Rival faction locks up Orthodox chief inside disputed church

September 25, 2017 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india, Persecution

Kochi, September 25, 2017: Tension prevailed in a Kerala town on September 24 when members of the Jacobite faction locked the head of the rival Orthodox faction inside a disputed Oriental church in the southern Indian state.

Moran Mar Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II, Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan, was released in the evening with police intervention, television channels in Kerala reported.

The Catholicos came to Varikoli church in early morning to offer Mass. Hundreds of people gathered at the gate and locked it from outside with the metropolitan and some others inside.

Since mid-September, the Orthodox faction has celebrated Mass at the church after the Supreme Court of India in early July ruled that the 1935 Constitution of the Malankara Church should be followed. The apex court also said that the Jacobite faction had no right to offer prayers at the disputed churches such at Varikkoli, Kolencherry and Mannathur.

The other day, parish priest Father Biju Elias was beaten up at the same church in a dispute related to the same issue.

Meanwhile, the Orthodox faction alleged that the police had done nothing to help Bava and others.

Varikoli church is around 20 km east of Kochi, Kerala’s commercial capital.

According to police, the drama began to unfold around 6:30 a.m. when the Catholicos entered the church to lead a Mass. The situation, however, took a violent turn when some people climbed the church tower and tried to deface the emblem of the patriarch by pouring paint over it.

Hearing the news, members of the rival faction rushed to the spot and staged a demonstration against the Catholicos. They also locked up the main gate of the church from outside, preventing the Catholicos from leaving the church.

“This emblem has been a property of dispute ever since the orthodox faction took control of the church based on a Supreme Court order a few weeks ago. There had been attempt earlier to destroy the same and the police had to intervene on a couple of occasions,” officials said.

The issue snowballed into a bigger crisis when the Cathoicos refused to leave the church without arresting all the protesters. “The escort and pilot party were ready by around 12.30 to take the Catholicos safely out of the church. He, however, insisted on arresting the protesters and decided not to leave,” officials added.

The stand-off ended by the evening with the district administration intervening in the issue and the church had been locked up by the Tehsildar on a direction by the RDO.

Meanwhile, the police are yet to register cases in this connection.

– matters india

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