Pope Francis asks opponents of Syro-Malabar uniform liturgy to take ‘painful step’ of accepting change

CNA Staff   By CNA Staff


Pope Francis addresses bishops of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church at the Vatican on Oct. 3, 2019. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Apr 4, 2022 / 08:35 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has urged Syro-Malabar Catholics opposed to the introduction of a uniform liturgy to take the “difficult and painful step” of accepting the change.

In a three-page letter addressed to members of the Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly, the pope noted that the Synod of Bishops of the Eastern Catholic Church based in India had endorsed the move.

He said that as of Nov. 28, 2021, the date selected for the transition, 34 eparchies had decided to enact the synodal decision.

“Regrettably, this was not the case with yourselves,” he wrote in the March 25 letter. “You chose instead to continue following your particular liturgical form, albeit after careful reflection, in isolation from the rest of the Syro-Malabar Church.”

The Eucharistic liturgy of the Syro-Malabar Church, known as the Holy Qurbana, has been the subject of a decades-long dispute. The controversy is centered on a debate about which direction the priest should face when celebrating the liturgy.

Protests against the adoption of a uniform liturgy have included a hunger strike by priests and the burning of effigies of cardinals.

The authenticity of the pope’s letter was reportedly questioned in India, but Vatican News, the online news portal of the Holy See, published a summary on April 1.

In his letter, the pope said he wished to “offer a paternal exhortation to adhere promptly to the synodal decision concerning the form of celebration of the Holy Qurbana prior to Easter 2022, as determined by the Synod.”

He acknowledged that some parishes might need more time to introduce the change “in order to carry out a more ample catechesis.”

“This is understandable, as long as it does not call into question the synodal decision,” he said.

“As provided for in law, it is possible to ask for the necessary dispensation from the Major Archbishop [Cardinal George Alencherry], who is the Metropolitan of the Archeparchy, or with the approval of the Major Archbishop, from his Vicar. “

“The dispensation would be given only for a determined amount of time in accordance with the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.”

This is the second time that Pope Francis has intervened directly in the liturgical debate.

In July 2021, he wrote a letter exhorting “all the clergy, religious and lay faithful to proceed to a prompt implementation of the uniform mode of celebrating the Holy Qurbana, for the greater good and unity of your Church.”

In his latest letter, the pope acknowledged the sacrifices that the change would require on the part of priests and laypeople.

“I realize that I am asking you to take a difficult and painful step, but I am certain that I will find in you examples of priests and lay faithful who are ready to listen to the voice of the Lord and trust in the counsel and plea of the pope,” he said.

“This has been a distinguishing characteristic of the Syro-Malabar Church throughout the centuries. Your faithfulness has allowed you to overcome numerous historical misunderstandings and in our time has led to a flourishing of vocations and missionary zeal.”

“The Lord will not forget the sacrifice that you are making and, in the end, will open your hearts to the abundance of his blessings.”

Priests of the Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly will reportedly discuss the pope’s letter at a meeting on April 5.

More than 300 priests met on March 17 and passed a unanimous resolution urging Archbishop Antony Kariyil, the Archiepiscopal Vicar of Ernakulam-Angamaly, “not to withdraw the existing dispensation for Mass facing the people in the archdiocese.”

The archdiocese’s spokesman Father Mathew Kilukkan said that the resolution “called for an official recognition of this liturgical variant of the Holy Eucharist by the Church.”

“The withdrawal of the existing exemption will lead to major conflicts and pastoral crises in the parishes,” he said on March 17.

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  1. Because the CNA article is obscure, here below is what is meant by the “uniform liturgy”–possibly even a model for the rest of the Church (?). Certainly less imperious than the Novus Ordo.

    Instead, it seems clear, attentive to both the reverential and irreducibly sacrificial nature of the Mass, while also beckoning the communal dimension as actually intended by the Second Vatican Council. Just a lay opinion, but this:


  2. A word on the sacrifice of the Mass, and the painful issue for those of the Malabar Rite to offer the sacrifice versus populum rather than the long standing ad orientem manner.
    We know from the Apostles that Christ offers himself, his suffering, his body and soul in sacrifice to the Father on our behalf. For our salvation. And for our food, and our drink. Christ suffered unlike the animal sacrifice offered to God by the Jews, which sacrifice when completed is burned. Whereas in the new dispensation, perceived by faith, the host held by the priest and lifted up is the crucified Christ now become the risen Christ. The perfect re presentation of his death and resurrection realized on the altar, becomes our food and drink.
    When the priest faces the Mystical Body, the parishioners, the visual faith perception becomes more evident, that it is the living body and blood of the resurrected Christ that is given to us out of love.
    Although the former rite ad orientem is beautiful, profound, the sense of the sacrifice and lifting of the host is to the Father. A true, and an excellent worship. Now the offering of the crucified Christ as an oblation to the Father in either rite ad orientem and versus populum remains. Nevertheless, the intrinsic nature of the sacrifice in confecting the holy Eucharist for our consumption is less evident than when offered versus populum. As well as the focus on the living Christ who reveals the Father, himself to us when we receive him worthily. This I believe is the theological significance of the new rite.

  3. Yes, the article is obscure. It seems (to ignorant me, anyway) to be a disagreement about ad oriemtum versus ad populum worship, with PF throwing his weight on the side of ad populum (!) with a plea for the rigid to play along.

  4. Francis suggests that the recalcitrant “take a difficult and painful step,…to listen to the voice of the Lord and trust in the counsel and plea of the pope,…”

    Does Francis suggest his counsel is the *same as* the voice of the Lord?

    Is it of more than little wonder that some would choose recalcitrance?

    What Rigidity!

    What fossilized prehistoric Neanderthals, stuck in a bygone past!

    How is it possible that evolution failed to extinguish such a breed of ignorant heathens who usurp the name of human, let alone Christian, let alone, Catholic.

    Apostasy, indeed!


    The “recalcitrant” in the Syro-Malabar rite favor versus populum.

    Such rigidity! Such fossilized specimens of Catholicism! Such apostates! Such antagonists to both the voice of the Lord and the counsel of the Pope (which are, by virtue of Francis’ word choice, proximally equivalent: Unchangeable. Immutable. Just. Clear.

    Francis, just a few days ago, reminded: “I don’t do double-speak.”

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