Archbishop Antony Kariyil has been leading a revolt of priests of the archdiocese against cardinal George Alencherry, head of the Kerala-based Syro-Malabar Church.
In an unprecedented development, the Vatican has sought the resignation of Ernakulam archbishop Antony Kariyil, after he failed to implement a uniform method of offering the Mass, the most important form of worship in the Catholic Church.
Kariyil has been leading a revolt of priests of the archdiocese against Church head Cardinal George Alencherry in the last one year over the liturgical issue.
The Kerala-based Syro-Malabar Church, one of the prominent Eastern Churches under the Vatican, had introduced a uniform Mass in all dioceses under the Church in November last year, but the archdiocese of Ernakulam had refused to implement the directive of Alencherry, who had the backing of Vatican in this regard. Kariyil had the support of the majority of the priests and a section of laymen, who had even clashed in many parishes over the bid to foist the uniform Mass.
On Monday, around 200 priests who are backing Kariyil, gathered at the arch-bishop’s house in Kochi to pledge solidarity with him. The priests passed a resolution saying that they would not accept the removal of Kariyil as the head of the archdiocese.
The resolution said, “The move to get the resignation of Kariyil shows that the Vatican does not want to solve the crisis in the Church or the archdiocese. Such a decision would only push the archdiocese into further crisis. Neither the priests nor the laity of the archdiocese would accept the decision of the Vatican to remove Kariyil as the head of the archdiocese,’’ said the resolution, released by Fr Sebastian Thaliyan.
The resolution demanded the resignation of Cardinal Alencherry, whose name had got embroiled in a shady sale of Church property, involving black money. “It is the Cardinal who should quit. His land dealings had caused heavy loss for the archdiocese. By influencing the state and the Central governments, the Cardinal has been trying to wriggle out of the land scam,’’ it said.
The dispute over offering Mass had prevailed in Kerala Catholic Church for several decades. While a section of priests offers the Mass facing the people, another does so facing the altar. In certain other dioceses, the Church follows a mix of both. Bishops and priests have been divided over the conduct of Mass. As per the uniform mode of offering Mass, priests and bishops across the Church in all dioceses perform the ritual facing the altar throughout the service.
The crisis over the liturgy came close on the heels of the controversial land dealing which had even led to the removal of Alencherry as the archbishop of the archdiocese in 2019. Although Alencherry is the head of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in Kerala, he does not have any administrative role in the archdiocese of Ernakulam.
In the past, Cardinals used to have administrative responsibility in the archdiocese of Ernakulam.