Reports say Orthodox church Metropolitan Yuhanon Mar Meletios is the first accused in the case, and many priests have also been named as accused.

Kerala Orthodox-Jacobite spat Mannamangalam church hit by violence 35 booked
news Religion Friday, January 18, 2019 - 16:18

The ongoing spat between rival Orthodox and Jacobite factions under the Malankara diocese has now spread to a church at Mannamangalam in Ollur, Thrissur district. An FIR was filed by Ollur police on Thursday night against 35 people after the rival factions got into an altercation, which involved stone-throwing, at the Mannamangalam Church. They have been charged under IPC section 307 (attempt to murder). 

The scuffle occurred at around 11 pm on Thursday when Orthodox faction members, who had been camping outside the church, attempted to enter inside. They were stopped by Jacobite faction members who were already present inside the church. The church gate was destroyed in the ensuing melee.

An Ollur police official told TNM, “Thirty-five unknown individuals had been listed in the charge sheet. We will pursue the CCTV footage and identify who the individuals were. Over 15 people were injured, and one man was hospitalised in the stone throwing.” While Ollur police refused to confirm the identities of those involved in the incident, Mathrubhumi reports that Orthodox church Metropolitan Yuhanon Mar Meletios is the first accused in the case, and many priests have also been named as accused.

Numerous churches and parishes under the Malankara Church have been seeing ugly spats between the two warring factions of late, after a controversial July ruling from the SC. The ruling stated that the churches under the Malankara Church should be administered by the Orthodox faction, which was met with opposition and at times violent resistance by Jacobite faction members. The issue has seen clashes between the two factions in Kothamangalam, Piravom and Kayamkulam, earlier in 2018.

Orthodox Church faction PRO Fr Johns Abraham told TNM, “According to the SC verdict, 1,064 churches in Kerala belong to the Orthodox Church. There are individual churches where this dispute is very active, and the Mannamangalam church is one of them. The District Court also gave a verdict in favour of the Orthodox faction. This judgement was stayed for one week. That stay period is now over, so now we are claiming our right to enter and to have the Church handed over to us. Three days ago, the Bishop of the Trichur Diocese of the Orthodox Church marched to the Church and found the gates were obstructed. We waited patiently for three days. Yesterday night, stones were thrown by opposing faction members from inside the church, and there was a ruckus, where violent activities took place at night. Police came immediately and arrested those who were sitting outside. We wanted peace, it was the opposition faction which started the violence.”

Former spokesperson of the Jacobite Syrian Church Fr Varghese Kallappara told TNM, “Mannamangalam church’s administration is currently under the Jacobite faction. The District Court gave a direction in favour of the Orthodox faction, but the High Court issued a stay on this after it was sought by the Jacobite faction. Without considering the stay, they are trying to enter and come in. Jacobite faction members opposed this and didn’t allow them to come. They closed the gate and sat inside. In that situation, Orthodox members came to the gate and began their protest.”

Fr Varghese Kallappara concedes that there is a SC verdict in favour of the Orthodox faction, but says, “Many of the 1,064 churches that come under Orthodox faction post the SC ruling, are protesting and having issues. A decision needs to be made that will solve the issue easily, and this is difficult for the government. According to the SC verdict, these churches come under the Orthodox faction, but this is not an issue that can be solved only by the Court. It is a matter of belief. The Jacobite faction is ready to hold talks and discuss the issue to find a solution that will decide the issue. Such discussions are going on. But to forcibly try and enter the Church while discussions are being held, is questionable.” 

Both representatives mentioned that a reconciliation meeting is currently underway between the two factions at the Thrissur city collectorate. 

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