Let us pray, peace be with us:

"The Cross that has been the cause of our good and by which our mortal humanity was set free,
O Lord, be for us a strong fortress. And by this Cross, we shall overcome the wicked one and All his devices."

(Syro-Malabar Qurbana)

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                     THE NAZRANI        “The Truth will make you free”

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------            Vol.19, No. 11            New Delhi            November, 2009                         --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------



When did the Syro-Malabar split occur? What is its root cause? Going back to history one can pick up certain events: Syro-Malabar Bishops translated Roman Pontifical from Latin to Syriac and requested approval of Holy See for it. Pius XI on 1-12-1934 rejected it on the ground that it is a crime to promote Latinism among Orientals. Holy See wants to catholicize, not latinise; partial means are neither generous nor fruitful. So he decreed to make a liturgical commission for editing the Pontifical according to traditional usages.  Text was ready in 1938, but not printed due to war; it was published in 1957 in Syriac.  The Canonical Prayers of Priests published by CPF (Propaganda) in 1886, was reprinted on 6.1.1938; the Syro-Malabar Bishops did not want to use this Breviary of 3 volumes with all prayers for various seasons and feasts because it was too long! The Syro-Malabar Church’s spirituality based on liturgy is lost!


Trichur Bishop replies on 30.11.1938 to Cardinal Tisserant to the letter of 17.1.1938 from Oriental Congregation about the adoption of Chaldean Missal and Breviary by the Syro-Malabar clergy. The Syro-Malabar Rite is distinct from the Chaldean Rite and 3.5 centuries old. Historians and Roman Congregations recognized it as a distinct Rite. In fact in Trichur areas “Chaldean” means “Nestorian”, the pure Chaldean is looked upon as a strange and foreign Rite! The importance and necessity of maintaining at present the distinction between the schismatic and Catholic forms of Liturgy are not merely of missionary character. The legal position and security of several churches in the Trichur Diocese depend on the distinction between the pure Chaldean rite and the Syro-Malabar rite. (In this connection, we must bear in mind that the name “Chaldean” was given by Rome in 1553 to the Catholic Patriarch Sulaqa. Bishop Pazheparambil in 1912 speaks of Syro-Chaldaeo-Malabaric Mass, printed at Puthenpally ).


Trichur Bishop insists on Syro-Malabar Rite because the Malabar Catholics are racially and ethnologically Indian; Syrian colonists may have come to Malabar, but they became extinct in course of time. That the Malabar Syrian Christians are real Syrians in blood, in traditions, or in culture is indignantly rejected by the whole community. In fact we are Syrians only in the sense in which the English and German Catholics are Latins. He suspects the influence of the Patriarch of Babylon in the proposal of adopting the Chaldean Pontifical, Missal and Breviary. May the Holy See be graciously pleased to reconsider the adoption of the Syriac translation of the Roman Pontifical with all necessary emendations and corrections. Syro-Malabar Bishops’ mentality static!


Letter of Syro-Malabar Bishops on 6.12.1938 to Cardinal Tisserant shows their disapproval of restoring Chaldean Missal and Breviary. If it be your mind that we should change our existing Missal and Breviary which have been in use for centuries, thus bringing about momentous changes in our Syro-Malabar rite, it would be a regretful surprise to us and to the flock entrusted to our care.


Syro-Malabar Bishops appointed in 1953 a liturgical committee to study if reform of Qurbana and divine office were needed. A sub-committee for the reform of Qurbana, aimed to shorten, latinise and vernacularise was formed. Fr Raes, SJ rejected the proposals of the sub-committee and requested Cardinal Tisserant to accept the suggestions of Placidachan.


Cardinal Tisserant, visiting Kerala in 1953, consulted the Syro-Malabar Bishops on restoring the Qurbana; then he appointed a liturgical commission in 1954 to restore Qurbana and informed Syro-Malabar Bishops about it and asked for their suggestions.  They opposed the decision. The draft of Qurbana sent in 1955 to Syro-Malabar Bishops for comment was the Latin Text published by Bishop Pazheparambil in 1912 with minor changes. It had also the 2nd and 3rd Anaphoras in Latin version; ‘Ordo’ and Calendar.  Archbishop Kandathil and other Bishops sent their observations to Rome. What was restored? East Syriac Liturgical Calendar, structure of 1st Anaphora, 2nd and 3rd Anaphoras, some Latin rubrics were modified. For Syro-Malabar Bishops reform means to shorten and to latinise !  They want to say Mass and get good stipend: less time, more money!  Pastoral need is Pastor’s need!  Bishops never change!  Bishops never obey!  Bishops Rule!


