Issues of supremacy rock church
By T.K. Devasia (Kerala Newsletter)
31 December 2007
DISPUTES over spiritual and material issues are a permanent feature in the Kerala-based Malankara Syrian Church.
The latest to haunt the Church is the ordination of a German monk as a metropolitan. The issue has led to an internal feud in the Orthodox faction, which is engaged in a battle with the rival Jacobite faction over issues of supremacy of their heads and ownership of assets for over a decade now.
The faction is in a quandary with a section of the people coming out openly against the alleged secret sanctification of the foreign monk, Saverios Moosa Gurugan, by two bishops, Yuhanon Mar Milithios and Thomas Mar Athanasios at Trichur in November.
Terming the action a violation of the provisions of the 1934 Church constitution and Canon law, the agitated section has demanded action against the two bishops. They have threatened to pursue a legal course if the authorities tried to protect the two bishops.
They have the support of a section of the managing committee of the church. The latter says that the sanctification was done without the approval of the supreme head of the Church, Catholicos, Mar Baselios Didimos.
The two bishops have refuted the charge. Yuhanon Mar Milithios, who is the bishop of Trichur diocese, claimed that the synod had agreed to the consecration in August and had even set up a five member committee to organise the consecration.
However, those opposed to the consecration say that the committee was set up to consider the request of the German monk and the catholicos-designate and the synod secretary had opposed it.
The critics are agitated over the issue since the newly consecrated metropolitan has been leading a dissident group in Germany. Curiously, the two bishops who ordained Gurugan also came from the Jacobite faction through dissidence.
The issue has also assumed political dimension as the two bishops are close to the state�s ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front as against the faction leadership, which is pro-United Democratic Front.
The political affiliations of the bishops has been a source of friction in the Church, which has about a million followers spread across not only Kerala but also the Middle East, Europe, the US and other regions. Both the sides have been openly questioning the political stands they have been adopting on various issues.
Realising its potential for further trouble in the church, the leadership is trying to suppress the issue. Senior leaders have already started dialogue for a code of conduct for bishops to prevent such incidents in future.
The managing committee of the Church meeting at Kottayam on January 10 is expected to finalize the code of conduct. However, the observers do not rule out the possibility a showdown since both sections are bitter over the issue.