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Liturgical conundrum : Who sabotaged peace in the Syro -Malabar Church? (1935-45) .

Updated: Oct 7, 2021

Fr. Cyril Korolevsky : A Byzantine priest who worked as a consultant at Oriental Congregation of Eastern Churches in Rome. He was the member of a commission for Eastern Liturgy. His ideology centered upon the "obsessive orientalism" and "anti- Latinization movement" planted the seeds of divisions in the Syro Malabar Church. It was an imposed ideology unanimously resisted by the native bishops of the time.

By. Wimal Mary Das

Episode 2

Who sabotaged peace in the Syro-Malabar Church? (1935-45) Unfolding controversy.

To sum up, this era (1935-45) can be explained by the words of Mahatma Gandhi, who said: “I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”

The liturgical project of the Syro-Malabar Church ended up in the hands of a few orientalist consultants of the Oriental Congregation. The focus shifted from Malabar rite to Chaldean rite by the vote of Fr. Cyril Korolevsky SJ, a Byzantine priest and ardent proponent of Orientalism.

His influence and interventions changed the destiny of the Syro-Malabar Church, and eventually, it fell under the yoke of the Chaldean Liturgy. Hereafter, the focus was not upon the continuation of the existing liturgy we followed through the centuries. They could even claim that the Syro-Malabar Church is the offshoot of the Persian Church. But, by hook and crook, get this exuberant Church into the hands of Orientalist fanatics in the Church and rebaptize into the Orientalist tribes.

For this purpose, a meta-narrative of the history of Saint Thomas Christians of India was manufactured by fanatic Orientalists. The meta-narrative dealigned the Syro-Malabar Church to the Persian Church. The process of Chaldeanization began to deepen in the Church. However, the native bishops were one in their voice, rejecting the Orientalist lobby to take over the Church. The native bishops asserted that we are not Chaldeans, but we are Malabarians. The guts and boldness the Syro Malabar bishops showed in unflinching words are the audacity and heroism of Ernakulam centered Syro Malabar Church. Cardinal Joseph Parecattil stood for this bravery, never filtering his integrity for any selfish motives.

The assertive voices of the native bishops were often heard under the barren ears of authority in Rome. The decisions of the “liturgical project” were always unidirectional and Eurocentric, without paying any attention to the incessant pleas of native bishops and clergy.

The real clash of ideologies between the restoration project and the renewal project began to rip apart the unity and identity of Syro-Malabar Christians in India thereafter. Hereafter, the so-called liturgy project became the project of the West, and the obsession with Orientalism in the liturgy began to dictate the future of the liturgical project in the Syro-Malabar Church.

The native bishops were diametrically opposed to the implementation of the Chaldean liturgy on Syro-Malabar Church. Inclination to the Chaldean liturgy was an arbitrary decision of the Roman authorities against the wish and vision of the native bishops. This is the epicenter of future liturgical problems.

On May 02, 1936, a commission was formed to formulate Chaldean Missal, and Pontifical (Note that it was not the commission for Syro-Malabar liturgy) and this commission is conspicuous due to the absence of anybody from the Syro-Malabar Church from Kerala.

Of course, India was under British rule at that time, and a certain spiritual servitude resonated upon the authorities in matters pertaining to the Syro-Malabar Church. We do not find much communication or discussion during that time. Rather it was the idea that “a finished project of liturgical prayers and rituals will be delivered” for the use of the Syro-Malabar Church. At the end of 1940, the revision of the Chaldean Missal was completed, Cardinal Eugène Tisserant received permission from Pope Pius XII to publish it for the use of the Chaldean Church. However, the printing did not occur immediately due to the onset of the Second World War and other challenges.

Missal and Chaldean Liturgy imposed on Syro-Malabar Church (1962)

The feeling of all native bishops was that the “Chaldean liturgy project,” born in Rome as the brainchild of a few obsessive orientalists, did not imbibe the Spirit of the Saint Thomas Christians ​of Kerala. It is remarkable to notice that the word 'Chaldean' is used as opposed to the inherent liturgical practices of Saint Thomas Christians in India. All native bishops rejected categorically any trend imposing the so-called Chaldean liturgy because they did not see any connection between the Saint Thomas Christians and the Chaldean Church in this regard.

