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Division and hostility in Europe … and the Syro-Malabar Church.Alencherry is the master of division.

By Wimal Mary Das,

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to calls of peace and solidarity. Similar calls are being issued in southern India to resolve the Syro Malabar liturgical crisis . Laity groups claim that Cardinal Alencherry is the root of cause of division in the Church and Pope Francis must remove him from his leadership. Cardinal Alencherry, a master of division in the Syro Malabar Church created restlessness and crisis in the Catholic Church.

Photo from public domain. Cardinal Alencherry accused of creating division and crisis in the Syro Malabar Church. Pope criticized the attitude of " master of division" in the Church as he expressed it at the plenary meeting of Oriental Congregation on Feb 18, 2022.

As tensions continue to rise in eastern Europe due to the ongoing war, Pope Francis issued a peace statement upholding the social responsibility of everyone — including believers and non-believers — to overcome division and hostility.

“My heart aches greatly at the worsening situation in Ukraine. Despite the diplomatic efforts of the last few weeks, increasingly alarming scenarios are opening up…” the Pope said. “God is the God of peace not of war; who is the father of all for not just of some, who wants us to be brothers and not enemies. I pray that all the parties involved refrain from any action that would cause even more suffering to the people, destabilising coexistence between nations…”

Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the major archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Kyiv-Halych lamented the damage caused by Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

“Irreparable damage has been done to the very logic of international relations, which are called to safeguard peace and the just order of societies, the supremacy of law, the accountability of state powers, the defense of the human being, human life and natural rights."

While war-related issues and actions were dominating world politics, another major archbishop Cardinal George Alencherry, head of the Syro Malabar Church, waited for an audience with Pope Francis and visit other papal offices on his visit to Rome.

Cardinal Alencherry’s presence in Rome was the cynosure of all eyes in Kerala, a state in southern India. A few weeks ago, his departure from India evoked mixed feelings about his role as major archbishop and his alleged involvement in the divisions and agitations the church has recently experienced in an unparalleled measure. The cardinal allegedly intrigued an extreme right-wing group to plot agitations against Archbishop Antony Kariyil, who brought peace and calm to India’s turbulent Syro Malabar Church through his prudent and sagacious decisions.

Social media campaigns by the so-called Alencherry faction-driven radical group have been fuelling the raging fire of the liturgical division, asking to assemble in front of the archbishop's house and orchestrate a retaliatory hunger strike demanding the implementation of the Synod’s decision of the 50:50 liturgical formula.

Social media also brought to light alarming news from this so-called right wing faction group of Cardinal Alencherry, plotting to organize another hunger strike in front of the main gate of the Ernakulam archbishop’s house.

Alencherry’s leadership and the liturgical crisis

Another plot by Cardinal Alencherry against Archbishop Karriyil. A laity leader claims that Cardinal Alencherry asked so called Hunger strike group to orchestrate a hunger strike campaign while Cardinal is in Rome .

The Indian Church is going through an unprecedented crisis as the major archbishop and majority of Synod's bishops began to impose the uniform form of worship in the Holy Mass. There were reactions from the clergy and the laity as it was pushed beyond the limits even to a certain form of liturgical dictatorship where many bishops harassed and abused the clergy through their authoritarian deeds.

The liturgical tyranny of many bishops has created irreparable damage to the social fabric of Syro Malabar Catholics. The arrogant attitude of bishops of the Syro Malabar Church has divided the people of God. Many have left the Syro Malabar Church, a fallout of Cardinal Alencherry’s nasty politics. Many parish communities have become the battleground for liturgical clashes. These battles have ruined the unity and spiritual closeness that existed in the archdiocese and has adversely interrupted the people's spiritual practices.

The trigger of all this liturgical restlessness in the archdiocese of Ernakulam was the decision taken in the Synod of August 2021. The decision to impose the liturgical uniformity of Holy Mass celebration was unilateral without discussing with clergy and laity. The modus operandi of the Syro Malabar Church Synod was critically flawed and it is construed that the majority of bishops stood to cover up the criminal deeds of Cardinal Alencherry.

“Recent Synod decisions were animated by Cardinal Alencherry's personal vengeance against the archdiocese of Ernakulam. He dragged the issue of liturgy to camouflage the personal failure and immoral dealing behind the land scam, which ended up in the Indian high court where he received a setback as Cardinal Alencherry was asked to face a judicial enquiry,” Mr. Riju, a lay leader, opined.

The faithful expressed their anger, well echoed in these words of Mr. Thomas from St. Mary’s Cathedral: “It is a deliberate attempt from a particular ill-minded group of Cardinal Alencherry to hammer the existing peace initiatives of Archbishop Karriyil. The cardinal instigated the group of people to come out and protest outside the archbishop's house. He has mobilized feeble members from a few parishes where he handpicked and brought them to protest. Cardinal Alencherry is deliberately trying to create issues. We will stand by the decision taken by the Metropolitan Kariyil because the archdiocese will not let division ruin parish communities.”

Photo Credit from the Website of the Archdiocese of Ernakulam.Archbishop Karriyil visited Pope Francis in December 2021 and discussed the contentious issues of liturgy with Pope Francis. Apparently, Archbishop Karriyil was mandated by Pope Francis to bring peace to the troubled Syro Malabar Church. Mar. Karriyil is acclaimed as an envoy of Pope Francis to stand for his Global Peace Mission in the Syro Malabar Church.

According to reliable sources, Archbishop Kariyil has expressed to his close associates that he will remain committed to seeking out possible ways of peace concerning this impending problem of division and chaos caused by the liturgical crisis. Walking the path to peace is not always easy, but a prolonged authentic discernment process. Archbishop KariyiI shared the thoughts of Martin Luther King Jr. and his famous words that humanity "must evolve for all human conflict, a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love” and Christian values.

The liturgical problems of the Syro Malabar Church must be resolved with peace and solidarity, instead of waging war and wielding power over the ordinary faithful of the Church.

Wimal Mary Das is an acclaimed writer and speaker, living in North America. He can be reached.

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