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Pope Francis shakes hands with Syro-Malabar Archbishop Raphael Thattil at the Vatican, May 13 (CNS/Vatican Media)

The divisions within the Syro-Malabar Church in India are the work of the devil, who has convinced some people, including priests, that their way is the only way to celebrate the Eucharist, Pope Francis said. Source: OSV News.

“This is where the devil – the devil exists – the divider, creeps in thwarting the most heartfelt desire the Lord expressed before he sacrificed himself that we, his disciples, would be one, without divisions, without breaking communion,” the Pope said on Sunday in an audience with Syro-Malabar Archbishop Raphael Thattil, the Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly, and pilgrims from the Eastern Catholic Church.

Syro-Malabar Catholics in India, especially in the Church’s primary Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese, have been embroiled in a controversy for more than two decades over the celebration of the eucharistic liturgy, which they call the Holy Qurbana.

In 1999 the Syro-Malabar Synod of Bishops issued uniform rubrics for the celebration to end a situation in which some priests faced the altar during the entire liturgy, while others faced the congregation throughout. The bishops’ decision was to have the priest face the altar during the eucharistic prayer but face the congregation during the Liturgy of the Word and again after Communion.

Priests in most Syro-Malabar dioceses complied, but dispensations were issued for the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese and a few other territories, allowing priests to continue celebrating the whole liturgy facing the people. The bishops decided to end the dispensations in November 2021 but a group of priests, religious and laity in the archdiocese continued to celebrate the entire liturgy with the priest facing the congregation.

In August, Pope Francis sent an envoy to India to try to resolve the impasse. And, in early December he sent a video message telling the priests and faithful to obey the bishops’ synod or face excommunication.

Meeting Archbishop Thattil and other Syro-Malabar priests and faithful, including members of the Church living in Rome, the Pope encouraged them to pray for those still dissenting who, he said, are “tempted by worldliness that leads to rigidity and division”.


Syro-Malabar divisions over liturgy are work of the devil, Pope says (By Cindy Wooden, CNS via OSV News)