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Priests, Followers Held as Tensions Continue Between Orthodox and Jacobite Factions at Kerala Church

The priests and followers of the Jacobite faction have been involved in a longstanding tussle with the Orthodox sect over the ownership of churches in the state. However, the Supreme Court in 2017 gave the Orthodox faction the right over thousands of churches, including the one in Piravom.

Neethu Reghukumar | CNN-News18

Updated:September 26, 2019, 7:14 PM IST
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Priests, Followers Held as Tensions Continue Between Orthodox and Jacobite Factions at Kerala Church
Representative image.

Thiruvananthapuram: Tensions prevailed at a church in Piravom in Kerala, which has been caught up in a controversy over its possession between two factions, as the Ernakulam district administration took over the shrine on Thursday and arrested top priests as well as protesters.

The administration's move came after the Jacobite faction refused to vacate the church premises. Priests and followers of this faction have been involved in a longstanding tussle with the Orthodox sect over the ownership of churches in the state. However, the Supreme Court in 2017 gave the Orthodox faction the right over thousands of churches, including the one in Piravom.

Defying the Supreme Court order, the Jacobites had refused to vacate the church in Piravom, with hundreds of their supporters camping and protesting inside the shrine.

The police broke open the main gates of the church on Thursday and forcibly removed the protesting Jacobite bishops, priests and followers from its premises, following a directive from the Kerala High Court.

After holding talks with the sect's top priests, Ernakulam District Collector S Suhas appealed to them to "cooperate" with authorities. He managed to convince the bishops that "there was no other option" as the district administration was bound to implement the court directive that those belonging to the Jacobite faction be removed from the shrine. Following the talks, protestors as well as top priests were arrested.

The key of the church is currently with the Collector, who was ordered by the Kerala High Court to take control of the church with immediate effect. "The keys of the church will be given to the High Court on Friday," Suhas told reporters soon after the police took control of the church.

Considering the matter again later, the High Court ordered the government to implement its order before noon on Friday and submit a report. It also directed the police to ensure law and order in the area.

The state government sought time till Friday morning to remove all persons camped in the premises of church.

Earlier, a tense situation prevailed in Piravom as Jacobite priests and followers refused to heed authorities' plea for cooperation to implement the Supreme Court order. Several priests and followers staying inside the church complex had threatened that they would jump into the river in front of the building if they were removed forcefully.

The stand-off between the two factions had intensified following the Kerala High Court directive to the police on Thursday to evacuate those belonging to the Jacobite faction from the premises of the Church

The court passed its directive while considering a plea filed by the Orthodox faction seeking a direction to the Collector to take over the Church and implement the apex court order.

The priests and the followers of the Jacobite church, including a large number of women, had protested, saying if the police used force to remove them, they would witness mass suicide inside the place of worship.

(With inputs from PTI)

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| Edited by: Karan Anand
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