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The conspiracy in Syro Malabar Synod: The Vatican Kept it in Dark. The betrayal story unfolds...

THE CONDUCT OF OUR SYNOD AND THE PRESENT CRISIS IN OUR CHURCH Some Reflections and Suggestions (A Letter to Fellow Bishops)

† Archbishop Jacob Thoomkuzhy † Bp. Gratian Mundadan † Bp. Gregory Karotemprel † Bp.VijayAnand Nedumpuram † Bp. Dominic Kokkat † Bp. Thomas Chakkiath

(This letter reveals the conspiracy in Syro Malabar Synod which has already lost its credibility among 6 million memebers of the Church. This letter was tagged Strictly Personal and Confidential, but leaked to public platforms, probabibly because of the deaf response of the concerned fellow bishops, permanant synod and dicastries in Vatican.)

Dear Major Archbishop and the members of the Syro-Malabar Bishops' Synod, Cordial Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ, Our Lord! We, the undersigned Bishops Emeriti, the members of the Syro-Malabar Bishops' Synod, with heavy hearts and concern, reflected on the current state of affairs of our Church. In the following, first, we shall give the crux of what we want to say, and then present before the Major Archbishop and other members of the Synod, some detailed observations and suggestions. Focus

The situation in our Church has been in a very bad shape ever since the Synod of Bishops took the decision with regard to the uniform of mode of celebration of the Holy Qurbana. The Synod's stepping-stones to this controversial decision and its implementation were the following:

i). Letter from the Congregation for Oriental Churches, H. Em. Cardinal Leonardo Sandri writes that the uniform mode of celebration was "unanimously decided by the Synod of Bishops in November 1999 and recently reconfirmed in January 2020" (Prot. N.248/2004, dated June 09, 2021).

ii). Letter signed by Holy Father Pope Francis: The Pope writes that the agreement to celebrate the Holy Qurbana in a uniform mode was "unanimously reached by the Synod of Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church in 1999 and repeatedly endorsed in subsequent years" (Letter signed by Pope Francis, (dated 03 July2021).

iii). The Decree of the Major Archbishop: In the Decree which promulgated the text of all three forms of the Holy Qurbana, the Major Archbishop notes that Pope Francis has affirmed "the unanimous decision of the Synod of Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church in 1999 for a uniform mode of celebrating the Holy Qurbana, repeatedly endorsed in subsequent years" and exhorted its "prompt implementation on the recognition of the new Raza Qurbana Taksa...." (Prot. No. 0775/2021, dated 08 September 2021).

iv). Interpretation of CCEO 1538: in light of the letter from the Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches (Prot.N.248/2004, dated 09 November2020) given by the Major Archbishop created an impression that the said Canon could not be used by the eparchial bishops any more. Having, thus, warded of all possible chances to dispense the common decision by individual bishops, he asked everyone in the Church to do the needful to start celebrating the Holy Qurbana in the uniform mode as decided by the 1999 Synod, and recently exhorted by the Pope.

From day one, the move to impose a uniform mode of celebration was variously announced through the untimely and unconventional publication of the Letters from the Oriental Congregation and the Pope, priests, religious and people began to register their strong dissent and resistance. On the one side, the whole Church welcomed the revised Taksa because it evolved in time through proper and correct processes of consultation and decision-making. Bp. Thomas Elavanal has neatly described the transparent steps and procedures that the Synod followed in this regard between 2013 and 2020 (Prot. No. 1514/2021, dated 08 September 2021). On the other side, the decision to implement the uniform of mode of celebration became a cause of disunity in the Church and a shocking scandal to the public because the decision was not reached through proper, mandatory consultations and transparent procedures.

Seeing the factual error in the Letter of the Pope, exclusivist and un synodal tendencies exhibited by a good number of our bishops, and the surprising and unwise hastiness in implementing the uniform mode of celebration, the members of the Synod cannot but awaken their prophetic conscience. We are very sorry to say that some unholy instrumentalization of the Holy See has happened in getting an explicit exhortation to implement an old decision of the Synod. The 1999 decision is not attested and proven decision, but a tested and failed. What the Synod has been keeping aside for more than two decades is brought back through a reference in a Letter signed by the Pope. And, in the name of the Pope, a failed decision is implemented without proper reconsiderations and mandatory consultations. In addition, four other things must also be examined honestly and collegially: (i) the sanctity of the 1999 decision, (ii) the truth about the repeated endorsement of the 1999 decision in subsequent years, especially, its reconfirmation in 2020, (iii) dubious interpretation of Canon 1538, (iv) lack of wisdom and charity in the hasty implementation of the uniform mode.

