THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:As Patriarch of Antioch Mar Ignatius Ephrem II has left the country on Thursday after 12 days’ visit, the first since his ascension to the Syrian Orthodox Church supreme hierarchy, his peace initiatives have become a talking point among ordinary believers here but any immediate desired results remain unlikely, according to indications.
Though the Patriarch has set the tone for a new mindset with his peace initiatives by touching on issues critical and passionate to both the Jacobite and Orthodox factions, the way forward is delicate as the leadership of the two sects are suspicious of the moves of each other.
Overriding reservations expressed by a section in the Jacobite Church, including supremo Catholicos Mar Baselios Thomas I, the Patriarch had driven the peace message in his interactions with various sections during his visit. He openly urged Mar Baselios Thomas I to strike peace somehow.
While striking a right chord with the Jacobite Church followers, the Patriarch also took special care not to offend the sense of identity of the faithful on both sides also.
“Let the two churches remain as it is. But we are brethren. Let there be cordial relations at least when it come to matters of death and marriage,’’ was the Patriarch’s refrain.
Mar Ignatius Ephrem II had reportedly opined that he would not even mind the Orthodox faction scrapping his position from the 1934 Church Constitution and not accepting his authority, if it would pave way for lasting peace. ‘’Even hardcore Jacobites were bowled over by his stand,’’ said Biby Abraham, working committee member of the Jacobite Church. Even Mar Baselios Thomas I shed his reluctance and was all praise for the Patriarch.
“The energy which the Church has acquired through the Patriarch’s visit is immense. The Jacobite Church welcomes the peace initiatives of the Patriarch who had made the call by imbibing the reality that the Jacobite and Orthodox Churches are two entities,’’ the Catholicos told Express. ‘’Further measures in this regard will depend on the response of the Orthodox faction,’’ Mar Thomas I maintained.
But Orthodox Church synod secretary Mathews Mar Sevarios was in no mood to buy the peace moves of the Patriarch.
“At the outset, he made the call for peace and also set up a committee without even meeting us. But in the same breath, the Patriarch also said that the two factions shall remain as it is. How it could be when the SC verdict in 1995 had made it crystal clear that the Church shall unite under the 1934 Constitution, by accepting the Catholicos? The Church constitution honours the Patriarch but does not bestow any powers,’’ Mar Sevarios told ‘Express’.’’
It seems that the Holy See of Antioch still views the Orthodox Church as only an affiliate or a diocese of it, he added.
CM and Patriarch Worked in Tandem
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had taken a personal initiative to bring in the new Patriarch, in a bid to realise a thaw in the relations between the warring Church factions. Though the predecessors of Patriarch Mar Ignatius Ephrem II had been to Malankara many times, it is for the first time that one was accorded the status of a ‘distinguished foreigner’. The Patriarch was so assertive that he would enter any place or attend functions in the state only with the approval of the government, top government sources said.