Action against those who desecrated church, violated sacraments, says Cardinal

December 26, 2022 10:10 pm | Updated 10:10 pm IST - KOCHI

Cardinal George Alencherry, Major Archbishop and head of the Syro-Malabar Church, and Archbishop Andrews Thazhath, apostolic administrator of the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese, said stringent action would be taken against those who used the holy sacraments and violated the sanctity of St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica as means of protest on two days in the runup to the Christmas celebrations.

A release on Monday cited the two top officials as describing the incidents on Friday and Saturday as “unparalleled” instances of violation of discipline. Action on the basis of church discipline would be taken against all those involved in the incidents, it said.

The officials also expressed sorrow over the protest. They condemned the incidents at the principal church of the archdiocese, which went without Christmas Mass and other celebrations as it was closed to prevent further incidents.

The Syro-Malabar Church as a whole was in great pain over the incidents that took place as a protest by a group of lay people and priests against the unified Mass ordered by the synod of the church and approved by Rome. These incidents cannot be justified, said the church officials, as they appealed to those who led the protest to withdraw from their course of action and follow church discipline.

In the meanwhile, a meeting of the parishioners of Ernakulam forane met here on Monday and decided to hold prayers and take other remedial steps for the incidents inside the cathedral.

The incidents and closure of the cathedral relate to the issue of Mass celebration in the archdiocese. The synod, more than a year ago, said a unified system of Mass should be brought about. In this system, the celebrant faced the congregation for the first half of the Mass and then faced away from them or faced the altar for the sacramental part.

But the vast majority of lay people and priests in the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese cited the more than 50 years of tradition in the archdiocese in which the celebrant faced the congregation throughout the Mass. A tussle has been on since August last year with the synod trying to impose the unified Mass.

Matters came to a head on Friday in which the supporters and opponents of the synodal Mass clashed inside the basilica where a group of priests were celebrating the full-people facing Mass. The clash saw the toppling of the altar and, reportedly, spilling of consecrated wine and host. It also resulted in injuries to nearly a dozen priests.

The civil administration convened a meeting of the factions as the stand off continued into Saturday. It was then decided to close the cathedral until a consensus evolved.

“Those opposed to the synod have called on Rome to intervene to reconsecrate the cathedral as the spilling of the consecrated wine and host is an instance of sacrilege. Mass cannot be celebrated in the church without re-consecration,” said Father Kuriakose Mundadan, senior priest and secretary of the council of priests of the archdiocese.

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