NEW DELHI (CNS) — An archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church resigned July 26 at the request of the Vatican after he was accused of defying the church’s supreme synod in a decades-long liturgical dispute.
Six days earlier, Archbishop Antony Kariyil, vicar of the major archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly, was summoned to the Vatican nunciature in New Delhi, where the nuncio asked him to resign. Ucanews.com reported Archbishop Kariyil initially refused, claiming no valid reason was cited for his resignation, and he gave the nuncio a letter seeking to apprise Pope Francis about the developments.
Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, the nuncio to India, visited the archbishop’s house July 26 and held a discussion with Archbishop Kariyil, after which the resigned was announced, ucanews.com reported.
The Syro-Malabar church issued no official statement about the resignation, but a source told ucanews.com that “it is just a formality” that the Eastern church’s synod accepts the resignation and makes alternative administrative arrangements.
Archbishop Kariyil was appointed vicar of the major archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly in August 2019 after Cardinal George Alencherry was removed due to his alleged involvement in church land deals pending in court.
Archbishop Kariyil was appointed with the consent of Cardinal Alencherry, but they fell apart after the former refused to accept the Syro-Malabar synod’s decision to implement a policy of uniformity in the celebration of Mass in the church.
For more than four decades the church was divided in celebrating the Mass. One group wanted to celebrate Mass by turning to the altar in an effort to restore their ancient liturgy, while another group, led by the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese, opposed it.
In 1999 the Syro-Malabar synod ruled that the priest “will face the congregation until the eucharistic prayer, and then again from Communion to the end of the Mass. From eucharistic prayers until Communion, the priest will face the altar.”
The synod’s formula, seen as a compromise, was adopted in August 2021 but faced strong opposition from Ernakulam-Angamaly, the second-largest Catholic diocese in India. The archdiocese has nearly 10% of the approximately 5 million Syro-Malabar Catholics.
Archdiocesan priests and laity launched a hunger strike, causing Archbishop Kariyil to grant the archdiocese dispensation from following the synod Mass. The protesting groups want to continue with the traditional Mass in which the priest faces the congregation throughout.