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Synodal Decision: Misunderstanding the legacy, Misconception of the History and Disregard for Jesus’

Syro Malabar Priests staged protest at Syro Malabar Church HQ in India. It is against the Synod's decision to impose the uniformity at the expense of Unity.

By Paulose Variyath

Syro-Malabar Church is currently going through the worst phase in its two-thousand-year-old history. It is the unilateral Synodal decision to implement uniform mode of celebration of Holy Mass that plunged the Church into this deep crisis. The deep division that the decision has caused may take many decades to heal. The unity that the Synodal fathers expects can be achieved only by the humiliation of a large section of the priests and the faithful. But it must be pointed out that such a monumental decision that has the potential to split the church was taken without much consideration of the legacy of the Church and disregarding its mission. The misunderstanding of our legacy, misconception of our history and disregard for our mission is writ large on that decision.

Misunderstanding of our Legacy

It seems that the Synodal fathers are not sure about the Apostolic roots of our Church. St. Thomas, one of the Apostles of Jesus established this Church in AD 52. Thus, the Syro-Malabar Church is founded by the most fearless of the Apostles who was ready to go with Jesus to any extent and ready to die for him. He was the first one to publicly proclaim Jesus as His Lord and His God. It is an utter disgrace that a Church of this great legacy has to seek its legitimacy from Chaldean rituals. It is high time that the Syro-Malabar Church renamed itself after St. Thomas.

Misconception of History

The Syro-Malabar Church went through different phases in its growth to become one of the most vibrant communities in Catholic Church. The first phase in its growth was from the time of the arrival of St. Thomas in AD 52 to 4th Century. The Church grew in numbers and nourished the faith imparted by the Apostle during this period. The second phase began with the arrival of Persian Bishops in 4th Century and continued till the 16th Century. The Church got its Syriac traditions from the Persian Bishops and priests who came to Malankara from 4th Century onwards. Though these Bishops and priests celebrated the Mass in Syriac, the Malayali priests were not doing so. A proper Syrian text was prepared only after the arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th century. The third phase began with the arrival of the Portuguese missionaries. It is from this period that the Church was called Syrian Church and it was Bishop Rose S.J. who prepared a Syrian text for the use of the Church. Thus, when one looks at the Vatican Council’s call for restoration, reform and adaptation, the recent decision cannot be supported even on the basis of restoration. Its better not to mention reform and adaptation. Restoration is not merely a call to go back to the roots. It must be driven by the spirit of reform. Restoration without reform will not lead to renewal of the Church. It may not be out of place to mention that even the Chaldean Church has allowed versus populum Mass and its Patriarch celebrates the Mass facing the people.

Disregard for the Mission of the Church

St. Thomas said to other disciples, “Let us also go and die with him”. The task of our Church is cut out very clearly. Like St. Thomas we should be ready to die for the gospel values that Jesus taught us. The present-day India ravaged by corruption, communalism and inequality demands a renewed Church built on gospel values of love, courage, service, justice and hope. It is a moment of self-reflection for the Synodal fathers who imposed the uniform mode of Mass celebration that whether the decision is based on our legacy, whether it does justice to our rich history and whether it promotes our missionary zeal.

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