Pope Francis Accepts Resignation Of Leader Of Syro-Malabar Catholics In India

Featured & Cover Pope Francis Accepts Resignation Of Leader Of Syro Malabar Catholics In India (CR)

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation from the pastoral governance of the Syro-Malabar Major Archiepiscopal Church presented by His Beatitude Cardinal Mar George Alencherry, the Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly, of the Syro-Malabars in India. This is one of the two numerically largest Catholic communities in the country and also one of the largest Eastern Catholic Churches.

For some time now, this church has been experiencing a crisis stemming from a change in the way Mass is celebrated, affecting unity. The largest diocese of the Syro-Malabars is on the verge of schism.

According to canon law, the Administrator of the Syro-Malabar Church until the election of the new Major Archbishop is Bishop Sebastian Vaniyapurackal, Titular Bishop of Troina.

The Holy Father addressed an ongoing bitter dispute in the archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly, directing the faithful there to accept the decision of Church leaders to institute a uniform liturgy.

Canon law dictates that bishops must submit their resignations to the pope at age 75. Cardinal Alencherry turned 78 this year. In his letter on Thursday, Francis told Cardinal Alencherry he “decided to accept your resignation as a sign of your openness and docility to the Holy Spirit.”

Last year, Francis noted, was Cardinal Alencherry’s “50th anniversary of priestly ordination and 25th anniversary as a bishop. “Now that you have reached two significant jubilees and accomplished the pastoral objectives set for the flock entrusted to your care, I consider your resignation not as the conclusion but the fulfillment of your service,” the Holy Father told the prelate.

The Vatican said Curia Bishop H.E. Sebastian Vaniyapurackal, titular bishop of Troina, would serve as the interim administrator of the Syro-Malabar Church until the election of the new major archbishop.

Pope Francis Accepts Resignation Of Leader Of Syro Malabar Catholics In India (Crux Now)
Picture: Crux Now

The Vatican on Thursday said Francis had also accepted the resignation of Archbishop Andrews Thazhath, apostolic administrator of the archeparchy since July of last year. Archbishop Thazhath remains metropolitan archbishop of Trichur of the Syro-Malabars.

Bosco Puthur, bishop emeritus of the Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle of Melbourne of the Syro-Malabars (Australia), will serve in that role “sede vacante et ad nutum Sanctae Sedis,” the Holy See said.

In addition to the letter, on Thursday the Holy Father sent a video message addressed to “brothers and sisters of the Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly” in which the Pope confronted a long-standing liturgical dispute in the Syro-Malabar Church in India.

The Syro-Malabar Church is one of the 23 autonomous Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with Rome. The Eucharistic liturgy of the Syro-Malabar Church, known as the Holy Qurbana, has been the subject of a long, complex dispute over 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.

Francis has intervened in the dispute several times, including last year when he asked opponents of the uniform liturgy to take the “difficult and painful step” of accepting the change. In August he appointed Slovak Archbishop-Bishop Cyril Vasil’ to help resolve the ongoing disagreement.

Below is the Pope’s letter translated into English.

***

To My Venerable Brother
His Beatitude Mar George Cardinal Alencherry
Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly
of the Syro-Malabar Church

As you celebrated last year your fiftieth anniversary of priestly ordination and twenty-fifth anniversary as a Bishop, I was pleased to join you in giving thanks to the Lord, expressing as well my gratitude for the dedication shown over the course of those years by your many pastoral and educational efforts and initiatives. In particular, since 2011, the year of your election as Father and Head of the Major Archepiscopal Church of Ernakulam-Angamaly, the signs of your zeal and generosity were numerous, as you laboured unceasingly for the achievement of various important milestones in the life of this Particular Church.

Pope Francis Accepts Resignation Of Leader Of Syro Malabar Catholics In India (Indian Express)
Picture: Indian Express

In this regard, I think of the recognition of the All-India jurisdiction, the establishment of the offices of the Procurator in Rome and the erection of Eparchies in Australia, Canada and Great Britain. It is also encouraging that various provisions for the pastoral care of the faithful in the Arabian Peninsula are under serious consideration. You have attended to all this without neglecting the ordinary path of the Church, in considering, together with the Synod, pastoral care in catechesis and the liturgy, formation of the clergy and accompaniment of young people, especially in the diaspora, while not forgetting to give attention and service to the poor and those most in need.

The year 2022 witnessed another important event in the life of the Saint Thomas Christians as well as in the universal Church: the 1,950th anniversary of the martyrdom of the Apostle who, according to tradition, brought the proclamation of the Gospel to India. There, as a martyr, he conformed himself totally to his Lord and God (cf. Jn 20:28) through the supreme sacrifice of his life. Guided by this example of Saint Thomas, and out of love for the risen Lord and his Church, in 2019 you offered to step away from the pastoral governance of the beloved Syro-Malabar Church when faced with divisions and protests. Yet at that time, the Apostolic See accepted the judgment of the Syro-Malabar Synod of Bishops, which did not consider it the suitable moment. The Synod, however, could not fail to recognize in your request the heart of a Pastor who set the unity and mission of the Church above everything else.

Now that you have reached two significant jubilees and accomplished the pastoral objectives set for the flock entrusted to your care, I consider your resignation not as the conclusion, but the fulfilment of your service. Indeed, this step represents a further witness of fidelity to the Gospel and a new way of serving the Church, above all through contemplative and intercessory prayer, as well as by continuing to offer your counsel to the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia of which you are a member.

In light of these considerations, together with the occurrence of the centenary of the Syro-Malabar hierarchy, and always mindful of the good and unity of the People of God, I have decided to accept your resignation as a sign of your openness and docility to the Holy Spirit. Invoking the intercession of Saint Thomas the Apostle and assuring you of my prayers, I impart my blessing to you and to the whole Major Archepiscopal Church of Ernakulam-Angamaly.

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