Priests arrested after stone-throwing between Orthodox, Jacobite Christians in Kerala

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The fight between the Orthodox and Jacobite sects of the Malankara Church of Kerala continued to be on the boil, with the latest clashes reported from Mandamangalam near Thrissur.

The fight over the control of St Mary’s Church last night resulted in a stone-throwing incident last night, injuries to 17 people and the arrest of 29, including priests.

LONG HISTORY

The fight between the two groups traces back to a fissure in the Orthodox Church of Kerala, also known as the Malankara Orthodox Church.

Malankara Orthodox Church is part of the three main denominations within the Christians of Kerala, with the other two being Roman Catholics and the pro-Anglican Mar Thoma Church.

The key difference between the two factions of the Malankara Church is that the Jacobite group wants to be part of the Antioch-based Syriac Orthodox Church, while the other faction — despite being Orthodox in its style of worship — wants to remain independent. The two factions have had a history of disputes and litigation ever since they split from each other a century ago.

The disagreement largely revolves around the role of the Patriarch of Antioch in matters of the Kerala church, with the Jacobites for an extensive role for the Patriarch, while the Orthodox opposed it.

Things came to a head after Patriarch anointed three bishops in Kerala in 1974, leading to street fights between the two factions. The disputes often end in tensions as each faction laid claim over churches that were originally part of the undivided Malankara Church.

LATEST INCIDENT

Mandamangalam Saint Mary’s Church, the site of the latest outbreak, was established in 1953.

Recently the Supreme Court of India had ruled in favour of Orthodox faction (non-Jacobites) and their right to enter and offer worship in the church.

The Orthodox sect reached the church on January 16 to enter and offer worship but the Jacobites closed the church and stayed in, leading to protests by the Orthodox section outside the church.

The Orthodox faction said yesterday, their protestors came under stone-pelting from inside the church. Soon, both groups started throwing stones at each other, and police arrested 29 persons, including 5 priests.

Thrissur Orthodox Church Diocese Bishop Yuhanon Mar Milithios, who led the protests, is among who got injured.

Bishop Yuhanon blamed police for the incident as police failed to protect them even though the court order was in favour of Orthodox sect.

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