Amid protests, new vicar of St Mary's Cathedral Basilica fails to turn up for Holy Mass

Fr Antony Poothavelil (right), administrator of church, stands before priests offering congregation-facing mass inside the St Mary's Cathedral Basilica in Kochi. File Photo: Facebook/ @EkmAngMajorArchEparchy

Kochi: Amid protests by a section of believers and priests against the uniform Holy Mass, the new vicar of St Mary's Cathedral Basilica Father Antony Poothavelil did not turn up to conduct the Holy Mass on Sunday.

He took charge as the new vicar of the principal church of the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese of the Syro-Malabar Church on Saturday.

Pontifical Delegate Archbishop Cyril Vasil had recently issued a letter to all priests of the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archeparchy, directing them to follow the Synod-approved Holy Mass from August 20.

Though there was an announcement that uniform Mass will be performed at the St Mary's Cathedral, attempts to conduct Mass at the Kottakkadavu Mar Thomas Church at North Paravur were stopped by the laity. Vicar later said that Holy Mass would not be conducted till further notice.

The priests also faced protests while trying to conduct Mass at St Joseph's Church, Chunangamvely; St Thomas Church at Malayattoor; and Holy Cross Forane Church at Manjapra.

Except in two or three churches where they have been holding the Synod-approved ritual, Holy Mass facing the congregation was held without controversy in other churches under the archdiocese.

The Mass row

The row erupted after the Syro-Malabar Church Synod introduced the uniform way of celebrating Holy Mass in August 2021.

According to it, the priest celebrating the Holy Mass faces the faithful in its first and last parts. The priests turn towards the altar for the rest of the Mass.

While all other dioceses under the Syro-Malabar Church adopted the Synod-approved Holy Mass, the majority of the priests of the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese, opposed it, saying that they could not depart from the traditional way of celebrating Mass with the priest facing the faithful. They also received the support of the laity.

Hardening its stand on the matter, the Vatican last week issued a stern warning to priests who oppose the implementation of uniformity in celebrating Holy Mass.

In a hard-hitting letter, Pontifical Delegate Archbishop Cyril Vasil directed priests in the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archeparchy to practice the Synod-approved Holy Mass celebration from August 20 and said any disobedience to the order would be considered "voluntary, personal, and culpable disobedience to the Holy Father."

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