KOCHI: Notwithstanding Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s assurance the Church Act will not be implemented, several Church denominations observed ‘Black Day’ on Sunday demanding the state government to take down the Church Properties Bill from the website of the Kerala State Law Reforms Commission (KSLRC). They also demanded the government to state their decisions officially to the church authorities, rather than making public statements.
Church denominations, including the Jacobite Syrian Church, Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and Syro-Malabar Church, read out the pastoral letter during the service on Sunday and conducted signature campaigns as part of the protest.
“Priests and bishops are not the only ones against the Church Act; even the faithful have joined us. The collected signatures of parishioners protesting against the Act will be sent to the Chief Minister,” said Mar Joseph Pamplany, chairman, Syro-Malabar Church Media Commission.
He said the protest will continue till the state government removes the Church Bill uploaded on the KSLRC website. “KSLRC would not publish and make such a Bill without the government’s knowledge. Therefore, the Chief Minister’s public assurances cannot be trusted. He should make an official statement. We are waiting for it,” he said.
Orthodox Church spokesperson Fr Johns Abraham Konat said depending on the government’s decision, they will jointly organise protests against the Act.
“We strongly opposed the Church Act from the beginning. We are suspicious of the government’s stand. How can we trust it? What if the government backs out from its earlier statements and moves forward with implementing the unfair Act?” he asked.
Functionaries of the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) said they will seek clarity on the Church Act directly from Pinarayi. “We are planning to meet the Chief Minister in the coming days and convey the matters to him. The timing of the Church Bill’s upload on the website is very suspicious,” said KCBC spokesperson Fr Varghese Vallikkatt.
KSLRC meeting postponed
The KSLRC meeting, scheduled to be held on Thursday, has been postponed and the Commission is yet to decide on a date. “We received over a thousand opinions from the public on the Bill, with a majority of them in favour of implementing the Church Act, while others terming the old Bill prepared by Justice V R Krishna Iyer as ‘strict.’ We will address each and every opinion, including of those opposing the Bill,” said retired Supreme Court Justice K T Thomas, the KSLRC chairman.