Christian groups have massive brawl over which direction to face while praying

Two factions of Christians in India became embroiled in a mass brawl over a disagreement over which way to face during church services.

Archbishop Andrews Tazhath, the local Apostolic Administrator, was prevented from entering St Mary’s Cathedral Basilica in Ernakulam, Kerala, by angry parishioners who oppose the Vatican-approved unified mass.

Some tried to break down a locked door in the cathedral, damaging church property and inflaming tensions between pro-and-anti-unified mass factions further.

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Catholic authorities in the region have decreed that priests should face the congregation at the beginning and end of the mass, and the altar during the main part of the service, but not everyone agrees.

The Almaya Munnettam group believes that Catholic priests should celebrate mass while looking at the worshippers.

The Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese has opposed the implementation of a new format for the mass, and on November 27 the disagreement descended into a fistfight.

The archdiocese has sent a formal letter to Pope Francis outlining its opposition to the decision and insisting that priests would continue to celebrate mass facing the other way.

But His Holiness has responded, reiterating his order for the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese to implement the Synod’s directives for a unified mass.

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A report from Hindi-language news outlet Dainik Bhaskar says that 35 churches in ten region have been closed after various Christian organisations launched violent protests.

The Almaya Munnettam group has also warned the Roman Catholic Church that if the new decision is not reversed, it will “face consequences,” although it’s not entirely clear what those consequences might be.

In a pastoral letter, Cardinal George Alencherry has called on the clergy and the worshippers to set aside “individual preferences” and to work toward unity, reports the Catholic News Agency.

He said that the Catholic sect should make every effort to avoid any further division on the issue of the way the Mass is celebrated.

He noted that the Syro-Malabar Church had been on the path of renewing the liturgy since 1934, and acknowledged that the Covid-19 pandemic had contributed to unrest among Church members over the different ways the Mass was being celebrated.


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