The controversy over the implementation of the unified format of Mass in the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese took an ugly turn as clashes erupted between the rival groups of laity on the premises of the Ernakulam Bishop’s house on Friday.
This followed shortly after priests had a meeting with the Metropolitan Vicar of the archdiocese, Mar Antony Kariyil, and registered their protest against the directive of the head of the church, Cardinal George Alencherry, to implement the unified Mass from Sunday.
A circular issued on Thursday had said that the new format of Mass approved by the Synod would come into force in the archdiocese from April 10, Palm Sunday. It had also said that both Mar Kariyil and Cardinal Alencherry would together conduct the Mass in the new format in the Ernakulam Cathedral Basilica on Sunday.
Lay activists supporting the official leadership of the Syro Malabar Church said that one of their members was beaten up by the faction supporting the dissident priests. They threatened to file a police case against the alleged atrocity. However, the rival faction of the laity supporting the priests countered the allegation, accusing the other faction of triggering the tension through deliberate provocation and trespass into the compound of the Bishop’s house.
Later, Fr. Mathew Kilukkan, public relations officer of the archdiocese, issued a statement saying that the old format of the Mass would continue in the archdiocese. The statement claimed that in the meeting with the priests, Mar Kariyil had revealed that he was compelled to sign the circular issued on Thursday and that it was prepared in advance by the curia (administrative office) at Mount St. Thomas, the headquarters of the Syro Malabar Church.
The Bishop was asked to send his letterhead, seal, and digital signature with the directive not to discuss the matter even with his own office. The statement said that this proved that the Bishop signed the circular under duress, and therefore, it was not canonically valid.