It is our humble conviction that we could have explained to the Holy See, if we were honest, five serious problems that we face in imposing the uniform mode, namely:

(a)The resistance that we had to face after the decision of 1999 Synod and how then the decision was dispensed in six out of eleven dioceses including two archdioceses then in Kerala, using the provision of CCEO 1538 and that it continued till now for the last twenty one years.

(b) The Synod as a whole had apprehensions in imposing the 1999 decision as it is very clear from the reports of 2020 January and August Sessions of the Synod

(c) The fact that we did not make necessary consultations in different forums which is not only mandatory but also proper to the synodality.

(d) The fact that we have received memorandums from the priests of the Archdioceses of Ernakulam- Angamaly, Trichur and the dioceses of Irinjalakuda and against the move to curtail their decades' long practice of celebrating Holy Mass versus populum.

(e) The post-Vatican Second pastoral aspirations of the people of God, especially in the context of the theology of the baptismal priesthood, had to be taken seriously. These pastoral compulsions eventually led to Missa versus populum or the Mass around the altar.


1. We feel that the situation in 1999 and today are not different, if not worse. At present, the priests and people are greatly distressed and the image of the Church is at low ebb. The credibility graph of the Church, the bishops, and the priests have come down drastically. The outcome of the current crisis is the erosion of faith of many, especially that of the youth; it is reported that many intellectuals leave the Church and many others do not come for the Mass any more. The moral fabric of the Church has been damaged so badly. We are saddened by the fact that many priests and religious are drawn to dangerous indifferentism and non-cooperation.

2. It is reported that several priests plan to be pastorally passive in their respective fields of ministry. It is painful to hear the laity and the priests addressing the Major Archbishop and bishops with surprisingly low profile terms and explicit disrespect.

3. Some of you will remember how the Synod arrived at the 1999decision. After long discussion, several bishops were in a mood to make adjustments even sacrificing their convictions and forgoing possible resistance from the part of the clergy, religious and the laity. Put precisely, the late Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil proposed the 50:50 formula, and each member of the Synod, one by one, had to give oral consent to it. That was, indeed, the beautiful way the Holy Synod functioned in the past. But, now?

We know that the so-called decision to implement the uniform mode of celebration of the Holy Qurbana taken by the August 2021 Synod was not, in fact, unanimous. It is regrettable that later some tried to create the impression that the decision was unanimous. The fact is that several bishops had expressed their strong disagreement in imposing the uniform mode of celebration of the Holy Qurbana. They very clearly explained their apprehension of possible dissent and resistance from the part of the clergy and the faithful as the matter was never discussed in any proper forum such as central liturgical committee, diocesan bodies etc., after the 1999 Synod. They had also suggested that the Synod could allow the present practice of versus populum as optional, and that we could explain our situation to the Holy Father.

4. Besides such appeals, twelve bishops, considering the limitations of an online Synod and moved by pastoral solicitude, had sent a letter to all of you in which they earnestly urged the Synod Fathers not to go ahead with imposing the 1999 decision. Among the signatories, there were five emeriti bishops who all participated in the 1999 Synod and were witnesses of the confusion and protests that took place in our Church after the decision in 1999. They had warned the Synod against the repercussions of imposing such a decision in the light of the experience in 1999.

We regret very much that the above said letter was unilaterally rejected, and there was a remark that writing such a letter was improper while the Synod was in session. All of you know the limitations of an online Synod. It would have been a magnanimous gesture from the part of the Synod to look into the content and spirit of that letter. How can a respectable forum like the Holy Synod reject a written appeal to register a note of dissent? It is all the more grievous that there was no mention whatsoever of the letter in the minutes of the Synod. As we are preparing for the synod of bishops 2021-2023, which invites the whole Church at all levels to be synodal, can we honestly claim that our Synod is truly synodal?

