Sara’s son Paulose said, “We want our mother to reach heaven but that should not be limited by crossing the borders of the church cemetery.”

Wary of Orthodox-Jacobite fight during burial Kerala family donates 86-yr-olds bodySara Verkey
news Religion Sunday, August 25, 2019 - 18:07

The decades-old fight between two factions of the Malankara Church in Kerala has been playing out even in graveyards. Wary of this factional war, a family in Kerala has decided to donate the body of their 86-year-old mother for medical research, instead of sully her memory with a battle in a burial ground.

On Friday, 86-year-old Karakkattil Sara Varkey passed away in Kolenchery. Sara and her family belong to the Kanniattunirappu St Johns Church near Kolenchery in Ernakulam. They are Jacobites, and would normally have buried her body after performing Jacobite rituals. However, the Orthodox faction – which won a case in the Supreme Court in 2017 – is against Jacobites performing their rituals in the cemeteries. This has been an ongoing issue in several parts of Kerala.

“We don’t wish to be a part of any ugly spat between two church factions,” said KG Paulose, Sara’s son, “Our family does not wish to create a tense situation before the burial of the body.” Explaining the sequence of events, he said, “We finished the proceedings to donate her body to the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College. After Jacobite priests performed prayers in the Kanniattunirappu church, we handed her body over to the medical college.”

On August 23, another Kolenchery resident Paily’s body was buried in the cemetery after huge protests by the Jacobite faction. The burial was held forcefully, against the wishes of the Orthodox faction. Paulose said he wanted to avoid such tensions.

Upset that things had come to this, he said, “These types of actions only happen in Kerala. Any civilised society can’t support such actions.”

Father Jibi Echikkottil, vicar of St John's Church Kanniattunirappu said, “The family members did not want to create a tense situation in the premises of the church, so they decided to hand over the body to medical college. The reality is that the opposition by the Orthodox faction was the reason for the family to donate the body to the Medical College. We offered all prayers and burial rituals in the chapel of the Kanniattunirappu church and later handed her body over to family members.”

Jacobite Almaya Forum working president Paul Varghese meanwhile said that to donate a body to a medical college was the denial of natural justice to a Christian. Quoting from the Bible (1 Corinthians 3-16:17), he said, “Surely you know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you! So if anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you yourselves are his temple.”

Paulose however said, “If paradise is a reality, our mother will reach there. We want our mother to reach heaven but that should not be limited by crossing the borders of the church cemetery.”

Meanwhile, Malankara Orthodox church PRO Father Johns Abraham Konattu told TNM, “The Orthodox church will not block any burials. I came to know about this issue only through social media. Normally only the bodies of parishioners are buried in the Church.”

“But if the Jacobite faction wants to offer rituals then we will not allow them to do so,“ he said.

Read: From 1599 to today: Tracing Kerala’s Jacobite vs Orthodox church battle

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