No midnight Christmas Mass at St. Mary’s basilica after face-off over Mass

Decision made after supporters and detractors of the synodal Mass clashed on Friday evening at the principal church of the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese of the Syro-Malabar Church

Updated - December 24, 2022 09:18 pm IST

Published - December 24, 2022 08:40 pm IST - KOCHI

Police personnel inside the St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica of the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese of Syro-Malabar Church on Saturday.

Police personnel inside the St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica of the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese of Syro-Malabar Church on Saturday.

There will be no midnight Mass to ring in Christmas at the St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica of the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese of the Syro-Malabar Church after a confrontation between two groups of the faithful regarding celebration of the Mass deteriorated into fisticuffs on Friday evening. The fracas continued on Saturday morning.

According to sources, the basilica will remain open, but there will be no Mass until the quarrelling parties reached a consensus on the issue. The two groups got into a violent clash on Saturday and damaged church properties, leading to the police entering the church to maintain law and order. Senior priest Kuriakose Mundadan, who is also the secretary of the council of priests of the archdiocese, the decision to keep the basilica closed was taken after senior officials met the groups supporting and opposing the synodal Mass.

Members of groups opposing and supporting the synodal Mass clash on the premises of the St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica in Kochi on Saturday.

Members of groups opposing and supporting the synodal Mass clash on the premises of the St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica in Kochi on Saturday.

The quarrel in the archdiocese over the Mass got murkier on Friday with allegations that those supporting the synodal Mass system manhandled their rivals supporting a fully people-facing Mass.

‘Priests injured’

The supporters of the synodal Mass allegedly forced their way into the cathedral while a group of priests were celebrating the fully people-facing Mass. Allegedly, the synodal Mass supporters forced their way into the cathedral with the help of the police. Eleven priests, celebrating the fully people-facing Mass, were injured in the melee, claimed Riju Kanjookkaran, a leader of the lay people’s forum Alamaya Munnettam.

He alleged that the group of synodal Mass supporters was led by Father Antony Puthavelil, the newly appointed administrator of the cathedral basilica, which is the principal church of the archdiocese.

‘Baseless allegations’

Those in support of the synodal decision for a unified Mass system dismissed these as baseless allegations. Mathai Muthirenthi, a lay group leader supporting the synodal Mass, said some people were raising allegations against him but these did not bother him. He also said it was good that those disobeying the synod were ousted from the cathedral.

Mr. Kanjookkaran described the group that forcibly entered the cathedral as “goons”, backed by the administrator of the archdiocese Archbishop Andrews Thazhath and Father Puthavelil. They enlisted the help of the police to enter the holy of holies inside the cathedral and even damaged the altar, he claimed.

Senior priest Father Jose Vailikodath said the cathedral administrator should be kept away from the church to prevent any future incidents.

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