5. We have no answer to the questions people ask such as: how did the Synod Fathers fail to foresee the possibility of sharp dissent and division in the Church, which is happening now? We would like to think that we did not discern properly the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, we were insensitive to the warnings and appeals of our brother bishops. At the end of the day, the whole Church started to suffer. In this context, we have to confess that several bishops were too adamant about imposing the uniform mode of celebration of the Holy Qurbana, and the Major Archbishop presented the whole matter as if everything was already done and the synod was there only to fix the date to implement the uniform mode of celebration of the Holy Qurbana. The justification for this approach was based on the letter signed by the Pope.

6. It is certain that there is a factual error in the very first paragraph of the letter of the Pope to the bishops, priests, religious and the laity of the Syro-Malabar Church which reads as follows: "... the agreement unanimously reached by the Synod of Bishops in 1999 - and repeatedly endorsed in subsequent years (emphasis added). This is contrary to facts. Who misinformed and misguided the Pope will remain a big question before us. The senior members of the synod may remember here that there have been complaints of malpractices and rendering misinformation to the Holy See at different occasions in the past. Here we are reminded of the letter of Cardinal Agustino Casaroli, Secretary of State, sent to Cardinal Antony Padiyara (Prot.No.244.372/G.N, dated 28 august 1989) asking him to introduce Missa versus altare in the formation houses. Upon receiving this letter, Cardinal Padiyara went to Rome and met Cardinal Casaroli in person and verified the facts. As soon as Cardinal Secretary of State came to know that there was a foul play, he withdrew the letter and shelved it.

7. It is very clear that we have never seriously discussed about the rubrics of the Holy Qurbana after 1999, as we did about the text of newly revised text of Taksa of 2021. It is also certain that the Major Archiepiscopal Assemblies never took up the question of the uniform mode of celebration of the Holy Qurbana as part of the Agenda, though there were some passing remarks during the general discussions of the Assemblies. Where is the sanctity of the Synod? The so-called unanimous decision of the 1999 synod does not have any natural force and sanctity as the decision could not be implemented in six out of eleven dioceses then in Kerala and as it was dispensed by six bishops including two Archbishops. Further, the Archdiocese of Changanaserry went back to its old practice of versus altare. Such resultant situation continued in our Church up until now. And, thus, it has gained sanctity and there has never been any confusion as we have been respecting the traditions each diocese had opted for.

It was Jacques Maritain who said that "some truths are seen better through tears." It is equally true that emotions reveal truths, which we have to prudently and patiently attend to. In fact, we are sorry to say that we were setting aside honest emotional pleadings and appeals of our brother bishops who were sure of the drastic reactions in a few dioceses wherefrom huge memoranda reached the Synod before we started the Synodal Sessions. Turning resolutely deaf ears to all pleas and appeals, we have entered into an era of division, disunity and animosity. Even now, some of us are in a mood of going to the extent of using the police force to implement the decision at any cost. It is not an honor for our Church. We doubt that there is some sort of abuse of power and conscience in the whole issue.

8. We are sorry to say that there has not been any pastoral approach proper to the shepherds after the Heart of Christ, which would have prevented the present damage to the Church entrusted to our care. In this context, genuine humility and pastoral charity should motivate us to initiate open-hearted dialogue and reconciliatory procedures. We feel sorry to observe that neither the Major Archbishop nor any member of the Permanent Synod has taken any personal interest to seek and understand the actual reasons and difficulties that prevent the implementation of the revised form in some dioceses. We have to heal the wounds that we have created by our impertinence, imprudence and inability in sensing the feelings and convictions of the people concerned. We arc living in an age in which even the secular governments and courts of law are using the method of dialogue and mediation rather than that of force and verdicts.

Abusing our power and authority to enforce uniformity at the expense of such a heavy cost is undesirable in a community bound by brotherly love taught by our Lord.

