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Kerala Government Committed to Resolve Orthodox-Jacobite Church Feud

In Kerala, Religions
July 04, 2019

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday informed the Kerala Assembly that his government was committed to implementing the 2017 Supreme Court order in the ongoing row between the warring Orthodox and Jacobite factions of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church.

“We are committed to implementing the directive of the apex court. We are trying to resolve the issue through consensus,” said Vijayan. Vijayan was responding to a submission in the house, after the apex court early this week came down heavily on his government and threatened that it would not mind putting behind bars the state Chief Secretary for failing to implement the 2017 court order.

The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, a non-Catholic Christian community from the state, has two factions — the majority Orthodox, who have their headquarters in Kottayam; and the Jacobites, who consider the Patriarch of Antioch (in Beirut) as their supreme leader. The community first split into Orthodox and Jacobite in 1912, but came together under one roof in Kottayam for a brief period between 1958 and 1970, following a Supreme Court ruling. Since 1970, they have been at war over the church”s control.

Trouble has been simmering since 2017, when after decades of trial, the apex court in its final verdict gave the Orthodox faction the right to administer 1,100 churches and parishes under the Malankara Church and said there was no ground for the Jacobites to claim any of the churches. Following the directive, the Jacobite faction can either accept the leadership of Marthoma Paulose II, the supreme leader of the Orthodox church, or form a new church by handing over the churches which they now run.

On January 1 this year, the Kerala government constituted a five-member ministerial committee, headed by State Industries Minister E.P.Jayarajan, to resolve the issue, but the Orthodox faction said it was not interested in a dialogue. Slamming the Kerala government”s inaction in the matter last week, Justice Arun Mishra asked if it was trying to overrule the Supreme Court verdict.

“The government appears to be with the group trying to thwart the implementation of the apex court verdict. What”s the use of such a state government? The top court has not asked the faithful to leave the church. It has just asked Jacobites to hand over the administration of churches to the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church,” said an angry Paulose II.