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MUMBAI, India – An archbishop in India says a new church in his diocese is practicing a “kind of deception” by calling itself the Ecumenical Catholic Church of Christ.

The congregation was founded in Vasai by Father Donald Rodrigues, a former priest of the Archdiocese of Bombay who got married on March 1, 2021. The center also includes other former Catholic priests and seminarians, and worships in a Catholic style, including Marian devotions such as the rosary.

Vasai, located near Mumbai, has a long Catholic history dating back to a Portuguese settlement.

Archbishop Felix Machado of Vasai issued an appeal earlier this month calling for Catholics to “keep away from this center or abstain from associating themselves with this Centre or any other center the group might have or going to start.”

In his appeal, Machado said people “may be confused and may ignorantly attend the programs of this center.”

Speaking to Crux, the archbishop said the center could cause “division and disunity” in the close knit Catholic community in Vasai.

“This is a kind of deception, because by using the same terms we don’t become one. True ecumenism believes in unity, and this is misleading people by using same terminology.  It is not sufficient to use the same terms, it is more important to follow the Spirit of the terms,” he said.

“Vasai is also a traditional place, a compact community life, generous and welcoming to anyone who comes. The place where this group has begun this is a very close community, majority of whom are Catholics. There are Hindus and Catholics who have lived together for generations. The relationships are cordial not only Catholics but Hindus also, and I visit them for Diwali. They are like brothers and sisters to me,” Machado continued.

He emphasized that his decree wasn’t anti-ecumenical, and that he is committed to working for Christian unity.

“The Church is irreversibly committed to ecumenism, but if groups like these continue to crop up like mushrooms, the Church will never arrive at obeying our Lord and Savior who prayed to His Father, ‘that they may be one’,” he said.