The Ernakulam district administration took control of St. Mary’s Church at Piravom amidst high drama involving members of the rival Jacobite and Orthodox factions after the Kerala High Court ordered the removal of supporters of the Jacobite faction from the church premises on Thursday.
The two-day stand-off ended around 1.45 p.m., the deadline set by the High Court for filing an action taken report, when the leadership of the Jacobite faction told an emotional crowd of the faithful that they have no other option but to abide by the High Court directive.
The decision was announced after a brief discussion involving S. Suhas, District Collector; K. Karthick, District Police Chief (Ernakulam Rural); and Joseph Mar Gregorios, Metropolitan Trustee of the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church.
“The keys of the church are now in the possession of the district administration. We will discuss with legal experts and implement the court directive. Police presence at the church premises will continue,” Mr. Suhas said.
The police and Fire and Rescue Services personnel had a tough time breaking open the church gate after the priests and members of the Jacobite church locked it using iron chains. They used combat cutters to break open the lock. The priests and members of the Jacobite group raised slogans against the police.
However, the situation was brought under control in a few minutes as the leadership of the Jacobite faction asked the members to permit the police to carry out the directive issued by the High Court. The senior leadership, priests and agitating members of the Jacobite faction then courted arrest and were taken in police vehicles from the church premises.
Even as the drama unfolded, members of the Orthodox faction continued their sit-in near the church. The protest against the entry of members of the Jacobite faction by the Orthodox group was led by Bishop Thomas Athanasius of the Diocese of Kandanad (East). The supporters of the Orthodox faction said they would continue their fight to ensure that the government implemented the Supreme Court verdict.
The Supreme Court had upheld the 1934 constitution of the church and dismissed a dozen review petitions filed by the Jacobite faction in a decision which impacted over 2,000 parish churches and 30 million followers of the Malankara church across the world.
The apex court had criticised the State, asking whether it was above the rule of law and admonished the Chief Secretary for not implementing its 2017 judgement resolving a prolonged dispute between the Orthodox-Jacobite factions on the management of the Malankara’s numerous parish churches.