Syro-Malabar Church

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Land scam: 2017-18

Pope divests powers of Kerala cardinal mired in land ‘scam’, June 23, 2018: The Times of India

Pope Francis divested Cardinal George Mar Alencherry, head of the Syro Malabar church, of his administrative powers on Friday and entrusted them to the Bishop of Palghat, Jacob Manathodath, who has been appointed ‘Administrator Sede Plena’ for the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese.

The move comes six months after several priests of the Syro Malabar sought the Holy See’s intervention in the wake of allegations that Cardinal Alencherry and three others sold properties belonging to the diocese at a much discounted price, resulting in substantial financial loss to the church. An auxiliary bishop alleged that this precipitated “a moral crisis”.

It was alleged that Cardinal Alancherry, pro vicar-generals Fr Joshy Puthuva and Fr Sebastian Vadakkumpadan and a layman Saju Varghese sold properties at five locations, totalling about 3 acres. After the controversy spilled over into public domain, the Kerala HC on March 6 ordered cops to file an FIR against Cardinal Alencherry and others, but on May 22 set aside the single bench’s order.

The Vatican has reportedly directed the new administrator not to involve the Major Archbishop in decisions regarding the archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly, and to form a Synodal committee to assist him in his tasks.

Reacting to the development, Cardinal Alencherry put up a brave face. “He (Bishop Manathodath) will be in charge of the administration. I will remain archbishop and I will be kept in the loop on the functioning of the archdiocese,” he said.

150 priests in rebel against reinstated cardinal/ 2019

Disney Tom, June 29, 2019: The Times of India

The story of Church Land Row
From: Disney Tom, June 29, 2019: The Times of India

A revolt without precedent has jolted the Syro-Malabar Church in Kerala, with at least 150 priests of the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese publicly announcing that they wouldn’t cooperate with Cardinal George Mar Alencherry, who was reinstated by the Vatican as administrative head of the diocese.

Alencherry had been removed from his position as administrative head of the archdiocese a year ago, when an internal commission appointed by the cardinal himself found irregularities in a few land deals done under him that caused huge financial losses to the church.

A draft resolution adopted by the priests states: “Does (the) Vatican and the synod bishops think that priests and the laity will be able to work under an archbishop who is an accused in cases under consideration of courts for financial misappropriation in land deal cases? The new moves of the oriental congregation would only result in the laity losing belief in the synod and the church.”

The likely trigger for the revolt is the suspension of two auxiliary bishops — Sebastian Adayanthrath and Jose Puthenveetil — following Alencherry’s reinstatement. The two bishops had been cooperating with the priests during their campaign against alleged irregularities in the controversial land deals. The resolution demands to know the reason for the removal of the auxiliary bishops. “Why did the oriental congregation remove the bishops. What crime did they do? It was over 400 priests of the archdiocese that began this struggle to know the truth behind the land deals. Was the unforgivable crime done by the bishops that they cooperated with the priests after knowing the truth? If that was the case, why did the authority that suspended the bishops not suspend the priests as well?” it asks.

Sources said the draft resolution signed by all the priests would be submitted to the church authorities, including the nuncio (Pope’s representative).


2022: Priests protest Vatican-decreed ‘unified’ Mass

August 8, 2022: The Times of India

Kochi : Simmering discontent among a large section of priests and laity of the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese against attempts by Vatican-appointed prelates of the Syro Malabar church to impose the ‘uniform’ holy Mass spilled on to the streets on Sunday as thousands of faithful from various parishes took out a march and held a public gathering at Kaloor in Kerala’s Kochi. The dissenting priests and laity want the old form of Mass — where the priests at the altar face the worshippers.

