Priests of the Orthodox faction of the sixth-century Malankara Syrian Christian Church in Kerala’s Ernakulam district on Sunday held holy mass amid heavy security. This came three days after senior priests and parish members belonging to the Jacobite faction were forced to evacuate the church, implementing a two-year old Supreme Court order.

In 2017, the top court had given control of Piravom Valiyapalli cathedral in Ernakulam to the Orthodox faction of the church. Following a Kerala High Court order, the police had to break open the gates of the church on Thursday even as protestors threatened to jump into a river in front of the church if they were removed by force.

The mass was conducted on Sunday as security personnel stood guard around the church and were also deployed in Piravom town to prevent any law and order situation. Priests and followers of the Orthodox faction stepped inside the church for the first time on Sunday.

In its interim order, the Kerala High Court had stated that any parishioner, who followed the 1934 constitution, can participate in the prayers, according to Mathrubhumi. The district collector is in charge of the church and the High Court stated that those who prevented devotees from participating in the mass or cause chaos would be arrested and sent to a civil jail.

Enmity between the Orthodox and Jacobite factions can be dated back to 1912 and has also resulted in violent protests between them. Hundreds of protestors, belonging to the Jacobite faction that pledges allegiance to the Patriarch of Antioch, held demonstrations in Piravom and conducted Sunday prayers on the road.

The two factions had been engaged in a tussle over possession of the church for a long time and the situation took a turn for the worse after the Supreme Court gave its control to the Orthodox faction. The faction had moved the High Court after the state government failed to implement the top court’s order.

In its 2017 order, the top court had ruled that control of 1,100 parishes and their churches under the Malankara Church should go to the Orthodox group according to the 1934 Malankara Church guidelines.

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