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Orthodox Church supremo besieged in church by opposing faction for hours

District authorities decide to lock the church, and it will be reopened only after the impasse ends

Gulf News

Kochi: The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church of India’s supreme head, Baselios Marthoma Paulose II, was on Sunday besieged in St Mary’s Varikolly Church near here by members of the opposing Jacobite faction for several hours and could only leave in the evening, police said.

Following the incident, district authorities decided to lock the church, declaring that it would only reopen after the impasse is resolved.

Paulose II was visiting to conduct Sunday mass and once it was over, he was stopped from exiting the building.

A police contingent was also present and a skirmish was averted, but it was not until the evening that the head of the Orthodox Church was able to leave the church premises.

Ernakulam’s Superintendent of Police, Rural, A.V. George, said members of the Jacobite section were sitting outside the church and the supreme head was offered police protection for free movement, but did not avail himself of the facility.

The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church has two factions: the majority Orthodox faction, whose headquarters is in Kottayam; and the Jacobite faction, whose supreme leader, Patriarch of Antioch, is based in Damascus.

The feud between these two factions is more than a century old and it was for a brief period from 1958 to 1970 following a Supreme Court ruling both the factions remained under one roof, with Kottayam being the headquarters of the church.

In July, the Supreme Court upheld a Kerala High Court order that allowed the Orthodox Church to take over the administration of all the churches, including that of the Jacobite faction, and since then, there has been some tension.