Parishioners thwart police bid to take control of Kerala Church

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Piravom (Kerala) : A group of parishioners on Monday foiled an attempt by the Kerala Police to take control of their church.

Six women and three men reached the terrace of the St Mary's Syrian Jacobite Church in Piravom, after a strong posse of police officers came to take over the Church on the directive of the Supreme Court and hand it over to the Syrian Orthodox Church.

Piravom is around 25 kms from Kochi.

With hundreds of church faithfuls of the Jacobite faction up in arms and shouting slogans asking the police to withdraw, those at the terrace threatened to jump if the police made any attempt to take over the church.

Trouble has been simmering since 2017 when after decades of trial in the Supreme Court came the final verdict that said there was no ground for Jacobites to claim any of the churches of the Orthodox section.

For the Piravom church, the Supreme court last year, citing the original order of the Supreme Court (2017), granted absolute ownership to Orthodox church over all churches including Piravom church, and since then the Orthodox church has been pressurising the Pinarayi Vijayan government to ensure that the rule of law prevails.

But the government, knowing very well that any attempt to implement the apex court order could lead to a serious law and order issue, had been delaying it.

On Monday, the police force led by Rahul R. Nair, SP-Ernakulam (Rural), who spoke to the Jacobite church leadership, said they have no other go but to implement the court directive and hence all should cooperate.

With this the crowd got jittery and three men ran to the terrace of the church and doused themselves in kerosene and the parishioners started to chime the bell of the church.

Soon a group of six women appeared on the terrace and threatened to jump off the terrace, if the police failed to withdraw.

Sensing trouble, the police soon spread a net so that in case any of the protesters jumping off the terrace would fall in the net.

Top brass of the Jacobite church leadership including its supremo Catholicos Baselios Thomas I, when the action was taking outside, was praying inside the church. He later told the media that they wish Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan takes the lead for a conciliation talk with the other faction.

"He is one who has found solutions for vexed problems in our state and we wish he takes the lead for it and we will cooperate," said the supreme head of the Jacobite church.

Piravom constituency legislator Anup Jacob who belongs to the Jacobite church told the media that he has brought this a few times to the attention of Vijayan and his office.

"He is seized of the issue, but no action has been forthcoming from the state government. I had warned the local district authorities that things would go out of control, if any force is used, as was seen today (Monday)," said Jacob.

However, the Orthodox faction reacted to the media on the developments and said they were told by the police to come once they informed them that they had taken control of the church.

"We are ready and we are waiting for the information from police. The Kerala government does not appear that serious to implement the court verdict," said an Orthodox faction representative.

Incidentally, all the action took place a day ahead of a petition filed by the Orthodox church coming up for hearing in the Kerala High Court on Tuesday.

"All what happened on Monday was stage managed by the Kerala Police to avoid adverse remarks from the high court," said another Orthodox faction representative.

Published : Monday, December 10, 2018 21:00 [IST]
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