Pope Francis delivers a video-message to the faithful of Syro-Malabar Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly 

By Christopher Wells

Dec 8 2023

In a video message to the Syro-Malabar Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly, Pope Francis denounces agitation surrounding the Liturgy and launches an appeal for unity.

In the face of a long-simmering dispute over the liturgy, Pope Francis is calling on the faithful of the Syro-Malabar Archeparchy of Ernakulam to conform to the decisions of the Holy Synod or risk being declared outside of communion with the Church.

The Syro-Malabar Church is the second largest of the Eastern churches in union with Rome, numbering some 4.25 million faithful. The Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly is the primatial see of the Syro-Malabar Church and home of the Major Archbishop.

The Archeparchy has been the centre of an ongoing conflict concerning the way the Holy Eucharist is celebrated. A compromise liturgical practice was endorsed and imposed by the Holy Synod – the highest ecclesial authority in the Syro-Malabar Church. Although the Synod’s decision concerning the Eucharistic liturgy, or “Qurbana”, was received by the other dioceses within the Church, the Major Archeparchy has largely refused to conform, leading to conflict and at times even violence, as the Pope notes.

However, in his video message, Pope Francis indicates that there are other, worldly reasons for opposition, having nothing to do with the liturgy.

‘Remain in the Catholic Church’

In his video message, the Pope assures the Syro-Malabar faithful in the Archeparchy that he has personally studied the issues involved, noting that he has written to them several times in the past. However, as not everyone has read those letters, the Pope says he is now addressing the faithful “in a slightly unusual way, so that no one may have any more doubts what the Pope thinks.”

Pope Francis goes on to make a forceful appeal: “In the name of the Lord, for the spiritual good of your Church, of our Church, I ask you to heal this rupture. It is your Church, it is our Church. Re-establish communion, remain in the Catholic Church!”

In particular, he calls on priests to remember their ordination and the promises they made at the time, calling on them not to separate themselves from the Church, but to walk together with the Synod, with their Bishops, and with the Major Archbishop by implementing the liturgical decisions of the Synod by Christmas, 2023.

“I ask you to be careful,” the Pope says. “Be careful that the devil does not lead you to transform yourselves into a sect.”

Sanctions possible

He pleads with them not to force “the competent ecclesiastic authority” to recognize they have left the Church because they are “no longer in communion” with their Pastors and with the Successor of St Peter, the Pope. If that should happen, he warns, “with great sorrow, sanctions would be incurred.”

“I do not want to reach that stage,” the Pope says.

Pope Francis concludes his message by calling on the faithful of the Archeparchy, priests and people, to celebrate the Qurbana “in communion according to the directions of the Synod,” and to commemorate the Major Archbishop in their liturgies.

“Please do not continue to wound the Body of Christ!” the Pope says in conclusion. “Do not separate yourselves from it! And even though there have been some grievances against you, forgive them with generosity. May the Eucharist be the model of your unity. Do not shatter the Body of Christ which is the Church, so as not to eat and drink judgment upon yourselves.” – Vatican News