The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church of India's supreme head Baselios Marthoma Paulose II was on Sunday besieged in the St Mary's Varikolly Church near Kochi by members of the opposing Jacobite faction for several hours and could only leave it in the evening, police said.
Following the incident, the district authorities decided to lock the church, and it would be reopened only after the impasse ends.
The supreme head was visiting to conduct the Sunday mass and once it was over, he was blocked from coming out of the church by the Jacobite faction.
A police contingent was also was present at the spot and with better sense prevailing among both sections, any law and order issue was averted, but it was not until the evening that the head of the Orthodox Church was able to leave the church premises.
Ernakulam's Superintendent of Police, Rural, A.V. George told IANS that members of the Jacobite section were sitting outside the church and the supreme head was offered police protection for free movement, but did not avail of the facility.
The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church has two factions - the majority Orthodox faction which has its headquarters in Kottayam, while the Jacobite faction's supreme leader is the Patriarch of Antioch, based in Damascus.
The feud between these two factions is more than a century old and it was for a brief period from 1958 to 1970 following a Supreme Court ruling both the factions remained under one roof with Kottayam being the headquarters of the church.
In July this year, the Supreme Court upheld a Kerala High Court order which allowed the Orthodox Church to take over the administration of all the churches, including of the Jacobite factions also, and since then, there has been some tension at some churches, including the St Mary's Varikolly Church.