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Pope Francis appoints delegate to resolve Syro-Malabar liturgical dispute in India

A St. Thomas Christian cross at the installation of Mar Joseph Srampickal at Preston North End stadium, England, on Oct. 9, 2016. / Mazur/

Rome Newsroom, Aug 10, 2023 / 03:23 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has appointed Slovak Archbishop-Bishop Cyril Vasil’ to resolve a decades-long liturgical dispute in the Syro-Malabar Church in India.

Francis has directly intervened several times in the controversy, which centers on a debate about which direction the priest should face when celebrating the liturgy.

Vasil’, an expert on canon law of the Eastern Churches, has been given special faculties in the Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly to ensure “the implementation of the liturgical reform approved by the Synod of the Syro-Malabar Major Archdiocesan Church,” according to an Aug. 10 press release from the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Eastern Churches.

The archbishop’s mission began on Aug. 4, when he arrived in India, the release said.

Vasil’, a Jesuit, has led the Slovak Catholic Eparchy of Košice since 2009. He has served, in the past, as a professor and rector of the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome and from 2009-2020 was secretary of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches.

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.

The Syro-Malabar Church is one of the 23 autonomous Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with Rome. Based in the Indian state of Kerala, the Church has more than four million members worldwide, making it the second-largest Eastern Catholic Church after the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

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