Thiruvananthapuram: In a bid to end a long-standing Church feud over burial grounds, the Kerala government on Wednesday proposed an ordinance making burial a right of every Christian at his or her parish cemetery.
The ordinance in effect will benefit the Jacobite faction of Malankara Church as the ongoing property dispute between the Jacobite and Orthodox Church had resulted in an undue delay in burials.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the state government has introduced the ordinance as the warring factions were unable to reach a consensus.
"The Cabinet had appointed a sub-committee to look into the issue and amicably solve it. But even after reaching out only one faction was ready for discussion. Instances of burial being obstructed were reported. Since it was becoming a social issue, the government intervened, " he said.
What is the issue?
A non-Catholic Christian community in Kerala, the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, has two factions — the majority Orthodox, who have their headquarters in Kottayam, and the Jacobites, who consider the Patriarch of Antioch in Beirut (Lebanon) as their supreme leader.
The community first split into Orthodox and Jacobite in 1912, but came together in Kottayam for a brief period between 1958 and 1970, following a Supreme Court ruling. Since 1970, they have been at war over church control, and more importantly, burial ground rights for parishioners.
Last month, tension prevailed at two prominent churches at Vaikom and Kothamangalam when angry supporters of the rival factions clashed. Burials were also delayed by as long as a month for some parishioners.
After decades spent in trial, the apex court in its final verdict in 2017, gave the Orthodox faction the right to administer 1,100 churches and parishes under the Malankara Church and said there was no ground for the Jacobites to claim any of the churches.
Armed with this verdict, the Orthodox Church tried their best to take control over the St Mary’s Cathedral, but the Jacobite faction prevented that from happening.
Later it managed to get an order from the Kerala High Court on March 8, 2018 that the two factions could conduct the mass alternatively.
Upset with this, the Orthodox Church approached the apex court and on September 6, 2018 Justice Arun Mishra, breathed fire on the Kerala High Court judge and in the open court had said to tell the judges in Kerala that they are part of India and revoked the Kerala High Court order.
In July 2019, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had informed the Kerala Assembly that his government was committed to implement the 2017 Supreme Court order in the ongoing row between the warring Orthodox and Jacobite factions of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church.
- Inputs from ANI and IANS