Organisers said that over 50,000 members of various parishes, most priests of the archdiocese, nuns and representatives from other dioceses attended the event at the Kaloor Jawaharlal Nehru International stadium. The main reasons which triggeredthe protest were the call to implement the uniform Mass, the forced resignation of Mar Antony Kariyil, the former metropolitan vicar of the archdiocese who supported the priests in opposing the uniform Mass, and the issue over the restitution of the losses incurred by the archdiocese in controversial land deals. Those who participated in the rally were holding placards hailing Mar Kariyil. In what seems to be an attemptto gather the attention of the Vatican, many placards were written in Italian. One placard said, “Richiediamo giustizia e transparenza” (loosely translated as “we demand justice and transparency”) while another said, “Mar Kariyil E' IL Nostro Buon Pastore (Mar Kariyil is our good shepherd)”. Monsignor Varghese Njaliyath declared that the priests in the archdiocese will only conduct the Mass facing the people.

2023 Jan

By Nirmala Carvalho, Jan 16, 2023: CRUX

MUMBAI – In what amounts to the latest failure to resolve an almost 25 year-old liturgical feud, a six-day meeting of bishops of the Syro-Malabar church concluded without any new consensus on how Mass ought to be celebrated.

Centered in the southern Indian state of Kerala, the Syro-Malabar Church has more than four million followers worldwide, making it the second-largest  of the Eastern churches in communion with Rome after the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine.

Since at least the 1990s, members of the church have been divided over the proper way to celebrate their version of the Mass, known as the “Holy Qurbana.” Historically, some branches of the church celebrated ad populum, meaning facing the people, for virtually the entire liturgy, while others did so ad orientem, meaning facing the East.

In 1999, the church’s bishops agreed on a compromise formula: The Mass would be facing the people during the Liturgy of the Word, and facing East during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. That agreement broke down in practice, however, when some elements of the church refused to accept it, especially the Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly, the largest diocese in the church with around a half-million followers,

Pope Francis intervened last July, insisting on a uniform liturgy based on the 1999 formula, which was supposed to be adopted in August. Efforts to enforce it, however, have been met with resistance including street fights, hunger strikes, the burning of pastoral letters and the burning in effigy of Cardinal George Alencherry, head of the Syro-Malabar Church.

Just before Christmas, a melee over the Mas broke out in a cathedral in southern India, where police had to be summoned to break up a mob scene that included dragging the altar across the sanctuary and scattering sacred vessels on the ground.

In response to the failure of the recent meeting of the Syro-Malabar Synod to resolve the dispute, Alencherry put out a statement insisting that only the bishops and the Vatican can make liturgical decisions, and the future discussions must take the uniform liturgy as a point of departure.

Alencherry said a six-member committee of bishops had been formed to study the issue, including multiple discussions with those who oppose and support the uniform Mass, curia members, prominent laity, and so on. The cardinal said those discussions are ongoing, with the aim of providing adequate time for parishes to implement the uniform Mass.

“The hope of bishops at the synod was to start the process of reconciliation by starting the uniform mass at the Cathedral basilica at least on Sundays,” the circular said. Those opposing the uniform Mass balked, rendering the synod unable to declare a decision which could be welcomed by everyone, the statement said, adding that discussions would continue.

Commenting on the violent incidents at the Ernakulam Cathedral Basilica before Christmas, the statement said priests who used the Holy Mass as a mode of protest and people who encroached upon the altar both inflicted deep wounds on the Church. A report on the issue would be sent to Rome and action taken accordingly, it said.

Meanwhile, representing the priests of Ernakulam-Angamaly, Father Jose Vailikodath said they would continue to say Mass facing the people, claiming that Alencherry’s statement creates more problems than it solves.

Father Paul Thelakat, a former spokesperson of the Syro-Malabar synod, told Crux the dissenters would not object if uniformity were being imposed “on a matter of faith or morals.”

“But what they decide to impose is a simple matter of a ritual,” he said. “There are many options in the Mass text, you can have the Mass very solemn or very short. You can have four readings or only two readings.”

“All we are asking is something we were already doing, [which is] to have the complete Mass facing the people,” Thelakat said. “It is only a question of orientation, where there is nothing wrong at all.”

Thelakat cited a warning by the Vatican envoy in India that the quest for uniformity should not create disunity, and also quoted a text by Pope Francis in which he says that seeking a rigid uniformity is not a Christian attitude.

