Synod of the Eastern rite Syro-Malabar Church has decided to implement a uniform mode of celebrating mass in all its 35 dioceses from Nov. 28, ignoring the opposition from a section of priests and laity. All dioceses will celebrate the liturgy in a uniform way by next April 17, Easter Sunday of 2022, said the synod in an Aug. 27 statement, issued at the end of its week-long online gathering.
The synod decision follows Pope Francis’ letter on July 6, which asked the Church to implement a standardized form of liturgy, as agreed by the synod of Bishops in 1999. The Church has been divided over the liturgical celebration for more than four decades with some priests celebrating the Mass facing the congregation, while some faced the altar against the congregation.
The synod two decades ago agreed that all its priests will face the congregation during the Mass until the Eucharistic prayer, and then again from Communion to the end of the Mass. During the Eucharistic prayer, they will face the altar against the congregation.
However, a section of priests and laity opposed it and sought papal intervention. They did not want priests to stand facing the altar, against the congregation during the Mass.
The latest papal letter asked to implement the 1999 synod decision as “an important step towards increasing stability and ecclesial communion” in the Church, based in southern Indian Kerala state.
The synod “unanimously welcomed” the papal letter and thanked “his intervention for the unity and growth” of the Church, the synod statement said.
As a first step of implementing the decision, all cathedral churches, pilgrim centres, religious houses and minor seminaries will implement the decision on Novem. 18, the beginning of the Church’s liturgical year.
Some bishops, who expressed difficulties in implementing the decision in their whole diocese, can introduce the uniform mode of celebration starting with all possible parishes on Nov. 18.
“By effective catechesis, the uniform mode shall be gradually introduced in the whole eparchy as early as possible, not later than Easter 2022,” the statement said.
However, soon after the decision was announced, a group of people under the banner of the Archdiocesan Movement for Transparency (AMT) protested in front of Mount St Thomas, the headquarters of the Church in Kerala’s Ernakulum district.