'Christmas is an occasion of reconciliation': Archbishop Andrews Thazhath to the priests of Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese

'Christmas is an occasion of reconciliation': Archbishop Andrews Thazhath to the priests of Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese

Kochi: Archbishop Andrews Thazhath, the new president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), said that Christmas is an occasion of reconciliation, as God became man because of His love to save us by reconciling humankind to Himself. As the whole world is preparing for the Christmas celebrations, Archbishop wished all the priests and faithful a Merry Christmas with great love. He mentioned this in a special Christmas greeting letter to the priests of Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese.

Archbishop Andrews Thazhath also prayed that the Infant Jesus, through the intercession of B.V. Mary and St. Joseph bless all of you, your dear ones and all your activities in priestly ministry. He says that he is writing this letter as a personal note to each one of you who are in priestly ministry and urges to consider this as a sharing from an elder brother who holds a priestly ministry.

The letter continues as follows:

When evaluating the happenings in our Archeparchy, I am conscience bound to write to you, appealing to each one of you as pastor of the souls, to ensure that all your actions and approaches are in consonance with the priestly dignity you are given as a gift by the Lord, through His Church - the letter continues

As you know, the decision of the Synod to implement the uniform mode of celebration of the Holy Qurbana was to bring unity to our Church, taken by the competent authority. In our Archeparchy, however, there have been opposition and protests against the implementation of the uniform mode. The non-compliance of the decision of the Synod which was endorsed by the Holy Father, and non-ecclesial methods of protests against its implementation in the Archeparchy paved the way to make the Apostolic See to think of an Apostolic Administration in the Archeparchy.

From the very first day of my assuming office as Apostolic Administrator, I have been told that the mandate entrusted by the Holy Father is to implement the Synodal decision as exhorted by him. The Holy Father, the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches and the Synod are all aware of the practical and pastoral difficulties we face in implementing the uniform mode. What I have done is only to humbly request you to follow the decision of the competent authorities. I cannot take a decision against the mandate entrusted to me. As per the pledge taken at the time of ordination we priests have to obey our ecclesiastical authorities starting with the Pope.

Dear brother priests, the general evaluation is that the protests against the Synodal decision are crossing all the limits. Pope Francis, in his letter dated March 25, 2022 reminded us: “Nonetheless it is good for us, as believers in Christ, to ask ourselves about our behavior, how we express dissent, how we accept even difficulty and humiliation, how we take steps back”.

I invite each one of you to make an examination of conscience in this regard. I exhort you fraternally to reflect free from all compulsions of one or other group, which is prevalent now. Please do understand that all of us are subject to One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and its laws and regulations. Each and every act of indiscipline from each one of you are really weakening the Church, causing to lose the dignity of priesthood and scandal to the faithful which slowly lead them away from the Church. Please do keep in mind that acts of indiscipline cannot be justified and tolerated anymore in the framework of the Catholic Church, even though some of you are convinced of the strength of the group and act as if they are beyond all ecclesiastical structures.

Holy Father has made it clear in his letter dated 25-3-2022 to the faithful of Ernakulam: “As a Church, all of us - bishops, priests, deacons, and lay faithful are often tempted to forget the essence of the mystery that we are celebrating: we speak about Jesus and we know many things about him in theory. We need, however, o live with him and, like him, to accept the path of humiliation and the way of the cross. We cannot live divided. We cannot create division. We cannot allow ourselves to be a source of scandal”.

Dear fathers, let us be humble enough to accept the exhortation of the Holy Father to the good of our Archeparchy who said: “As of 28 November 2021, the date chosen for the implementation of the Holy Qurbana, thirty-four Eparchies decided to enact the Synodal decision. 

Regrettably, this was not the case with yourselves. You chose instead to continue following your particular liturgical form, albeit after careful reflection, in isolation from the rest of the Syro Malabar Church. Nonetheless, it is good for us as believers in Christ, to ask ourselves about our behavior, how we express our dissent, how we accept even difficulty and humiliation, how we take steps back. This, not in accordance with human criteria of victory or defeat, or in terms of one group versus another, but by looking to the Lord and being willing not only to celebrate his paschal mystery but also to experience it together with him, beginning with the anxiety and suffering of his passion.”

Dear Fathers, please accept the exhortation of the Holy Father to implement the Synodal decision on the uniform mode of celebration at least by Christmas. The Pope had asked us on 25-3-2022: “I am writing to you, therefore, with a paternal exhortation to adhere promptly to the Synodal decision concerning the form of celebration of the Holy Qurbana prior to Easter 2022, as determined by the Synod”. He had already written on 3 -7-2021: “I willingly take the occasion of the recognition of the new Raza Qurbana Taksa to exhort all the clergy, religious and lay faithful to proceed to prompt implementation of the uniform mode of celebrating the Holy Qurbana, for the greater good and unity of your Church.

May the Holy Spirit foster harmony, fraternity and unity among all members of your Church as you work to implement the Synodal decision”. I fear that if you decide to continue to disobey the exhortation of the Holy Father, it may lead to division that will invite disciplinary actions, even from the part of the Holy See. For the sake of unity of the Church, let us together 'accept even difficulty and humiliation' and 'take steps back' as exhorted by the Holy Father.

Therefore, I appeal to you once again, my dear Brother Priests, please accept the exhortation of the Holy Father to follow the Synodal decision at least by Christmas. This is my plea to each one of you. If you have practical difficulty or pastoral inconvenience, kindly go for the provisions given to you as specified in the letter of the Pope, directives of the Apostolic See and my circular. Let us be in communion with Jesus Christ and His Church; let us not be led by other interests. Kindly take into consideration the spiritual good of the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care by providing them the spiritual goods of the Church and not make them instruments to execute your personal convictions.

The Archbishop concluded the letter by wishing everyone the love, joy, peace and hope of Christmas.

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