Priests condemn Archbishop Thazhath for ‘turning archdiocese into police raj’

Until demands are met, statutory payments from parishes will not be made, and archdiocesan administrator will not be invited for church-related ceremonies, they say

October 18, 2022 06:39 pm | Updated 06:39 pm IST - KOCHI

The community of priests in the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese of the Syro-Malabar Church has roundly condemned apostolic administrator Archbishop Andrews Thazhath for turning “our mother”, the archdiocese, into “police raj”.

The priests said until their demands were met, the statutory payments from parishes would not be made to the archdiocese, and that the archdiocesan administrator and his supporters would not be invited for any church-related ceremonies.

Father Jose Vailikodath, senior priest and public relations officer, said in a statement here on Tuesday that Pope Francis had said that shepherds of the Church should “smell like their sheep”. However, the archdiocesan administrator was “running away in fear when he saw his sheep” and had summoned the police for protection.

The bishops are incapable of “listening to their sheep or addressing their issues”. The statement from the community of priests also said that the imposition of the diktat of the Synod of Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church on uniform Mass should have been discussed in Canonical forums.

The apostolic administrator, who had promised lay people’s groups from 200 parishes that Canonical institutions and their representatives would be consulted and their grievances brought to the attention of the Vatican before the Synod’s decision was circulated, had broken his promise, the statement claimed. The administrator also walked out of the first meeting of the priests’ council after saying what he had wanted to say. He shut down any scope for dialogue on the issue by his action even as dialogues are needed to resolve an issue, said the priests.

The demands raised by the priests include permission to Archbishop Antony Kariyil, former metropolitan vicar, to live within the archdiocesan boundaries; recognition and approval of fully congregation-facing Mass in the archdiocese as a liturgical variant; and complete restitution for losses suffered by the archdiocese in the 2017 land deals as recommended by the Vatican.

The priests have decided to boycott the archdiocesan administrator and his acolytes. The priests’ council, comprising around 250 persons, also expressed the view that the archdiocesan administrator was unfit for his position. The “care of the believers or the sheep” would be in mutual consultations within the forane churches, and the priests said they would not participate in any function at the archdiocesan house, which is under police guard at present.

Circulars from the archdiocese will not be taken seriously. The administrator had not taken into confidence around five lakh faithful and 450 priests on the issue of Mass, the statement said, claiming that 377 priests from 16 forane churches had signed the resolutions passed on Tuesday.

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