Holy See appoints latinised priests as Bishops and they stand for further latinisation:  Roman Curia wants their submission only, Holy See had recourse to unholy policy to divide and rule; it made Changanacherry an ecclesiastical province at par with Ernakulam. Power politics start; liturgy becomes a means of using power. So the modified draft of Qurbana was more welcome to Syro-Malabar Bishops. Plenary Session of the Oriental Congregation in 1957 approved the modified text; it was approved by Pius XII on 26.6.1957 and by John XXIII in 1959. It is known as the Restored Qurbana of 1962.


Syro-Malabar Bishops were reluctant to study and put into practice liturgical books:  Pontifical for Ordination; Ordo (Rubrics) for Qurbana, the variant parts (Propria) for Sundays and Feast days, etc. The Syriac Qurbana of Malabar was printed in Aluva in 1960 with changes made in reform. More than 90% of prayers were the same. Yet reformed Qurbana is labeled antiquated and Nestorian!  Ignorance?  Contempt?


Oriental Congregation on 20.1.1962 issued an Instruction on Reformed Rite of Eucharistic Sacrifice to all Bishops of Malabar Church. Unfortunately, Syro-Malabar bishops ignored the wise directives for new Qurbana:


  1. Malayalam is permitted for the whole Divine Liturgy; but Anaphoras must be printed in both Syriac and Malayalam; celebrant can choose one or the other for celebration.
  2. Leavened bread is prescribed for Qurbana; but unleavened bread is permitted.
  3. In case the liturgical vestments of one’s own Rite are not available, those of other Catholic (Oriental) Rites can be used. In churches where the ‘proper’ vestments are not used, Bishop has to see to their use be restored.
  4. Divine Eucharist is to be given to the faithful under both species, even in both solemn and most solemn Qurbana.
  5. Use of sanctuary veil in Divine Liturgy be resumed in Raza; also in solemn Qurbana, if there is a custom.  

Holy Prelates shall consult in their meetings about uniform celebration of Qurbana to be introduced in every church. Let them edit Lectionaries of O.T. readings, of Epistles and of Gospels.


Oriental Congregation made some suggestions for introducing new Qurbana:

  1. Let those who were ordained before, say the old Qurbana
  2. Start new Qurbana in seminaries, scholasticates and novitiates.  

Instruct the faithful about the new Qurbana, Holy See’s desire to reform all oriental rites to their glory; Roman Rite also will be reformed, as in the case of Holy Week.


Syro-Malabar Bishops prepared half Malayalam and half Syriac Qurban-akramam! New Qurbana on 3.7.1962.  Novelty and prestige!  Many priests tried!  Mockery of Qurbana!  Why? Syro-Malabar Bishops wanted to show:  they were right and the Holy See was wrong; because it wanted reform and vernacular for the Syrians, while the Latins had no reform! Inferiority revenge!  Proprias were not yet translated; it would make Qurbana longer!


“Restoring the old vestments like “Paina” for Mass will not in any way help our people.  We live intermingled with Latins and very often priests of our rite officiate in churches of Latin rite and vice-versa. Want of uniformity in vestments will cause much inconvenience to the priests of both Rites. There is nothing to gain by restoring the antiquated vestments. On the contrary our churches will have to suffer considerable financial loss if the present vestments are to be discarded. Besides, in a hot country like India, such vestments will cause much inconvenience during the divine worship” (Archbishop Kandathil on 6.6.55 to Cardinal Tisserant, 6:7-11).  Gothic vestments are comfortable!


Syro-Malabar Bishops were in a hurry to request the Oriental Congregation to shorten Qurbana (22.10.1962) and it was easily granted (3.12.1962) without sufficient time for experiment of new Qurbana. Naranath Branthan’s work! A long period of work to reform Qurbana for spiritual growth; after a short interval to practice it, it is manipulated and rejected! from 1934/53 to 1962: but aborted after 5 months by a decree. Mutilated Malayalam Qurbana of 15.8.1968 continued till July 1986! Final Judgement and Papal inauguration of Raza on 8.2.1986 was a bluff and mockery! It was the “definitive text” meant for all 3 forms but rejected by “majority” group of anti-Orientals ! and by decree of 5.5.1988 !


