Priests on Hunger Strike in favor of Versus Populum

I start this post with two disclaimers. I am not an expert on the Syro-Malabar Church or her liturgical patrimony and having given a lot of thought and research to the matter, I believe that in the vast majority of cases, the spiritual lives of Catholics today are better served by the celebration of Mass versus populum.

Last summer I wrote a couple of posts on PrayTell about attempts by the Syro-Malabar Church, an Eastern Catholic Church in full Communion with the Holy See, to promote a unified manner of celebrating whereby parts of the Eucharist would be prayed ad orientem (here and here). There was also a helpful interview with Mar Joseph Srampickal, the first Syro-Malabar bishop appointed to Great Britain (published here). Mar Srampickal

But it seems that the matter has not been settled. There seems to have been some back and forth before Christmas with some dioceses receiving an exemption allowing them not to implement the common form of the liturgy (with the Liturgy of the Word facing the people and the liturgy of the Eucharist facing East).  Now it is reported that Cardinal George Alencherry has issued “a direction to ‘correct’ the exemption to the unified mode of Mass provided to certain dioceses in the Church.” Now it is also reported that

Over 100 priests from the Syro-Malabar Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly have begun a fast in front of Cardinal and Major Archbishop George Alencherry’s residence in the city to reiterate their demand that the archdiocese be allowed to continue with the tradition of fully congregation-facing Mass and to be given permanent exemption from a directive of the Synod of Bishops in August last year to celebrate the Mass with the celebrant (priest) facing the congregation for the first half of the Mass and facing away from the congregation for the second half.

Apparently 350 priests wanted to take part in the protest, but they decided to limit the number to 100 in order to respect COVID guidelines.  All of this takes place as the 30th Synod of Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church is in being held at Mount St. Thomas, Kakkanad, where the Church is headquartered.

There are probably many other non-liturgical matters in play here and the discussion is not simply about liturgical practices.  But those of us in the Latin West may find it helpful to reflect that we are not the only ones with liturgical issues and that the world is much better than the small portion of it that we can see.

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