KOCHI: Dramatic scenes unfolded at the centuries-old St Mary's Syrian Cathedral, also known as Piravom Valiyapally, some 35 km from here when the Orthodox faction comprising about 200 people including priests tried to enter the church to comply with the landmark Supreme Court judgment allowing the faction to take control of the disputed church.
Sensing the move, over 400 members of the Jacobite faction, including elderly women, had been camping inside the church premises from Tuesday evening and locked the gates to prevent the Orthodox priests and the faithful from entering the church. The Jacobite faction was led by Catholicos Baselious Thomas I and some other metropolitans including Metropolitan of Niranam Diocese and Geevarghese Mar Coorilos.
Tension prevailed outside St Mary's Syrian Cathedral after around 200 people, including priests, belonging to the Orthodox faction tried to enter the church following SC's landmark verdict.— The New Indian Express (@NewIndianXpress) September 25, 2019
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Nearly 500 police officials are deployed in the church to avoid any deterioration in the law and order situation.
The Orthodox faction's move comes close on the heels of the Kerala High Court's direction last week to the police to provide protection to the faction to enter the church. In its 2017 order, the Supreme Court had ruled 1,100 parishes and their churches under the Malankara Church should be controlled by the Orthodox faction, as per the 1934 Malankara Church guidelines but the order has not been fully enforced due to resistance from the Jacobites.
"We are not trying to forcefully enter the church. It is the responsibility of the police to implement the SC verdict and we are hopeful it will be done. We are not planning to leave," said Fr Elias Cherukadu, vicar of the Orthodox church.
It is learnt the Muvattupuzha RDO has told the Jacobite faction to leave the church facilitating the government to implement the SC order. However, the official spokesperson of the Jacobite Syrian Church Kuriakose Mar Theophilose said that they have not received any official notice from the authorities.
Earlier in December, the Piravom Church witnessed similar protests and sentiments ran high when believers, including women, climbed atop the church and threatened to jump if the police gave control to the Orthodox faction.
According to the protesters of the Jacobite faction, they cannot give away their church to a mere 200 faithful belonging to the Orthodox faction. "There are over 3000 families belonging to the church and we do not have any other church here unlike the Orthodox faction. Where will we go after leaving the church," said an elderly woman belonging to the Jacobite faction.
Meanwhile, Geevarghese Mar Coorilos also told the media that the Jacobites cannot give away their church to the Orthodox faction. "If they want to offer holy mass, they can with the protection of the police officials but we cannot leave our church," he said.
According to Additional Superintendent of Police (Ernakulam rural) M J Sojan, the situation is tense and the police are on standby. "We have not initiated any action so far. We will act if the situation turns murkier," said Sojan.