Unified Holy Mass leaves an ugly mess in Ernakulam

Unified Holy Mass leaves an ugly mess in Ernakulam
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Archbishop Cyril Vasil was prevented from entering St Mary’s Cathedral Basilica by parishioners and priests who had gathered inside the compound.

KOCHI: The altercation over the Unified Holy Mass turned ugly in Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese, where priests and parishioners of St Mary’s Cathedral Basilica prevented the papal delegate, Archbishop Cyril Vasil, from entering the church on Monday. The archbishop, accompanied by the 100-strong police force, had arrived at the church around 6 PM to offer prayers. 

According to sources, the archbishop was prevented from entering the church by parishioners and priests who had gathered inside the compound. “Protesters booed and raised slogans against the archbishop. He was finally able to enter the church with the help of cops,” said sources. The protesters also broke window panes of the church. The Athiroopatha Samrakshana Samithi condemned the police action on “peaceful” protesters.

“The police resorted to a baton charge to disperse peaceful protesters. We demand action against the criminal police who roughed up protesters,” said Fr Jose Vailikodath, PRO of the Samithi. No one suffered serious injuries in the police action. Fr Jose said the Samithi will take up with the Vatican the “blasphemous” action of Archbishop Vasil.

“He had arrived at the church holding the Eucharist. He used it as an instrument against protesters, which in itself is a blasphemous act. The Pope needs to take the archbishop to task,” he said. According to him, it has been 300 days since the Basilica has been closed following the altercation over the conduct of the synod-specified Unified Holy Mass.

Meanwhile, members of the Samyuktha Sabha Samrakshana Samithi demanded cases against priests and parishioners who barred Archbishop Vasil from entering the Basilica. “The priests who led the altercation, posing a serious threat to the life of the papal delegate are also culprits. Their action point to the fact that they don’t accept the Pope as their supreme head and are ready to even go out of the Church,” said Mathai Muthirenthy, general convenor of the Samithi. 

The papal delegate was assigned to oversee and find a solution to the stalemate over the Unified Holy Mass. On Sunday, Vasil celebrated Unified Holy Mass at Cochin University Church. 

In June, the special synod gave its conditional approval for opening St Mary’s Basilica, which had been lying closed for months. The move followed assurances from church authorities that only Unified Holy Mass will be celebrated there.

Basilica vicar Fr Antony Narikulam and trustees, however, went back on their commitment. The parishioners, miffed by the alleged high-handedness of bishops – whom they accused of ignoring the parish council’s decision – later held a protest in front of the Basilica.The church was closed following skirmishes between proponents and opponents of the Unified Holy Mass. The decision to reopen it was taken at a meeting between the Syro Malabar synod-appointed bishops’ committee and representatives of the Basilica, including the vicar and trustees.

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