Unified holy mass row: Violence erupts at Kochi church as protesters block papal delegate

Archbishop Cyril Vasil, a representative of the Pope was blocked from entering the church. Photo: Manorama News

Kochi: Violence erupted in Kochi's St.Mary's Cathedral Basilica here on Monday after a group of people led by the Archdiocese Protection Committee, who oppose unified Holy Mass, blocked Archbishop Cyril Vasil, a representative of the Pope, from entering the church. Police resorted to lathicharge to disperse the angry protesters. The papal delegate entered the church with police protection.

Archbishop Vasil offered prayers at the church.  Manorama News reported.

Fr Antony Poothavelil took charge as the church vicar in the presence of the pope's representative.

Members of the Archdiocese Protection Committee are protesting outside the church, reports said. 

On Sunday, Archbishop Vasil conducted the unified Holy Mass at St. John's Parish Church in Kalamassery and held conciliatory talks with parishioners who oppose the unified Mass. It is learnt that the archbishop reached St.Mary's Basilica to end the protests.

The church has been witnessing a series of protests against the unified Holy Mass since last year. Escalating tensions, devotees who are split into two groups have been fighting with each other from the day the archdiocese decided to implement the new mode of worship. The protests led to the closure of the church indefinitely.

The dispute

Tension has been brewing since 2021 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 announced that the unified mass would be conducted in all churches from November 28, 2021. However, a section of the Angamaly Archdiocese opposed the practice.

The protesters have been demanding that the priest should face the devotees while performing the holy mass as continuing the previous practice.

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