Unruly scenes inside Ernakulam-Angamaly diocese basilica over unified mass row

Ernakulam: With more than a day to go before Christmas, scenes were witnessed inside the St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica on Friday over a united mass row.

Members of the laity, those who were in favor of the mass and those who were against it faced the congregation, engaged in a war of words inside the church during the mass.

From photos and videos available online, two factions of priests were at opposite ends of the altar offering opposing styles of mass at the same time. In front of the congregation, the priests in favor of the mass are holding a relay mass and they say that they will last until Saturday morning.

Shortly after the first group of priests for the Mass had begun their prayers facing the congregation, the newly appointed administrator, Fr Antony Poothavelil, wearing the vestments used to celebrate the Mass, stood opposite them at the altar.

A member of the laity who says he is in favor of the united mass takes candles from the altar of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Kochi during the Friday mass. Screen: Manorama News

Earlier this week, priests and members of the parish council allegedly prevented Father Poothavelil from offering a joint Mass inside the Basilica, which had been closed for nearly a month, following a clash between two groups of laymen.

Manorama News reported that members of the laity, including women, who are in favor of the joint Mass, obstructed the priests by removing the missal and candles from the altar as they offered the Mass in view of the congregation. Expletives were hurled inside the church, Manorama News reported.

The power inside the basilica was disconnected for a time, after which the mass was held by candlelight. During the Mass a police team entered the Basilica to control the situation and continue to camp there.

In October, Mar Andrews Thazhath, apostolic administrator of the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese, issued a circular asking parishes to establish a joint mass.

A large part of the laity and even some priests are against the joint mass. Dissident priests and believers who support the popular mass facing the congregation organized a large rally in Kochi earlier this year against the Syro-Malabar church administration’s decision to establish a joint mass.

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