Kerala: Tension among church factions over power tussle

Kerala: Tension among church factions over power tussle

The power tussle between the Jacobite and Orthodox factions of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church in Kerala turned ugly on Thursday with the police forcefully removing priests and believers of the Jacobite faction who blocked members of the Orthodox faction to enter the St. Mary's Church at Piravom on the outskirts of Kochi since Wednesday.

Tense situation was prevailing at the church since Wednesday after priests and believers of the Orthodox faction came to enter the church that was so far under the control of the Jacobite faction over the last many decades. The Supreme Court in 2017 had allowed Orthodox faction control over about 1,100 churches in Kerala.

Jacobite priests and believers, including aged women, locked the church's gate to prevent the entry of Orthodox faction to the church. Though the police tried to use force on Wednesday, the move was withdrawn owing to the strong resistance.

However, on Thursday the High Court directed the district administration to take control of the church by afternoon. The police entered the church by breaking the lock over coming strong resistance by believers. District collector S Suhas and senior police officers convinced the metropolitans and other senior priests of the Jacobite faction about the need to implement the court order.

Subsequently the police forcefully removed the priests and devotees who were emotionally charged. Many priests fell at the feet of the police pleading that the Orthodox faction should not be allowed to enter the church. They expressed fears that the Orthodox faction would not allow the Jacobite faction members to offer prayers at the church once the former got control of the church.

The district collector clamped prohibitory orders at the premises and locked the church. As many as 67 priests and believers of the Jacobite faction were barred from entering the church premises for two months. The church's key is likely to be handed over to the High Court on Friday.

Meanwhile, priests and members of the Orthodox faction were staging sit in near the church gate seeking entry to the church. The district administration in likely to take a call on the matter further directives from the HC.

Last Sunday, the Orthodox faction was allowed to enter a church at Kandanad in Kochi after 45 years on the basis of SC order. Provoked at this the Jacobite faction heads staged a 12-hour fasting in Kochi on Tuesday.

The left-front government has been maintaining a soft-peddling strategy on the matter citing that tensions need to be avoided.

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