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The gimmick unfolds... From minority to majority group of bishops on liturgical issue.

By Wimal Mary Das, USA

The Syro Malabar Church claims its origin from the apostle St. Thomas, who arrived in India in 52 AD. Until the 4th century, the Church was known as the St. Thomas Christians Church. From the 4th century to the end of the 16th century, a connection with the Church of the East is ascertained.

However, we do not have valid proof to adduce the presence of the Church of the East until the 8th century. It was only in the 14th century that the presence of three bishops from the Church of the East in Kerala was confirmed. The third epoch was characterized by the activities of the Western missionaries from the period of the 16th century to the end of the 18th century.

In 1887, the Syro Malabar Church was erected with the establishment of three dioceses. From that period until now, we have 62 bishops under the umbrella of the Synod. The church is called the Major Archiepiscopal Church of Ernakulam-Angamaly.

The issue of liturgy and maior et sanor pars decisions

In 1930, there had been a question about the identity of the Syro Malabar Church. Cardinal Eugène Tisserant and Fr. Koroleviskiji, a Byzantine priest, who could be accused of hijacking the Syro Malabar Church renewal process and forcefully confined to the unwanted restoration ideology. Rome rejected the insistent plea of native bishops to have a renewed liturgy for Syro Malabar Catholics in India.

Instead, a papal commission was instituted in 1934 on the based on maior et sanor pars (decision not by the majority, but by authority) principle to revive the Chaldean liturgical books, earmarked to implement it for Syro Malabar Church in India eventually. Since then, our native bishops have firmly rejected the implementation of Baghdad-based Chaldean liturgy in India. Instead, they have requested the renewed liturgy that appeals to Indian culture and people.

Strategy to impose the Chaldean Liturgy

Another papal commission was formed in 1954 to continue prescribing the Chaldean liturgy to the Syro Malabar Church. In 1957, yet another committee was formed to implement the so-called Chaldean liturgical books to the vernacular language of Malayalam. Though Syro Malabar bishops were against the implementation of Chaldean liturgy, it was rejected based on maior et sanor pars principle.

Key ideas of Second Vatican Council: Restoration, renewal and adaptations

Cardinal Joseph Parecattil led the Syro Malabar Church into the renewal of the church, imbibing the spirit of restoration ensued from the Second Vatican Council. He was against the complete restoration of Chaldean liturgical rubrics as per the policy of Roman authorities.

He brought the renewal and began celebrating the Holy Mass facing people, officially inaugurated in 1968. Few parishes in the archdiocese of Changanassery rejected 1968's unanimous decision of Syro Malabar Bishops to celebrate the Holy Mass facing people.

Here is the crux of the problem. Only a minority bishop group began to rebel against the renewal policy in 1968, but eventually, the group lobbied with the Oriental congregation to destroy the unity and uniformity of the Syro Malabar Church. They have rejected principles of renewal and adaptation, but a minority of bishops are obsessed with the restoration principle of the Second Vatican Council. This obsession is the root cause of all problems in the Church. Today, the people of God pay the price for the injustice inflicted by these rebellious bishops of Changanassery. When they disobeyed the Syro Malabar Bishops in 1968, it was a virtue !

And in 2021, when the majority of priests and laity spoke against this injustice and the dirty deeds of oriental congregation, it is disobedience !

Crisis to chaos towards impending division

The ordinary people do not necessarily know the gimmick behind implementing the total restoration of liturgy against the wish of the native bishops. This is the story of toxic games of certain bishops in the Synod.

Think about it — how did a minority group of bishops become the majority group today to dictate the total restoration? It is by cheating, backstabbing and even using criminal and unethical strategies. In 1985, based on sanior pars policy, Roman authorities supported only the minority group of bishops. It was a slap in the face of the majority of Syro Malabar bishops in India. It was well echoed when Roman documents from the Oriental congregation were brought out without any consultation with the majority bishops. It is the perfect example of justifying any unethical means to reach the goal.

Dr. George Vithayathil, a renowned Church historian reveals the hidden games behind the Liturgy Issues in the Church. He criticised a group of bishops and Oriental Congregation who destroyed the peace in the Syro Malabar Church

Since 1996, all the bishops have been selected according to the predilections towards the restoration of the Chaldean liturgy. The current Major Archbishop, George Alencherry, who has, since his installation in 2011, manipulated all election processes of bishops to get the brute majority in the Synod to impose the unwanted and rejected 50-50 liturgy formula.

Means justify ends in achieving the so-called liturgical uniformity is suicidal

All kinds of problems in the Syro Malabar Church stem from the dirty unethical deeds of lobby groups in India and Rome. Now, the situation in the Syro Malabar Church has been adversely affected by the criminal cases and unheard stories of a controversial land deal.

Unrest in the parishes rips apart the age-old peaceful milieu of the churches. Certain bishops are detained at their residences as they impose the Synod’s decision. Protest marches of clergy and laypeople made headlines across the country.

The agitations from the laity group are afoot. Battle lines are drawn on social media amid heated debates and trading of insults. These insurrections are killing the spirit of Pope Francis’ synodal process and the new vision of the Catholic Church.

It’s too late to use another sanior par principle from the Oriental congregation to end the liturgical calamities by instructing the Synod to legitimize the Holy Mass versus populum for the dioceses, for whoever wants to celebrate the mass facing the people.

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