“I am also reminded of Patriarch Sako of the Chaldean Church [of Iraq] recently, in a talk on the Middle Eastern churches,” Thelakat said. “He reminded us that as enemy forces were gathering at the gates of the city of Constantinople [in the 15 century], Byzantine theologians were arguing about the gender of angels.”

“I’m afraid we are in a similar situation,” Thelakat said.



Santa Anastasia basilica, Rome, assigned

Syro-Malabar Church gets 4th century basilica in Rome, July 20, 2020: The Times of India


Santa Anastasia Minor Basilica in Rome, one of the oldest Christian churches and one of the oldest minor basilicas in the world, has been assigned to Kerala based Syro-Malabar Church (SMC) by the Vatican. SMC said in a press statement on Sunday that Cardinal Angelo de Donatis, the vicar general of Pope Francis for the diocese of Rome, has issued a decree, assigning the fourth century church to SMC. “This basilica from now on would become the centre of pastoral activities of the faithful of the Syro-Malabar Church which is one of the foremost Oriental Churches in apostolic tradition and the zeal of faith,” the SMC said.

Emperor Constantine started the construction of the basilica during 325-326 AD. Situated very close to the Colosseum, the church is built on the Palatine Hill, the administrative centre of the Roman empire. Until the end of the 7th century, Popes celebrated Christmas mass in this basilica. St Jerome, the Bible scholar, preached in this church. Built in the baroque style, the church is famous for its architectural splendour and decorative works.

“A priest designated by the Syro-Malabar major archbishop will be appointed as the chaplain of the Syro-Malabar Catholics. The chaplain of the Syro-Malabar Catholics will be also be the rector of the Basilica,” Fr Abraham Kavilpurayidathil, PRO of SMC, said.

=2023: Cardinal Alencherry quits over land and mass rows

Syro Malabar Church cardinal quits over land and mass rows

Dec 8, 2023: The Times of India


Kochi : Cardinal George Alencherry, one among only five priests from India to be part of the papal conclave that elected Pope Francis in 2013, announced on Thursday that he was stepping down as head of the SyroMalabar Church, capping a controversy-ridden term that included a row over the unification of mass and allegedly questionable land deals of the archdiocese.

Pope Francis accepted Alencherry’s resignation, which he submitted in November last year, after a prolonged pause. The Vatican also replaced Mar Andrews Thazhath as the apostolic administrator of the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese.

The Pope accepted Alencherry’s resignation through a letter written directly to the cardinal on November 29, wherein he said he considered the resignation not as the conclusion but the fulfilment of the cardinal’s service.

Based on the code of the canons of the eastern churches, Curia Bishop Mar Sebastian Vaniyapurackal will be the church administrator until a new Major Archbishop is selected. Senior bishop Mar Bosco Puthur is the new administrator.

The row over unification of mass has been raging since late 2021, with most priests of the archdiocese – one of the largest — refusing to accept it. This led to unsavoury events like bishops being shouted at in public and vandalism in churches.

Thursday saw the Vatican breaking with convention to put out a video of Pope Francis addressing the laity of Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese, wherein he asked them to conduct mass in the uniform format and warned of appropriate action against violators.
In the video aired through the YouTube channel of Vatican News, the Pope said he was aware that priests had been urging the laity to oppose the decisions of the synod for years. He asked the faithful not to follow them.

Alencherry’s predecessor Mar Varkey Vithayathil was in office till his death at the age of 83 in 2011. Alencherry, who will still be eligible to vote for a new Pope for two more years, is resigning at the age of 78.
The Pope’s letter said 2022 witnessed the 1,950th anniversary of the martyrdom of Apostle St Thomas, who, according to tradition, brought the proclamation of the gospel to India.

Alencherry read out a letter announcing his abdication at a presser.Alencherry said he would continue as Major Archbishop Emeritus and perform his duties as a cardinal. He said the unification of liturgy would be completed “only at a time fixed by God.

See also

Syro-Malabar Church: Malankara Orthodox

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