KOTHAMANGALAM: Within a week of the skirmish over the control of a church in Piravom, the tussle between the Orthodox and Jacobite factions is spilling into the open again. This time, in Kothamangalam.
On Thursday, more than a hundred believers belonging to the Jacobite faction, including women, blocked the attempts by the Orthodox faction’s vicar Fr Thomas Paul Ramban to enter the St Thomas Church, Kothamangalam (Cheriyapally) in the morning, following the Kerala High Court decision to open the church for prayers for the Orthodox faction.
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Sensing trouble, a huge contingent of police was deployed on the church premises from early morning.
“We had to intervene when the members of the Jacobite faction tried to attack the vicar. We took the protesters into custody and removed them from the spot. The vicar was given protection and moved to the Santwanam Public School at Kothamangalam,” said Basil Thomas, Kothamangalam SI. We have arrested 29 protesters in connection with the incident, he said.
During the protest, three women and the church office staff of the Jacobite faction fainted and were admitted to the Baselios Hospital in town. “We have been directed to stop the action to avoid casualties,” said Basil.The protests of the Jacobite faction intensified when the Ramban returned in the afternoon to enter the church. The protesters blocked him when he reached the church, triggering a scuffle between him and the protesters.
“We are not leaving without getting control of our church back. The church belongs to us and even the High Court verdict was in our favour, said Philippose A, an Orthodox believer. Baselious Thomas I, Catholicos of the Jacobite Syrian Church, said he believes the government will intervene to resolve the issue.
“We are not going to leave our church and therefore, the government and police must take a decision. We are always open to discussion. The protesters are simply creating issues,” he told media persons at St Thomas Church. He also said the attempt of the Orthodox faction to take control of the church was not justifiable.
“They are not obeying the order of the court, which has given us time till March. In Malabar (north Kerala), both the factions have resolved the issues of the Church with gains and losses. We have accepted it. Why can’t such a method be applicable here?” he asked.
The incidents at Kothamangalam are a repeat of the drama that unfolded at St Mary’s Jacobite Syrian Cathedral (Valiyapally) in Piravom last week, though the roles in Kothamangalam were reversed.
In Piravom, the Jacobite faction members protested on the church premises when the police entered the disputed cathedral to implement last year’s (July 3) landmark Supreme Court judgment giving the control of the church to the Orthodox faction.