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Church closed after Orthodox, Jacobite factions clash in Kerala

Thrissur (Kerala): The St Mary's Church at Mannamangalam near here was on Friday evening put under lock and key by the District Collector following clashes between the Orthodox and Jacobite factions.

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Trouble has been brewing in the church for the past two days after the Jacobite faction, including priests and laity, stay put inside the church, while the Orthodox faction protested outside.

The police had to use force late on Thursday after the two factions indulged in stone-pelting that injured several persons from both sides, and 30 persons including five Orthodox priests were taken into custody.

The police have registered a case against around 120 people from both factions and the first accused is Orthodox Thrissur Diocese Metropolitan, Yuhanon Mar Milethious, who is currently convalescing in a hospital following the clashes last night.

On Friday morning, District Collector T.V. Anupama intervened and had one to one talks with the rival factions. By evening, it was decided that both factions would leave the church premises, after which the church was locked.

Anupama had made it very clear that the talks would only focus on putting an end to the protests and would not look into the aspect of ownership of the church.

The charges include criminal trespass and other non-bailable clauses, however, following the conciliation meeting, all grave charges are likely to be dropped.
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Since December last year, trouble between these two factions had started in quite a few churches. On January 1, the Kerala government appointed a five-member ministerial committee headed by Kerala Industries Minister E.P. Jayarajan to resolve the ongoing row between the Orthodox and Jacobite church factions.

This committee is, however, yet to meet.

The Syrian Orthodox Church has two factions -- the Orthodox, which forms the majority and has its headquarters in Kottayam, and the Jacobites, who consider the Patriarch of Antioch, based in Beirut, as their supreme leader.

Last month, tension gripped two prominent churches at Vaikom and Kothamangalam when angry supporters of the rival factions clashed.

For a brief period, between 1958 and 1970, following a Supreme Court ruling, both factions had remained under one roof with Kottayam as their headquarters. But since 1970, they have been at war over the church's control.

The latest clashes are an offshoot of tension simmering since 2017, when, after decades of trial, the apex court ruled there is no valid ground for the Jacobites to claim any of the churches of the Orthodox faction.

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