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Pope Francis and Abp.Vasil: This is duplicity and double-dealing. Synod must roll back its decision.

Marydasan John

Former Senior Assistant Editor, The Hindu, Delhi

August 18, 2023


Archbishop Cyril Vasil,

Archbishop of Kosice, Slovakia,

And a delegate to mediate on the Syro-Malabar Liturgy issue

Sub: Be a mediator, in its letter and spirit, on Syro-Malabar issue

Respected Archbishop,

It is most unbecoming of you to ask the churches in the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese to down the shutters if they cannot celebrate the 50:50 Mass. Is your order in tune with the mandate given to you?

Let me quote Pope Francis for you: “Dialogue is born from an attitude of respect for the other person, from a conviction that the other person has something good to say. It assumes that there is room in the heart for the person’s point of view, opinion, and proposal. Dialogue entails a cordial reception, not a prior condemnation. In order to dialogue, it is necessary to open the doors of the house, and offer human warmth.”

The Pope with such humane and benevolent mind could have never asked you to order closing down of churches which are built for people to pray and participate in the Sacraments.

Though you claim that you are a delegate of the Pope, your very first statement contradicts the proposition of Pope Francis on Dialogue as quoted above.

It is utterly disappointing that you stated that you have come with “the purpose of helping the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archeparchy implement the Syro-Malabar Synodal decision on the uniform mode of celebration of the Holy Qurbana.”

According to Oxford English Dictionary, “a mediator is a person who helps negotiate between two feuding parties.” But you have exposed yourself stating that you have come with the ‘ulterior motive’ of helping out one side to implement their decision rather than trying to dialogue with both the parties and look for a solution. This shows your unstatesman-like approach to an issue that agitates the minds of the faithful, priests and religious of the biggest archdiocese of India. This unceremoniously brings out your bias and prejudice.

One of the most nauseating sights I had recently was the one showing you offering prayer at the Cathedral Basilica compound surrounded by scores police persons.

Now let me place the issue in a few comprehensible points:

The Holy Mass being offered in the entire archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly has never been declared invalid by the Synod, hence it remains as valid as any other Holy Mass offered anywhere in the world.

Under which canon law a valid Holy Mass is proscribed or banned? Is the existing Holy Mass against the teachings of the Church? Is it against the Church dogmas? Does it violate the core of Eucharistic celebration? If the answers to all these questions are an emphatic ‘No’, what prompted the Synod to go for a kill?

The Synod says the 50:50 Mass is for uniformity in the Syro-Malabar Church. Is there uniformity in the dioceses where it is implemented? I can point out several differences/variants in the dioceses which have implemented the 50:50 Mass. Hence, the argument of ‘uniformity’ falls flat on its face.

Is not the Holy Mass facing the faithful according to the spirit of the Second Vatican Council? If it is as per the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, how can it be banned?

Let me take you to the oft quoted Pope Francis’s letter to the Syro-Malabar Synod which is ‘showcased’ as the ‘fatwa’ for implementing the 50:50 Mass. He has used the word ‘unity’ three times while the word ‘uniform’ finds its place only twice in the letter. The Pope’s thrust is on unity rather than uniformity; hence the argument that the Pope has ordered/instructed ‘uniform Mass’ is against the letter and spirit of his letter.

In a subsequent clarification, the Nuncio said: “In the present situation of your Church, the Holy Father’s desire for the prompt implementation of the uniform mode of celebrating (the Mass) is an appeal to unity and not to cause division and thus needs to be contextualized.” Hence, for any sensible mind (not the prejudiced ones), it makes abundantly clear that the Pope is not thrusting the 50:50 Mass down the throat of the Syro-Malabar Church.

Isn’t the decision on the Synod Mass taken during the Covid 19 pandemic through an online meeting of the Synod ? What was the urgency in taking a decision on a subject of paramount importance through an online meeting?

Is it not a lie that the decision on Synod Mass was taken unanimously in the Synod? Is it not a fact that several bishops had opposed the decision on implementation of 50:50 Mass?

Is it not a fact that even in the special Synod held in June, several bishops spoke against forcible implementation of 50:50 Mass in Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese?

Isn’t the way Bishop Kariyil was asked to call it a day was unchristian, unscrupulous, ruthless, cavalier and high-handed? How can a Bishop be asked to quit on an issue in which he stood with the priests and the faithful.

