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Tuesday, Dec 10, 2019

Kerala church leaders offer to mediate between warring Orthodox, Jacobite factions

The Jacobites and Orthodox denominations of the Malankara Syrian Church in Kerala have been fighting for the control of 2000-odd churches and their rich coffers for more than two decades.

india Updated: Dec 04, 2019 14:19 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindsutan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
St Mary’s Jacobite Syrian church in Manaracad in Kottayam.
St Mary’s Jacobite Syrian church in Manaracad in Kottayam.(HT Photo )
         

Chief priests of various churches in Kerala have made an offer to mediate between the Orthodox and Jacobite factions to resolve the differences between the two and end the impasse which has often turned into a law and order problem in many areas of the state.

Latin Catholic Archbishop Dr Soosa Pakayam, Syro-Malabar church Major Archbishop Cardinal George Alancherry, Marthoma church Metropolitan Joseph Marhtoma, Syro-Malankara church head Cardinal Baselios Cleemis and Madhya Kerala Diocese Bishop Thomas K Ommen have written to chief priests of both factions, informing them of their willingness to mediate.

The Jacobites and Orthodox denominations of the Malankara Syrian Church in Kerala have been fighting for the control of 2000-odd churches and their rich coffers for more than two decades. In 2017, the Supreme Court had upheld the 1934 constitution of Malankara church and gave Orthodox group control over more than 1000 parishes and churches in the state but Jacobites, who were controlling majority of these shrines, were not ready to give up. Orthodox is an indigenous group.

In the joint letter, the church leaders said some of the recent developments have really pained them and differences should be settled before they vitiate further. There were many instances where funeral ceremonies of some of the dead were delayed weeks together due to the tiff, they pointed out in the letter. They said growing friction between the two invited enough embarrassment to the community and it is high time to iron out wrinkles.

Last month, the Orthodox faction did not allow burial of a BSF jawan belonging to Jacobite faction in a church in Ernakulam. In another instance, a body was buried in a cemetery three months after death following the intervention of the state human rights commission. In another case a body was exhumed three months after burial following a tiff. On a number occasions tiff between two factions has spilled over to streets inviting enough embarrassment to believers.

While Jacobites have welcomed the move, the Orthodox faction said it will only go with the law of the land. “We need an amicable settlement,” said Jacobite Metropolitan Gergorios Joseph welcoming the move. Orthodox leaders, however, said they need time to discuss but maintained that they were not ready water down some of the recent verdicts.

The Malankara Syrian church has two factions - Orthodox, which is headquartered in Kottayam, and Jacobites, who consider the Patriarch of Antioch, based in Beirut, as their supreme leader. Both factions differ in their leadership but they share the same rites of worship and have a long-standing rivalry that goes back to 1912 when Malankara church split into two, Orthodox and Jacobites.