Ten days after his death, 95-year-old Jacobite parishioner Varghese Mathew Pallikalethu was finally buried at his church, Kattachira St Marys Church in Kayamkulam, on Tuesday at 7 am. As per the wish of the family, Varghese's grandson and Jacobite priest Fr Georgy John led the ritual of the burial, in the teeth of displeasure from the Orthodox faction.
The funeral of Varghese, who passed away on November 3, was in a limbo due to the fight between church factions Malankara Orthodox Church and Jacobite Syrian Church. For the last one week, the body was kept in a mobile mortuary at his residence in Kattachira. On Monday, the National Human Rights Commission had asked the Kerala government to conduct the burial in all religious rites.
The NHRC order pointed out that the state DGP should provide full protection to the family during the funeral. Following this, Alappuzha district collector S Suhas called for a meeting with each faction and issued a final warning telling them to bury the body before Tuesday evening, or else the district administration will conduct the burial. The Orthodox Church authorities finally allowed burial to be conducted.
On Tuesday, family members conducted the burial, with the grandson of the deceased heading the last rituals of the funeral. As per the direction from District Collector, the police deployed a team of over 200 police officers in front of the church and cemetery to avoid law and order situations. The funeral rituals were completed at 8 am.
"As per the NHRC order, we completed the burial of the Jacobite church member peacefully and successfully at Kattachira church. Five Jacobite clergy and 50 family members participated in the burial. It is a big victory of our church," Former Jacobite church managing committee member Fr Sleeba Paul Vattavelil Cor-Episcopa told TNM.
Speaking to TNM, Fr Georgy John said, "The Orthodox faction's direction that they will not allow me inside the cemetery in my cassock really hurt me as a priest. Finally, with the intervention of the NHRC, I could lead the last rituals of my grandfather as per his last wish."
However, the Orthodox Church is evidently unhappy with the government's decision to allow cremation with the leadership of the Jacobite priests.
"The district administration and the police forcefully allowed the Jacobite factions to conduct the burial inside the Orthodox church. We strongly oppose the government decision. We will inform the state government about our dissatisfaction over the issue. Allowing Jacobite priests inside the cemetery is a clear violation of the Supreme Court verdict," Malankara Orthodox Church PRO Fr Johns Abraham Konattu told TNM.