PIRAVOM: Amid hours’ long tension and drama, the Ernakulam district administration on Thursday took control of the centuries-old Piravom Valiyapally (St Mary’s Syrian Cathedral), situated nearly 35 km from Kochi, after the police arrested and removed senior priests and members of the Jacobite faction. They had been camping inside the church premises for two days to prevent the Orthodox faction members from entering it.“The district administration has taken over the church. We’ll consult the legal experts before deciding on the next step,” said Ernakulam District Collector S Suhas.
It is learnt he will hand over the church keys to the Kerala High Court on Friday. The police arrested nearly 100 people belonging to the Jacobite faction including metropolitans, priests and faithful before letting them off on bail. The arrests were made after the Ernakulam collector held talks with the faction’s senior priests. Around 15 metropolitans including Elias Mar Athanasios, Geevarghese Mar Coorilos and metropolitan trustee Joseph Mar Gregorios were arrested.
“The district administration and collector had a discussion with us. They’re helpless as they’ve to comply with the Kerala High Court order. We understand their situation and hence we’re cooperating with them. We’ve decided to court arrest with protest,” said Gregorios before entering the police van.
It is learnt the collector, in a move to avoid any clash, has assured the Jacobite group that the Orthodox faction would not be allowed to enter the church, at least for the time being. The district administration locked the church.
The dispute between the Orthodox and Jacobite factions of the Malankara Church reached a flashpoint after the police, on Kerala High Court’s direction, broke open the gates of the church. The HC had ordered the police on Wednesday to arrest and remove all Jacobites protesting inside the church.
Meanwhile, more than 200 people belonging to the Orthodox group, camping outside the Piravom church, left after district police chief (Ernakulam Rural) K Karthik had a word with them.
“The police informed us that the High Court would take the next step on Friday. So we’ve decided to leave. Our ultimate aim is to gain what’s rightfully ours,” said Kandanad East Diocese head Thomas Mar Athanasios.
The Orthodox faction had been trying to enter the Piravom church following the High Court’s direction last week to the police to provide them protection to enter the church. In its 2017 order, the Supreme Court had ruled that 1,100 parishes and their churches under the Malankara Church should be controlled by the Orthodox faction as per the 1934 guidelines but the order has not been fully enforced due to resistance from the Jacobites.
TURN OF EVENTS
Jacobite faction had been camping inside Piravom Valiyapally for two days to prevent Orthodox faction from entering it
On Thursday, the district administration took control of the church and locked it
The collector will hand over keys to High Court on Friday