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Neo-Colonialism and the Oriental Congregation in Vatican.

By Isaac Martin

This is alarming to see that even in the 21st century, the Oriental Congregation in Vatican is trying to colonize the Indian Church through the power-hungry bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church. Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, though he is almost 80 years old, continues to be the Prefect of the Oriental Congregation. It is learned that he is now controlled by the caucus lobby group in his office. Cardinal Sandri, who holds an important post in Vatican has not appointed another private Secretary when the present one is promoted to the post of the Under Secretary of the Oriental Congregation. That itself spreads some rumors about their relationship and also probable that Cardinal Sandri does not want a third person to know the undercurrents in his dealings. Cardinal Sandri yields so much power in Vatican. He had been in diplomatic services for many years. Being a man from Argentina, though he has completed 75 years of age, Pope Francis is keeping him in office, probably because the Pope himself wants to pull the strings in the Vatican Bureaucracy.

One of the instances to understand the abuse of power of Cardinal Sandri in Vatican is the non-execution of the judgment of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome, which is in fact the Supreme court of the Vatican. Four years back Apostolic Signatura has given a verdict to withdraw a decree of Cardinal Sandri which was unjust and even today he has not executed the verdict of the Apostolic Signatura and was not ready to give justice to the victim.

Cardinal Sandri is working hand in hand with the power-hungry and arch-conservative bishops of the Syro Malabar church to belittle the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly. It is learned from reliable sources in Rome that Cardinal Sandri is known for unethically accepting huge donations even from churchmen. It is known that he had received money from some arch-conservative priests of the Chaldean Church who were against the reform in the Chaldean Church. After having received his share, Cardinal Sandri instructed the Synod of the Chaldean Church to reconsider the most aspired decision of the Chaldean church. The decision was to allow an option in the Chaldean church to offer Mass versus populum. But the Patriarch of the Chaldean Church courageously implemented the reforms in the liturgy adopting the Holy Mass versus populum. When Pope Francis made his pastoral visit to Iraq where his holiness offered Holy Mass facing the people.

But in the Syro Malabar Church, it happened the other way around. The priests and laity of the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese and many other dioceses upheld the reform already brought into the Syro Malabar church in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council and resisted the move of certain bishops of the Syro Malabar Church to sabotage the reform already brought in by Cardinal Joseph Parecattil and the then bishops of the Syro Malabar Church. It seems that the present Major Archbishop and his coterie have bribed Cardinal Sandri and therefore Oriental Congregation keeps on sending letters to Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese to follow the immoral and dictatorial decision of the Syro Malabar Synod and revert back to the style before the Second Vatican Council. It is needless to say that the money unethically received by the sale of the land of the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly is used to destroy the same Archdiocese.

The present Apostolic Administrator is also a party to it, as is clear from his recent circular, imposing the unilateral decision of the Synod. It is also to be noted that the decision of the Synod was not unanimous. Major Archbishop and some bishops did not even agree to include in the report the dissenting note of about 16 bishops. But the Media commission of the Synod presented the decision falsely as unanimous. How dishonest and insincere are the Bishops of the Synod! Six senior bishops wrote to the Oriental Congregation and Secretary of State in Rome and also to the Major Archbishop saying that the decision of the synod to impose 50:50 formula is against the spirit of Synodality and it is taken without proper consultations and sad to say that it goes against the previous synodal decisions. But they were ridiculed by some bishops in the Syro Malaabr Synod.

The Apostolic Administrator being a power-hungry man and aspiring to be the next Major Archbishop, is appealing to the people through social media that the “Holy See” has asked him to write a circular. He is dragging Holy Father unnecessarily into the issue. It is the Oriental Congregation that has written to Apostolic Administrator, and the Oriental Congregation is under fire due to its unwanted interference in the sui iuris Church and is also suspected of bribery.

Pope Francis has never demanded the Archdiocesan faithful that they SHOULD follow the decision of the Synod. Pope is aware that the synodal process and his instructions to the Bishops of the Syro Malabar church through his letter before the Synod in 2021 were not really followed in the process of the decision. Pope Francis is being misled by Cardinal Sandri who is having an unholy alliance with some bishops of the Syro Malabar Church. Pope might have given consent to a letter, but unfortunately, it consists of factual errors. Pope Francis has never insisted that the faithful and priests of the Archdiocese SHOULD obey the decision of the Synod. It is crystal clear that before he was misled by the Congregation, the audience was given to Abp. Antony Kariyil and Msgr. Antony Nariculam Pope had instructed Archbishop Kariyil to give dispensation to the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly based on the canonical provisions. But the bureaucracy in the Oriental Congregation is still having a colonial mind and the bishops here are singing chorus to their colonial mentality. How can Oriental Congregation dictate terms to the Major Archdiocese and command what the priests and the faithful should do in their mode of worship. The Oriental Congregation can, if they want, ask the Synod to reconsider the wrong decision in the face of the serious pastoral situations in the Archdiocese. The Oriental Congregation has no right to rule out the possibility of Liturgical Variant in the Archdiocese.

In light of the burning pastoral issues in the Archdiocese, Oriental Congregation can request the Synod to review the decision of the Synod and ask them to find an amicable solution to the situation by officially recognizing the Liturgical Variant in the Major Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly and in the dioceses which request for Liturgical Variant. That is the only solution to the problem created by the Synod in the Syro Malabar Church, especially targeting the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly. We are living in the twenty-first century and remember that people living in the first world cannot dictate terms to the third world and go free. Such dictates will be rejected with due respect.

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