Tension over unified mass at St Mary’s Basilica in Kochi, Archbishop stopped from entering church

Unified Mass Conflict | Screengrab: Manorama News
The issue started when devotees opposing the unified mass locked the gate of the St Mary’s Basilica, Ernakulam from the inside. Photo: Screengrab/MMTV

Kochi: The St Mary’s Cathedral Basilica, which is the headquarters of the Major Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly, witnessed a confrontation between two groups of devotees early on Sunday over offering the unified mass. The Apostolic Administrator Archbishop Mar Andrews Thazhath was prevented from entering the basilica during the commotion.

The cause of dispute

Tension has been brewing for a year over the standardised form of worship that has upset a section of the laity and the clergy. As per the new practice ordered by the Vatican "the priest will face the congregation until the Eucharistic prayer, and then again from Communion to the end of the Mass. During the Eucharistic prayer, he will face the altar against the congregation." The Synod of bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church had announced that the unified mass would be conducted in all churches from November 28, 2021. However, a section in the Angamaly Archdiocese opposed the new practice. 

On Sunday, devotees opposing the unified mass locked the gate of the church from the inside. Meanwhile, the other group broke open the locked gate and tried to force their way into the basilica. Soon, the police arrived and removed those in favour of the unified mass from the area.

Subsequently, congregation-facing mass was offered at the basilica even as the devotees favouring the unified mass staged a protest outside.
While these incidents were taking place, Archbishop Andrews Thazhath arrived at the basilica to lead the unified mass. However, he was blocked at the gate and had to return without entering the place of worship.

The police are engaged in negotiations with both sides to defuse the tension.

On March 25, 2022, in a letter, Pope Francis had addressed the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese and proclaimed the implementation of the unified mass as decided by the Synod. 

Archbishop Kariyil was forced to step down as the Metropolitan Vicar due to his failure to implement the new mode of worship. Subsequently, Thrissur Archdiocese Archbishop Mar Andrews Thazhathu was appointed as the administrator. 

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