9. We have to take to our hearts the exhortation of the Apostolic Nuncio to India, Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, who spoke to us in the name of the Holy Father in the very beginning of the last synod. He asked us not to sacrifice unity in the name of uniformity. But, in our effort to create 'uniformity,' we have lost 'unity' in the Church beyond repair. Now the liturgy is technically unified but the Church is actually divided. Still worse, many parish communities, diocesan priestly koinonia and religious communities are on the verge of division.

10. When the Church is facing today a number of other challenges in our country, including the Covid-19 pandemic, should we permit such severe conflicts within our Church? Even while seeing vehement reactions from priests and laity, the Church leadership continues to insist on the implementation with provoking letters, circulars and press releases one after another!

11. We want to call your attention to the intervention of Bp. Vijay Anand Nedupuram CMI, bishop emeritus of Chanda, who introduced the topic with regard to the urgency of a uniform mode of celebration of the Holy Qurbana in January 2020 Synod. In his presentation of the topic, he very clearly articulated that any decision should be taken only after having consulted the matter in different forums of priests, religious and the laity. In this context, we should remember the fact that we have enacted a law that necessitates certain consultation before finalizing liturgical texts. (Cfr. "Procedure to be followed in the finalizing liturgical texts" and in introducing them for use (IX Synod (2001) Synodal News, Vol. 9, Nos 1&2, December 2001, pp. 17-18). The truth is that we never made mandatory consultations on the 50:50 mode of celebration in any forum whatsoever. Yet the shocking fact is that lots of lies are being circulated in social media as if everything was done in proper order, which is contrary to the truth.

12. As we learned, the Pope graciously heard our brother, Archbishop Antony Kariyil, Metropolitan Vicar, and patiently listened to his pastoral difficulties within his Archdiocese and reminded him of his responsibility to maintain peace and harmony within the Archdiocese. The Holy Father asked Archbishop Kariyil to contact Cardinal Sandri of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches and explain the matter, whom the Holy Father also promised to call on the same day. The pastoral solicitude and the brotherly concern of the Holy Father is an inspiring example before each one of us.

Dear brothers, we still have to learn how to show fraternal magnanimity towards our brother bishops who have serious issues in enforcing the uniform mode in their dioceses. Having said these in detail, we have the following suggestions to present for your wise consideration:


a) Make optional Missa versus populum for those dioceses which have pastoral difficulty to introduce 50:50 formula mode of celebrating Holy Qurbana..

b) In order to get out of the impasse we are facing today the Synod could announce that it would make a wide consultation about the mode of celebration of the Holy Qurbana. The first phase of the Universal Synod of Bishops scheduled for October 2021 to August 2023 gives us a golden opportunity for the same. Coincidently, some of the questions that we have to explore during the synodal sessions at the local level are: "How do prayer and liturgical celebration inspire and direct our journeying together'? How do we promote active participation of all the Faithful in the liturgy and the exercise of the sanctifying ministry?" (For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission, Preparatory Document, p. 22.). The Synod could make use of this occasion to make a wide consultation in all our eparchies about our decision of 50:50 formula.

c) The result of this consultation on the mode of celebration of the Holy Qurbana shall be brought to the proper forums as already decided by the Synod in 2001.

d) In view of bringing unity in the Church, the synod shall appoint an ad hoc committee of bishops to initiate a dialogue with the clergy, religious, and laity of those eparchies which have pastoral difficulties in introducing the50:50 formula. This surely will help to arrest the present crisis that continues to tarnish the image and good name we have had in the past.

Before we conclude, we ask you all to excuse us for stating some unpleasant facts, but they are undeniable facts, which we have to humbly accept. We do this with love for our Church and prompted by our conscience. Let us not lose hope in this tumultuous situation, which, in God's providence, will eventually turn out for the good of the Church. May be, the Lord wants to teach us some hard lessons.

You are welcome to correct us if you find anything objectionable or incorrect in the above statements.

Yours devotedly in Christ,

Trichur 29 December 2021

† Archbishop Jacob Thoomkuzhy † Bp. Gratian Mundadan † Bp. Gregory Karotemprel † Bp.VijayAnand Nedumpuram † Bp. Dominic Kokkat † Bp. Thomas Chakkiath

Copy to:

1. Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, Vatican 2. The Secretary of State, Vatican 3. Apostolic Nuncio to India, Delhi

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