Orthodox church to protest Kerala move for law to end feud
In 2017 the Supreme Court had upheld the 1934 constitution of Malankara church and gave control of 1000-odd churches in the state to the Orthodox faction. Later the two factions’ bid to control these churches led to violent clashes and police action at many places
The Left Democratic Front government’s move to bring a legislation to end the century-old dispute between two Christian sects, Jacobites and Orthodox, in Kerala suffered a setback after the latter on Friday announced a series of protests against the move.
Orthodox church secretary Biju Umman said believers will not accept the government’s move to bypass the Supreme Court judgment and enact a new law. He said protest meetings will be held at all dioceses on Sunday and the church will organise a fast outside the state secretariat on Monday.
“The government has no business to enact a legislation to weaken the historic verdict of the Supreme Court. We suspect it is a move aimed at diverting attention from other burning issues. How can they enact a legislation without consulting us? We will fight it out,” said Umman. But Jacobite church Bishop Geevarghese Mor Coorilos has welcomed the move. “As it turned a big social issue, we welcome the move to find a permanent solution through legislation,” he said.
According to the draft legislation, control over churches will remain with the Orthodox faction but at the same time the new law will guarantee the right of Jacobites to conduct worship and prayers. In case of any dispute, district collectors and police superintendents will intervene and try to solve it after talking to all concerned. State law and industry minister P Rajeev said the proposed legislation will come under the ambit of the Supreme Court verdict and the government will talk to opposition parties and others for a consensus. “We need a lasting solution to century-old issue,” he said.
In 2017 the Supreme Court had upheld the 1934 constitution of Malankara church and gave control of 1000-odd churches in the state to the Orthodox faction. Later the two factions’ bid to control these churches led to violent clashes and police action at many places. Majority of these churches were controlled by the Jacobite faction. Orthodox is an indigenous group, but the Jacobites faction has more followers and a majority of churches were under their control.
There were attempts to broker peace between two warring sects -- chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan had talked to leaders of both at several times but failed to clinch a deal after both stuck to their positions. Later PM Narendra Modi also intervened at the behest of Goa Governor P S Sreedharan Pillai but failed to break the ice.
The non-Catholic Malankara Christian church split into two groups in 1912 -- Jacobite and Orthodox. After years of differences and fight, both reunited in 1959, but the truce lasted till 1972. Since then both factions have been flexing muscle, which often spilt over to streets. The fight is over the control of 2,000-odd churches and their huge wealth. The Orthodox Church is headquartered in Kottayam, and Jacobites, who consider the Patriarch of Antioch, based in Beirut, as their supreme leader. Though both factions differ in their leadership they share the same rites of worship. At the height of tussle both refused to encourage marriages between community members and bury dead in their cemeteries.