The Press Office of the Holy See released a letter of Pope Francis on the Syro-Malabar liturgy today.
In the letter the Holy Father urges the members of the Syro-Malabar Church to foster to “a uniform mode of celebrating the Holy Qurbana, considering this an important step towards increasing stability and ecclesial communion”.
This is the full text of the short letter:
To the Bishops, Clergy, Religious and Laity of the Syro-Malabar Church
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The Holy See regards with special approval and encouragement the agreement unanimously reached by the Synod of Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church in 1999 – and repeatedly endorsed in subsequent years – for a uniform mode of celebrating the Holy Qurbana, considering this an important step towards increasing stability and ecclesial communion within the whole body of your beloved Church. The concerted efforts towards applying this auspicious development in the great Jubilee Year 2000 gave joyful confidence in your sui iuris Church to my saintly predecessor Pope John Paul II.
Notwithstanding some difficulties, which require ongoing discernment in the life of your vibrant Church, the approved norms for the Eucharistic celebration have borne considerable fruit including evangelization in those places, especially the missionary Eparchies, where the whole community has joined in peaceful and prayerful observance, interpreting the continuing consensus of the Hierarchy as a fruit of the Holy Spirit.
I strongly urge the Syro-Malabar Bishops to persevere, and I confirm their ecclesial “walking together” with God’s people, trusting that “time is greater than space” (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 222-225) and that “unity prevails over conflict” (cf. ibid, 226-230).I willingly take the occasion of the recognition of the new Raza Qurbana Taksa to exhort 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. May the Holy Spirit foster harmony, fraternity and unity among all members of your Church as you work to implement the Synodal decision.
Entrusting all of you to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Patriarch Saint Joseph and the Apostle Saint Thomas, I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing. I assure you of my closeness in prayer and ask you, please, to pray for me.
Rome, Saint John Lateran, 3 July 2021
I have no real experience of the Syro-Malabar Church or Rite. But it is a very important Eastern Church in Communion with Rome with over 4 million members. A number of websites discuss some problems with the new liturgical rites of the Syro-Malabar Church and a newspaper article from last year mentions problems with the orientation of the celebration of the Eucharist. The various Eastern Churches in India have a common origin in the Thomas Christians, but are still suffering from divisions that followed the Portuguese colonization of India and the attempts of the Portuguese to reform the local Church. This led to the split of the original Thomas Christians into a myriad of different groupings. The Academia page of Prof. Paul Pallath of Rome’s Oriental Institute provides the best material for further study of these liturgical rites.
The Syro-Malabar rite was revised after the Synod of Diamper of 1599. Over the years it was gradually Latinized through contact with different European missionaries. In the twentieth century there was an attempt to renew the Syro-Malabar liturgy under Pope Pius XII and the renewal of the Roman Rite after Vatican II did have some influence on how the Syro-Malabar liturgy was celebrated. A lot of the tensions there seem to be between those who want to strip the liturgy of its Latin influences and return to its East Syrian roots. I think this is the context in which the letter of Pope Francis must be interpreted. The Pope encourages unity and point out that in spite of “some difficulties … the uniform mode of celebrating” the liturgical rites will lead to “the greater good and unity of [the] Church … [and] foster harmony, fraternity and unity among all members of [the] Church”