Tension at Kerala church after Orthodox priests prevented from taking possession

Representation purpose only. Photo: iStock.

Tension prevailed in Kothamangalam in Ernakulam district on Monday (October 28) as a large number of Jacobite faction priests and followers prevented those belonging to the Orthodox faction from entering a church here to take its possession as per a Supreme Court order.

Hundreds of people belonging to the Jacobite faction are camping in the church, known as Kothamangalam Cheriyapalli, considered to be a major pilgrim centre of Jacobite Church followers, preventing the implementation of the apex courts verdict when the Orthodox faction priests reached there to enter the place of worship.

Gates of the church were closed from inside by priests and followers of the Jacobite faction, forcing the Orthodox faction priests to wait outside. Slogans were raised against the Orthodox faction to enter the Church located in Kothamangalam, a Jacobite stronghold in Kerala.

A large number of police forces have been deployed in the premises. Orthodox faction priests said the Supreme Court order should be implemented. Asked whether they would abandon their plans to take over the church in view of the mounting protests, Thomas Paul Ramban, an Orthodox priest, said the court has ordered to the police to implement its order. He said they would leave the place if the state police chief admits that his force could not implement the apex court order.

Jacobite Church followers said they would not allow the rival faction to take control of the church. Meanwhile, the district administration declared the assembly of the Jacobite faction inside the church and the church premises as “illegal” and urged them to leave the place.

The Orthodox faction reached the church to take its possession after a court in Muvattupuzha directed the police to provide protection to their priests to conduct religious services in the church.

Even though the Supreme Court had nearly two years ago allowed the Orthodox faction to offer prayers at the church, members belonging to the rival faction allegedly prevented them from entering it. The Orthodox faction had moved the court after the state government failed to implement the top court order.

Last month, priests and followers of Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church had entered the Piravom Valiyapalli near here and took its possession amid strong protests by the Jacobite faction members. The Orthodox faction could enter the church following a High Court directive to the state police to implement the Supreme Court order.

Two years ago, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Orthodox faction on a dispute with rival Jacobite faction over control of over 1,000 churches and properties in Kerala.