Exacerbating the ongoing feud between the Jacobite and Orthodox church factions, the Piravom police have registered an FIR against unknown assailants for vandalising tombstones at the cemetery of Nechoor St Thomas Church in Ernakulam district on Saturday.
According to reports, a case has been registered under the Indian Penal Code section 427 (mischief causing damage). At least four tombs have been damaged or vandalised. Some stone plates have also gone missing from the cemetery.
Members of the warring Jacobite and Orthodox factions have both claimed that the cemeteries of members of their factions were damaged. Speaking to the New Indian Express, Father Johns Abraham Konnan, the spokesperson of the Orthodox Church, said, â€śIt is not a major issue. From what I know, some tombs belonging to our members and some belonging to theirs have been damaged.â€ť
Responding to this, Father Sleeba Paul Vattavelil, priest trustee of the Jacobite faction, stated that the cemetery of the members of the Jacobite section were damaged. â€śIt was an act of provocation from the Orthodox faction. It is a totally disrespectful act,â€ť he added.
According to the police, the incident is speculated to have taken place between Friday night and the early hours of Saturday morning.
The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, a non-Catholic Christian community in Kerala, has two factions -- the majority Orthodox and the Jacobites. The two factions have been in discord since 1970 over the churchâ€™s control. The feud came to a head when the Supreme Court ruled in 2017 that the Orthodox faction the legal mandate to administer 1,100 churches and parishes under the Malankara Church, as per the 1934 Malankara Church guidelines.
However, the standoff between the fraction did not come to an end. Instead, it led to a series of incidents and controversies, with the burial of church members getting delayed, believers threatening to take their lives and blocking vicars at church gates.
Recently, the Supreme Court flayed the Kerala government for not implementing its 2017 ruling and warned to put the Chief Secretary of the state behind bars.