Back then, all the seven native bishops rejected the idea of entangling the ​Syro-Malabar ​Church into the Chaldean fold. One of the prominent leaders among native bishops ​of the time ( during consultation period 1956 to 1962) was Metropolitan Mar. Augustine Kandathil​, the Archbishop of Ernakulum.​ ​He​ was elevated to the Metropolitan when Syro-Malabar hierarchy was founded in 1923. He was one of the longest-serving archbishops and leader of the Syro-Malabar hierarchy at that time. ​He categorically​ ​​ and profoundly refuted the Chaldean Missal with the statement, “it will be pastorally disastrous,” which was a remarkable review from a native bishop. Archbishop Kandathil said, “I am of the strong opinion that in order to make the reformation for ​the present liturgy, which is so dear to your Eminence’s heart (Cardinal Eugène Tisserant), a committee of experts, including experts in the Malayalam language, should be set up.” This was a suggestion that liturgy should not be imported to Kerala, but it has to be born and nurtured here in Kerala, imbibing the native land's ideas, aspirations, and customs.

Corrupt consultation and broached conspiracy

“A consultation process is what some authority sets in motion preparatory to doing what it intended all along.” — Keith Waterhouse, British columnist

The all-native bishops were unanimous in their response, rejecting the imposing "imported Chaldean liturgy" for the Syro-Malabar Church, which shocked the Oriental congregation. The audacity to speak is the legacy of our native bishops that we should imbibe today. Shocked by the resisting words of native bishops, the Oriental Congregation began to seek out consultants in this regard for tactic move in future to impose it. One of the consultants was E.R. Hambye.

Hambye was working in West Bengal for a long time and his directives proposing the strategies to impose Chaldean liturgy by hook and crook really augmented further logistical challenges for the liturgy project in the next decade.

Some of the racial and derogatory comments communicated to the Oriental Congregation by Hambye will raise anyone’s eyebrows. Without any prejudice to his personal life and his commitments to Indian history, the scoffing comments of Hambye must be ​evaluated ​for their nuances.

He states, “We readily admit that those persons ​(native bishops) are unchangeable and that no historical or liturgical argument will ever change their false persuasion towards Latinization.”

“There is​ (are)​ no other means than leaving the old to die in peace and to prescribe the reform to young people who are not ill prejudiced.”

“we will not discuss with Archbishop of Ernakulum …”

“convinced the uselessness of a commission on Malabar.”

Another bargain point he raised to subdue to their overwhelming autocracy, “... express our desire that the use of Malayalam be granted only if the reformed rite (Chaldean rite) is introduced.”

It has to be underscored that Archbishop Kand​a​thil wrote this response six months before his death (he died on Jan. 10, 1956) and the insinuated, contemptuous remarks from Hambye such as “let us wait until the old to die” was the perfect example of arrogance and the autocratic attitude hell-bent on imposing Chaldean liturgy upon Syro-Malabar Church.

It was tantamount to ideological imperialism from a Western mindset. Moreover, within the six months after the death of Archbishop K​andathil, the diocese of Changanassery had​ been raised to the status of Archeparchy on July 26, 1956, by Pope Pius XII, and Kottayam and Pala became its suffragan dioceses. There is nothing against elevating another diocese to archdiocese, but the backdrop to do it immediately after the death of Archbishop Kandathil alludes to the many nuances behind corrupted consultation and conspiracy.

Upcoming Episode: Episode 3

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1 Comment

Sep 12, 2021

Yes.. the decision of Pope Pious 11 to make us under chaldean tradition was influenced by these 'experts' who were extreme Orientals. People faraway from Malabar decided the Liturgy of malabar church against the appeal of local bishops. It's a reason for present liturgical controversy

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