Deacons must vow to hold uniform mass for elevation as priest: Syro Malabar Church; protests erupt

07:31 PM Nov 29, 2023 | PTI |

Kochi: In the midst of a persistent dispute within the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church’s Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese, deacons from the archeparchy are now mandated to provide a written undertaking that they will celebrate holy mass in a uniform manner as prescribed by the Synod, before being ordained as priests.


The move came amid the ongoing conflict, where a strong section of priests and the laity of the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese are at odds with the leadership of the Syro-Malabar Church over its Synod’s decision in August 2021 to introduce a standardised manner of celebrating Holy Mass.

The Apostolic Administrator of the archeparchy, Archbishop Andrews Thazhath, issued a directive on November 23, stipulating that deacons, whether religious or eparchial, can proceed to priesthood only if they pledge to adhere to ecclesiastical authorities and uphold the Synodal decision on the uniform mode of celebrating Holy Mass.

This undertaking, now mandatory for deacons in Ernakulam-Angamaly, aims to ensure compliance with the prescribed liturgical practices, particularly emphasising the significance of following the Synodal decision in Holy Mass celebration, a source said.

The commitment includes a written oath stating, ”I will celebrate Holy Qurbana only as per the Synodal decision on the uniform mode of celebration, and I will not celebrate illicitly against the Synodal decision.” ”I am aware of the disciplinary sanctions, including suspension/dismissal from the priestly ministry in case I disobey the above-mentioned directives of my ecclesiastical authorities,” the oath also reads.


According to the 2021 decision of the Syro-Malabar Church Synod, priests must face the faithful only in the first and last parts of the liturgical service, turning towards the altar for the rest of the Holy Mass (50:50 formula).

While most dioceses have adopted this instruction, a majority of priests in the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese, supported by their laity, continue to oppose it, citing a departure from the tradition where the priest faces the congregation throughout the Mass.

The Archdiocese Protection Council came down heavily on Archbishop Thazhath over the new directive, describing it as the ”cheapest style of bargaining” by preventing deacons from fulfilling their dreams of becoming priests.

”Denying the priesthood for eight deacons who have received priestly training for about 10-11 years in Kerala and outside the state, which they consider a dream, is injustice,” it said in a statement.

It said that out of 320 churches in the Archdiocese, only four are currently offering Mass as prescribed by the Synod.

Elsewhere, the priests and laity will not accept the Synod’s decision to offer Holy Mass by ”misrepresenting the procedure and misleading the Pope”.

They will continue to celebrate Holy Mass the way it has been celebrated in the archdiocese for the past 60 years, it said.

”There was no 50-50 formula (Synod formula) back then. Therefore, it is unethical to impose such a condition on them (deacons) before getting the title. It is a violation of human rights,” it said and accused the Apostolic Administrator of destroying the life of the aspiring priests.


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