Thattil Assumes Leadership of Syro-Malabar Church Amidst Liturgical Discord, Faces Challenge of Unity in Split Congregation

Election Amidst Liturgical Conflict

Thattil’s election occurs within the backdrop of a contentious debate in the Syro-Malabar Church concerning the implementation of a standardized liturgy, particularly involving the direction priests should face during the Eucharistic liturgy called the Holy Qurbana.

Protests and Dispute Overview

The adoption of a uniform liturgy has triggered various forms of protests, such as priests resorting to a hunger strike and the symbolic burning of cardinals’ effigies, reflecting the deep-rooted and intricate nature of this dispute.

Thattil’s Background and Challenge Ahead

Aged 67, Thattil faces the considerable task of leading a fractured congregation, taking responsibility for the second-largest Eastern Catholic church among the 23 in communion with Rome.

Hailing from Kerala, India’s foremost Christian state, he was ordained a priest at 24 in the archeparchy of Thrissur and holds a doctorate in Eastern canon law.

Past Roles and Expertise

With a multilingual proficiency in Malayalam, English, Italian, and German, Thattil has served as a bishop since 2010.

Initially an auxiliary bishop of Trichur, he was appointed by Pope Francis in 2017 as the first bishop of Shamshabad, a newly formed eparchy accommodating approximately 130,000 Catholics.

Succession and Predecessor’s Departure

Thattil succeeds Cardinal George Alencherry, who stepped down as major archbishop at 78, concluding his leadership tenure of over a decade within the Syro-Malabar Church.

Task of Unity and Future Vision

With the helm now in his hands, Thattil undertakes the significant responsibility of navigating the Syro-Malabar Church through this internal discord, aiming to foster unity and reconciliation among its faithful while overseeing its role within the broader Catholic community in communion with Rome.

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