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Tensions continue between two Christian factions over possession of church in Kerala following Supreme Court verdict

Thomas Paul Ramban, an Orthodox priest, said the court has ordered to the police to implement its order and said they would only leave if the state police chief admits that his force was incapable of implementing the apex court order.

Tension prevailed in Kothamangalam in Ernakulam district in Kerala on Monday after a large number of priests and followers belonging to the Jacobite faction prevented those belonging to the Orthodox faction from entering a church to take its possession as per a Supreme Court’s 2017 verdict regarding the Church’s management. In its order, the apex court had given the Orthodox Christians rights over thousands of churches which were under the control of Jacobite Christians. Jacobites are refusing to give away the churches, leading to frequent protests and clashes.

Hundreds of Jacobite supporters are protested and raised slogans outside the church known as Kothamangalam Cheriyapalli, which the Jacobite church followers consider to be their major pilgrim centre.

The supporters of the Jacobite faction closed the doors of the church from inside barring the people of the Orthodox faction to enter the church premises. A large number of police forces have been deployed in the premises.

On being asked whether they would give in to the growing protests, Thomas Paul Ramban, an Orthodox priest, said that the court has ordered to the police to implement its order and said they would only leave if the state police chief admits that his force was incapable of implementing the apex court order.

Meanwhile, the Jacobite faction was hellbent that they would not allow the rival faction to take control of the church.

The district administration declared the congregation of the Jacobite faction inside the church as “illegal” and urged them to leave the place.

The Orthodox faction had reached the church to take its possession after Muvattupuzha court, following the Supreme court 2017 verdict, directed the police to provide protection to their priests to conduct religious services in the church.

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.

Last month, the Kerala High court 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 Churchs’ management. The supporters belonging to the Jacobite faction, under the leadership of a few Metropolitan priests, had on September 25 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 it.

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.

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