasted’ that your archdiocese (Trissur) has lost over 50,000 faithful in the last few years. Do you want the same fate to fall on Ernakulam- Angamali archdiocese.

My request to you is simple: Please don’t stand on prestige. The church’s prestige is much more important than your standing. The laity’s right to participate in Sacraments in a church built by them is supreme. You have no authority to deny them that right unless the laity demands something unlawful, unethical, immoral or invalid. But their wish to participate in a people-facing Mass, as practised across the world, is none of it.

May you be known as the saviour of the Church, not its destroyer. May you be identified as a harbinger of peace, rather than sower of dissonance. May you be known as someone who helped in heralding harmony in the diocese, rather than disharmony.

Hope good sense would prevail over you and you would desist from taking decisions that would lay axe to the Church.

Yours sincerely,

Marydasan John,

Former Senior Assistant Editor, The Hindu,


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