Supreme Court’s Judgement to Transfer Control of Jacobite Syrian Churches to Orthodox Faction Executed By Authorities Amidst Fierce Protests

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The Jacobite factions had maintained control over several Syrian churches for years; however, the Orthodox factions have been awarded management of these churches due to a decision made by the Supreme Court in 2017. Authorities have been trying to execute the court's order, but Jacobite believers are protesting to stop them.

Tension Between Jacobites and Orthodox Factions

The Syrian church in Ernakulam has been split between Jacobite and Orthodox factions. Over the years, they are contending for supremacy over the more than a thousand churches and their substantial funds. Hindustan Times reported that the 1934 constitution of the Malankara church was confirmed by the Supreme Court in 2017, and this gave the Orthodox group control over 1100 parishes and churches in Kerala. As mentioned, Jacobite faction, who managed a large portion of the churches, were not willing to give up control of these institutions. In 2019 the Orthodox group attempted to take the power of the churches, but the Jacobites stood firm. Guarding the entrance to the church compound were dozens of Jacobites who gathered in position inside the building. District Collector S. Suhas hurried to the scene and attempted to reason with the demonstrators, assuring them that the police were there to follow the instructions from the court. Hence, the suicide threats forced him to from the scene. 

According to The Times of India, the police forced their way inside the church by breaking the locks. Afterward, they spoke with the senior leadership to resolve the situation. The Jacobite group rang the local churches' bells to attract a larger crowd to the area. On the other hand, Bishop Joseph Mar Gregorios submitted to his detention, and the police began gradually eliminating the Jacobite faction from the area. Many worshipers were detained and hauled away from the site, even as several priests laid down on the ground to avoid being detained.

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Recent Dispute on Jacobite-Orthodox Factions Conflict

A report from Mathrubhumi stated that to ensure that the court's judgement is followed, about one hundred law enforcement officials were stationed outside the chapel on Monday, Jun 26. Nevertheless, priests and members of the Jacobite religion are against the transfer, preventing police from entering the premises. While the Orthodox congregation meets in a separate venue, the Jacobite believers remain adamant in their resolve to keep possession of the church. Accordingly, after carrying out the order made by the court, the police have been instructed to produce a report by Wednesday, Jun 28. The police and members of the Jacobite Church are reportedly negotiating with one another at this time. Meanwhile, the Jacobite sect intends to file an appeal over the order issued by the High Court and has asked for an extension in the taking effect of the ruling.

Moreover, a similar effort by the police to take over the church to Orthodox was made about two years ago, but they could not carry out the directive. The government of Kerala is attempting to negotiate a peace agreement between the state's two most significant Christian denominations. Still, the situation has become a threat to public safety in several locations. As a result, The Hindu reported that the Orthodox side of the Malankara Church had requested the security of the police to access and perform religious services at six churches, their cemeteries, and chapels controlled by the Jacobite faction. The Kerala High Court has issued an injunction requiring that protection would also be provided to parishioners taking part in religious services from hindrance by members of the Jacobite group.

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