General Instruction, n. 16: “Optional prayers are given in smaller letters. The asterisks indicate parts common to Raza and the solemn form of the Qurbana. Columns show the specific parts of Raza”. Syro-Malabar Bishops wanted the simple form of Qurbana for easy use. Lourduswamy, the then Prefect of the Oriental Congregation, supporting the anti-Oriental lobby against Raza text made a split among Syro-Malabar Bishops in 1986 and encouraged petitions to Rome. Then he sent the letter of 5.5.1988 to all Syro-Malabar Bishops and scattered the seeds of dissention against the definitive text and caused division! He was a known anti-Oriental. His parochialism divided even the Latin Church in Bangalore! and the Bangalore Cathedral was closed down on Christmas day !  However, he was found fit for heading the Oriental Congregation by the Holy See of Rome!!  It made split in Syro-Malabar Church. Oriental Congregation rejecting its own Final Judgement, “formulated a “via media” with the intent of putting together the spirit and the principles of liturgical reform on the one hand, and the pastoral need on the other” and issued Norms and Directives personally approved by the Pope on 30.4.1988.  Further latinisation imposed! Yet, Raza “remains the basis of Syro-Malabar Eucharist Liturgy”!!


“Sacred Scripture is of the greatest importance in the celebration of  liturgy…..Hence in order to achieve the restoration, progress, and adaptation of the sacred liturgy, it is essential to promote that sweet and living love for sacred scripture to which the venerable tradition of Eastern and Western rites gives testimony” (SC No. 24). Hence, Latin Rite added a 2nd lesson on Sundays and feast days; added a longer reading as optional to the shorter one. But Syro-Malabar Bishops as blind leaders asked for cutting short both passages and readings: “When the prescribed passages are truly long, they can be reasonably shortened, so that at least 5 verses are read, and not much more than 10 verses (Request of Bishops granted on 3.12.1962). Directives of 5.5.1988, n. 54: “ Readings at Solemn and Simple Qurbana may be reduced to three or two, depending on the solemnity and occasion. The last reading is always the Gospel”. East Syriac spirituality is based on liturgy!


Experimental Text of Qurbana, approved on 3.4.1989 for simple and solemn forms, was to please anti-Oriental lobby: Oriental Congregation confirms the dispensations granted even from the Directive Norms of 5.5.1988 for pastoral reasons, “as and where a different custom is in vogue”, which evidently cannot be included in the Missal ! Why? What principles for reform?  What motives for dispensations?


Liturgical scamp came up in the letter of Bishop Thoomkuzhy, Chairman of Seminary Commission, on 29.6.1989 to Rector of Vadavathoor Siminary: I ask you to celebrate the Divine Liturgy in the Main Chapel of the Seminary, alternating between the two forms given below: 1) The Liturgy of the Word facing the congregation and the Liturgy of the Eucharist facing the altar 2) The entire liturgy facing the altar”. Where is honesty, the best policy ?  There was no custom of facing the people, even during the entire liturgy of the Word (n. 64). Qurbana of 1968 only permitted: Liturgy of the Word may be celebrated facing people (No. 5). Trade Union mentality and pressure tactics of anti-Oriental group! They abused it by celebrating the entire Qurbana looking at the people, as the Latins did, as Parecattil practiced ! 


Liturgy of the Marthoma Nazrani Church must remain faithful to traditional East Syriac Liturgy, mainly in the celebration of Eucharistic Sacrifice according to norms of SC n. 5-6 and 12. Cardinal Rubin on 30.8.1980: “Fidelity to tradition implies the renunciation of every purely individual initiative and, it goes without saying, the refusal of every liturgical text that has not been approved or authenticated, in either experimental or definitive fashion, by the Episcopal Conference and the Holy See”. 


Now, see the mentality of Bishops appointed by Rome. Mar John Vadakkel, newly appointed Bishop of Bijnor has the following to say in an interview to a weekly magazine:


“…..We are trying our level best to cope with the traditional Hindu way of living. In our prayers also we use a lot of Hindu prayers and even in the Mass we have our own way of arathi and so on.  It is very pleasing to the Hindus.  When they come and attend our Mass, they appreciate many things in it, because they see many things in common with Hinduism in our prayers and so on…”.


The Nazrani hopes the Holy See is listening …..