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1067Church faction threatens to storm rival bastion

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  • SOCM
    Aug 24 10:48 PM
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      IANS [ SATURDAY, AUGUST 24, 2002 9:45:22 PM ]

      THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A row between two groups of the Malankara Syrian
      Church in Kerala could snowball into violence, with one planning to
      forcefully enter a church synonymous with the rival faction.

      The Orthodox faction is set to enter the famous St. Mary's Church at
      Manarcaud, seven km from Kottayam on August 31. The church, however,
      is considered a prestigious symbol of the Patriarch faction.

      This was decided at a diocesan level meeting held at the headquarters
      of the Orthodox church in Kottayam Friday.

      The faithful belonging to the Orthodox faction are to give a mammoth
      reception to Baselios Mar Thoma II, the supreme head of the church,
      at Kottayam and then lead him and other bishops in a vehicle
      procession to Manarcaud.

      The metropolitan is to offer prayers at the St. Mary's Church in the

      St. Mary's Church has always been the citadel of the Patriarch
      faction and never has a priest from the Orthodox faction been able to
      officially enter it.

      "We will not allow such a thing to happen and this act is meant to
      destroy whatever little peace is left between the two factions. If
      they try to enter the church, there will be severe law and order
      problems," said a staunch member of the Patriarch faction.

      The newly ordained supreme head of the Patriarch faction Baselios
      Thomas I has gone on record to say that if anyone tries encroach upon
      churches under its control, the move will be dealt with accordingly.

      But hardliners in the Orthodox faction are determined that unless
      some "action" is taken, the government will not act.

      "The Patriarch faction wants the state government to act according to
      a Supreme Court verdict that says the supreme head of the church is
      Baselios Mar Thoma II and all the properties belong to him," said an
      Orthodox faction devotee.

      Trouble has already broken out in Ernakulam and in some parts of
      Trissur where the Patriarch faction has an edge and controls most

      Ugly scenes were witnessed on two occasions in the last week when the
      Patriarch faction followers objected to the last rites of two people
      belonging to the Orthodox faction. Finally police had to intervene.

      The funeral of Fr. Joseph Vendrapally, an Orthodox priest at St
      Mary's church Vadvacode in Ernakulam district, Friday took place
      after several rounds of discussion between the district
      administration, the police and the two factions.

      The church is fully under the control of the Patriarch faction.

      Senior bishops of the Orthodox faction were not allowed to enter the
      church and they performed the last rites at another place even before
      the body was brought to the church at Vadvacode for burial.

      Despite the presence of several churches in the state for different
      sections of Christians, none has made efforts to broker peace between
      the Orthodox and Patriarch factions.

      When asked about the feud and the damage it could do to Christians in
      Kerala, the supreme head of the Mar Thoma Church, Phillipose Mar
      Chrysostom, evaded an answer.

      In February this year, the Supreme Court had asked the Malankara
      Association to elect the Malankara metropolitan to facilitate
      reconciliation between the factions. Until 1970, the two groups were

      The Patriarch faction, constituting around 35 percent of the
      Malankara Syrian Church, did not find the Supreme Court judgment to
      its liking and did not take part in preparing the electoral rolls for
      the association.

      In March the association meeting held at Parumala saw the election of
      Baselios Mar Thoma II as the catholicos and the new metropolitan.

      But the last vestiges of unity ended in June when the Patriarch of
      Antioch in Damascus ordained Thomas Mar Dinonysius as Catholicos
      Baselios Thomas I, the supreme head of the new church.

      SUNDAY, AUGUST 25, 2002
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