Kerala govt in a fix over church feud

The Kerala government, which has been soft-peddling the decades-long feud within the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church over the rights of churches, is now in a fix with the Supreme Court coming down heavily on the government for not implementing the order allowing Orthodox faction control over about 1,100 churches in the state.

Close on the heels of the head of the Orthodox faction, Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose -II, urging the Kerala government on Thursday to implement the court order, state Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the government was duty-bound to execute the court order.

Though the court issued an order in 2017 giving control to the Orthodox faction of about 1,100 churches, the government made a dilly-dallying strategy as it did not want to invite the wrath of any faction. It also invited criticisms as the Left-front government took a stern stand on implementing the apex court order allowing women of all ages to the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple.

Kerala has been witnessing the feud between the Orthodox and Jacobite factions of the Malankara Syrian church since 1912. Though there was a consensus between the two factions during 1958-1970, the disputes again surfaced. Over the years, Kerala witnessed a series of clashes between the two sections over the rights over churches. Both CPM and Congress-led governments in Kerala had been maintaining a soft-peddling strategy as they wanted to appease both factions.

While considering a case in this regard on Tuesday, the Supreme Court strongly criticised the Kerala government for not implementing the 2017 order. The court even asked if Kerala was above law and also warned that the chief secretary would be jailed if court orders were not implemented.

The head of the Orthodox faction said that even if the churches came under the control of the Orthodox faction, there would not be any hindrance for anyone to offer prayers at the churches. A major chunk of believers was least bothered about who owns the church, he added.

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