Bishop Kariyil was asked resign on the plea that he could not implement the 50:50 Mass in the archdiocese. If this argument has even a grain of truth, then Archbishop Andrews Thazhath too should be asked to quit as he too has failed to implement the 50:50 Mass in the Archdiocese. Allowing him to continue is nothing but duplicity and double dealing.

Now let me raise a substantive question. Is the Eucharist a sacrament of Unity or Uniformity? Theologians say it is a sacrament of unity, peace and love. I can quote many of them. Can you quote one theologian to prove your point that it is a sacrament of uniformity.

The synod decision has turned out to be a case of spitting in the air lying on one’s back. Heavens would not have fallen if the Synod had skipped the issue and kept it in abeyance.

What justification is there for Archbishop Thazhath issuing a letter banning an 82-year-old priest from offering Holy Mass in Moozhikulam parish of the Archdiocese. How can a bishop ban an octogenarian priest alone from celebrating Mass which hundreds of other priests in the Archdiocese are offering? Such authoritarian activities on the part of Archbishop Thazhath does not gel with the position he holds.

The Apostolic Administrator comes to churches in Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese with police protection like the political leaders (by the way in many European countries, probably including Slovakia, many political leaders don’t need police protection to move around). Here is an Archbishop moving around with police protection even to offer Holy Mass. Think of Jesus Christ who moved around in the company of the ordinary people without any pomp or show of power.

Let me now touch upon the issue of the closure of the Basilica Cathedral of Ernakulam. Isn’t it denial of pastoral requirements of parishioners of the Basilica? On one side, you ask the faithful to attend at least Sunday Masses, but on the other side you keep churches closed. Such duplicity is unheard and it is nothing less than a violation of the faithful’s fundamental right to freedom to practice their religious rights.

Though I have scores of such points to bring to your notice on this issue, let me now draw your attention to a different set of points on the implementation of the 50:50 Mass which is also called Synod Mass, Tabernacle-facing Mass, etc. I don’t know what is the meaning of all these Masses because I know only one Holy Eucharist which is established by Jesus Christ.

The gains and losses of the decision by the Synod on the new Holy Mass.


The Synod claims that 34 of the 35 dioceses have implemented 50:50 Mass, though later developments and disclosures from various dioceses have picked holes in this claim. There are any number of priests, religious and lay people in the 34 dioceses who are against the decision of the Synod.

Moreover, the strength (of the faithful) of 17 of the 34 dioceses put together is less than the strength of the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese alone. The number of the faithful of 17 dioceses taken together is less than 5 lakhs while Ernakulam-Angamaly alone has more than 5 lakh. So to say that half the number of dioceses have implemented the 50:50 Mass is correct only mathematically, not in its letter and spirit.


The Synod has pitted bishops against bishops.

The Synod has made priests to be at each other’s throat.

The Synod has caused the laity to turn against each other.

The Synod has triggered one of the biggest rebellions ever seen in the Syro-Malabar Church.

The Synod’s decision has led to the desecration of the holiest of holy places in a church.

The Synod’s decision is the cause for closure of Ernakulam Basilica, the heart and soul of the archdiocese.

The Synod’s decision has lit fire to an unprecedented bitterness and disharmony in the church.

The unchristian developments have affected the spiritual life of the people. This is becoming evident in the young generation which is, without fear, asking: “Has the Eucharist become a matter of one-upmanship?” “Has it become a political weapon to score brownie points?”

Hence listen to your inner voice and the voices of the wise people in the church who are coming out with suggestions to end this imbroglio.

The Synod can roll back its decision; it can decide on status quo ante, unless it stands on false prestige. That would lead to unity in the Church. Let that be the spirit of the hierarchy as they are meeting for yet another Synodal meeting.

Hope you would approach the whole issue in the spirit of the Vatican Council II and the exhortation of Pope Francis (who prefers to be called Brother Francis). You should take back your order to close down Churches. They are not disputed structures. They are the abode of God built for praying and dispensing sacraments.

Pope Francis, who urged priests around the world to be more accepting of even homosexuals and lesbians, could have never asked you to order closing down of churches where a valid Holy Mass is celebrated.

Yours sincerely,

Marydasan John

Former Senior Assistant Editor, The Hindu, Delhi

Phone: 9868830908

Copy to: All office-bearers of KCBC and CBCI

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