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Two Christian factions in Kerala fight over a Church, HC directs arrest of Jacobites preventing Orthodox entry

The supporters belonging to the Jacobite faction had locked the gates and had assembled inside the St Mary’s Church in Ernakulam district’s Piravom in Kerala, barring supporters of the Orthodox faction to formally take over the administration of the church.

The Kerala High court on Thursday directed the police to arrest the supporters of the Jacobite faction who had blocked the police the previous day from implementing the controversial Supreme Court 2017 verdict regarding the Church’s management.

Since yesterday, the supporters belonging to the Jacobite faction, under the leadership of a few Metropolitan priests, had locked the gates and assembled inside the St Mary’s Church in Ernakulam district’s Piravom in Kerala, barring supporters of the Orthodox faction to formally take over the administration of the church as instructed by the Supreme court in its 2017 verdict.

In a landmark judgement delivered on July 3, 2017, the Supreme Court had ruled on a centuries-old dispute between Jacobite and Orthodox factions of Kerala’s Malankara Church. The SC had ruled that 1100 parishes and their churches under the Malankara Church, which were until then controlled by the Jacobite faction should be controlled by the Orthodox faction, as per the 1934 Malankara Church guidelines.

As reported by The Hindu, the Kerala High court gave the oral directive when the case relating to the Piravom church came up for hearing. The court also sought an explanation from the State government as well as counsel for the Jacobite faction as to under what authority was the Jacobite faction supporters preventing the Orthodox faction from entering the church.

The Kerala court following the Supreme court 2017 verdict also directed the State government to file a report by 1.45 pm on Thursday after complying with its earlier directive to provide police protection to the Orthodox priests to perform religious services at the church.

On Wednesday morning, the Orthodox faction had reached the Church to take its possession after the Kerala High Court directed the police to provide protection to their priests to conduct religious services in the church. The court gave the order on a petition by the Orthodox faction of the church, seeking police protection to conduct mass and prayers in the church.

Tensions escalated between the two rival factions and even the huge deployment of police and fire force personnel in front of the church could not resolve the issue. “It was next to impossible to implement the SC verdict in the present scenario, as the forced implementation of the verdict might lead to a gunfight,” informed the police.

The Orthodox faction had moved the High Court after the state government had failed to implement the apex court’s order.

The dispute between the two Christian factions are not new, in fact, it is about a century old. Last year, the situation at the Piravom Valiyapalli remained tensed after one member of the Jacobite faction threatened to jump off the Church building, while others poured kerosene over their heads and threatened to set themselves alight, as police then too tried to implement the SC verdict.

The Piravom Valiyapalli is just one of the many churches, which has been a part of the heightened dispute over the church administration ever since the SC ruling.

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