Unified Mass row: 'Archbishop Kariyil disobeyed Pope,' says Syro-Malabar Church

A gathering of priests and members of the laity during a public meeting at Kaloor in Kochi on Sunday. protesting the Syro-Malabar Church hierarchy's controversial decisions.

The unified mass row in the Syro-Malabar Church (SMC) spiralled out onto the streets on Sunday with thousands of faithful, including priests, of the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese, holding rallies and participating in a protest meeting at Kaloor here.

The opposition to the Synod and Major Archbishop, Cardinal George Alencherry came a day after the Major Archiepiscopal Curia, which is the administrative headquarters of SMC, made scathing remarks against Archbishop Antony Kariyil, who is popular among a large section of the laity.

Recently, Archbishop Kariyil was forced to step down from his position as the Metropolitan Vicar and retire to a care home over failure to implement the controversial unified mass system in the archdiocese.

This move allegedly made a large section of the laity unhappy as they claimed the church was wrongly punishing Archbishop Kariyil.

Archbishop Mar Antony Kariyil
Archbishop Mar Antony Kariyil

On Saturday, the Curia issued a seven-page letter in which it accused Archbishop Kariyil of "challenging the authority of the church" and "disobeying the Pope's clear instructions" on implementing the unified mass.

The "explanatory note" from the Curia was in response to Archbishop Kariyil's six-page letter released a few days ago that talked about how he acted in the interests of the archdiocese and the faithful despite "continued pressure from the higher-ups".

The Curia has accused Archbishop Kariyil of twisting a special dispensation -- given by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation of Oriental Churches -- for certain "special cases" and issuing a circular applying the same to the archdiocese as a whole.

"On March 25, 2022, in a letter, Pope Francis extraordinarily addressed the archdiocese and proclaimed, in a fatherly manner, the implementation of the unified mass as decided by the Synod," the Curia wrote.

"Thereafter, on April 1, 2022, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri instructed Archbishop Kariyil to show the apostolic courage of standing with the Church's decision by withdrawing the wrong circular and implementing the unified mass in the archdiocese. In special cases, he was directed to give an exception with the permission of the major archbishop and as per norms.

From a rally held in Kochi on Sunday.

"But the efforts of the Pope, the head of the Oriental Churches, the bishops synod and the individual and group interventions by other Church heads went in vain due to pressure from anti-Church groups," the Curia noted.

The governing body further accused Archbishop Kariyil of showing scant regard to the authorities by issuing a circular extending the dispensation from unified mass until December 25, 2022.

According to the Curia, the Vatican also held a meeting in Rome with Archbishop Kariyil after he chose to disobey the Pope's clear instructions. "The Vatican saw this as a serious act of insubordination," the Curia noted.

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