Forget Caesar, church claims what belongs to it.
KOCHI: The historic St Peter's and St Paul's Church, shut since 2005, has no hidden treasure but the currency notes and coins that the faithful have thrown in through half-open windows have tempted thieves twice already. Taking no chance, the district collector has ordered the church to be opened after eight years and the money to be counted and transferred to a bank account in the tahsildar's name.
The feud between the Jacobite and Orthodox faction resulted in the closing down of the church, and there have not been any services except on a handful of occasions decided by an all-party agreement. But believers continue to visit the church, which holds the tomb of Mar Thoma VII, light candles on the steps and offer money.
Though district court officials don't expect a struggle of any kind on Monday, both factions have expressed their disaffection over the move. The church vicar, Fr Jacob Kurien said he rejected the official notice because it mentioned the church's original name - St Peter's and St Paul's Jacobite Syrian Chruch.
"The church now belongs to us, so we have asked for the name to be changed. The court has given us the authority, and the issue over the money is a trivial one. And why should it be transferred to the tahsildar? The church has a bank account and it should be deposited in it," said Fr Kurien.According to him, the amount would come to "only around Rs 10,000" but the Jacobites claim it runs to lakhs. "We had petitioned the government to settle this issue as there has already been two thefts. The money could be used for the renovation of the church as it is not being maintained properly now," said Fr Varghese Kallappara of the Jacobite faction.
According to the collector's order, both factions can have one representative each during the procedure. Along with the tahsildar there would be four witnesses, selected from various religions, and panchayat officials. "We are acting on the police report, it is public money and it should not go waste," said district collector P I Sheikh Pareeth. The whole procedure would be recorded on camera, and it has been decided to collect the money every two months.
While the main church is closed, the Jacobite congregation offers holy mass and other sacramental functions at St Peter's and St Paul's chapel on the premises. According to the district court's verdict, the church's ownership has been granted to the Orthodox faction, but cases are pending in many courts, and the attempts to open the church resulted in conflicts, mass agitations and fasting by the heads of both factions over the years.
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