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Kerala: 91-year-old Jacobite woman denied burial as Orthodox faction refuses funeral rites by Jacobite priest

The Jacobite and Orthodox factions have been fighting over Churches since decades. As the Orthodox faction was granted administrative rights of the Kattachira St. Mary's Church, Jacobites have been struggling to get their deceased followers buried in the common cemetery.

A 91-year-old deceased woman was denied burial rights after a difference of opinion erupted between the members of the Malankara Orthodox Church and the Jacobite Syrian Church over their right to conduct the rituals of the deceased.

According to the reports, a 91-year-old woman Mariyamma Rajan of Kizhakkeveetil died on Monday. The deceased belonged to the Jacobite faction and her funeral was delayed following a standoff between the Jacobite and Orthodox factions.

Reportedly, the Jacobite faction was demanding that a Jacobite priest should carry out the rituals at the funeral of Mariyamma at her home and no funeral rituals should be conducted under an Orthodox priest in the cemetery.

However, St Mary’s Church is now under the control of the Orthodox faction and they refused the demand of the Jacobites. Reportedly, the police officers and revenue officials blocked the funeral procession 100 metres from the church after the Orthodox faction opposed the burial at the church cemetery.

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

As the police officials prevented the Jacobites to bring the body to the church, they returned with the dead body without conducting the funeral.

According to a High Court order, the members of Jacobite and Orthodox factions have equal rights to attend the Church and bury family members in the cemeteries. However, only the clergy appointed as per the 1934 Constitution can conduct the burial.

District collector Adeela Abdulla said that though she held discussions with both Jacobite and Orthodox factions. However, the administration said that no arbitration was possible as both the factions remained adamant on their stance.

The St. Mary’s Church at Kattachira was closed for the past several months after clashes had erupted between the Orthodox and Jacobite factions over its ownership. However, the church was later handed over to the Orthodox faction based on a Supreme Court order in July.

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

A similar fight had occurred last year too. The body of a 95-year-old man was denied burial at the Church cemetery as his grandson, who was to carry out the rituals, was a Jacobite priest.

There have been several such cases of fights over burials of believers between the two factions. In such instances, the bodies of the deceased are kept frozen for days together as the family struggles to get them buried.

In August this year in Kochi, after a similar fight between the Jacobite and Orthodox factions over the burial ritual of 86-year-old Sara Varkey, a Jacobite, had forced her family members to donate her body to the Ayurveda medical college.

As per reports, the family had to take such decision after the Orthodox faction refused to allow the Jacobite priest from conducting the funeral prayers as per the family wishes.

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