A team of experts from the Directorate of Archaeology will inspect the St. Raphael’s Church in Ezhupunna in Alappuzha district on Friday to ascertain the present condition of the church and to recommend ways to conserve it.
The scrutiny of the church’s condition is being done following a directive by the High Court of Kerala on October 7. The court had asked the Directorate of Archaeology to submit its report within a month.
The court directive has strengthened the hands of St. Raphael’s Church Laymen’s Association, which formally appealed for conservation of the 1859 church against its demolition as planned by the Syrian Catholic Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly.
The Archaeology Directorate has been told by the court to submit its report specifying ways to carry out the conservation work and to indicate whether the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angmalay or the Laymen’s Association should be entrusted with the conservation work.
The St. Raphael’s church has been in and out of news ever since the Archdiocesan authority formally decided to demolish it and build a new one in its place in 1995. However, the move was halted after a court injunction against it.
The Archdiocesan authority shut down the old church in October 2008 citing safety reasons and shifted the daily rituals to a makeshift structure close to the old church.
A member of the Paarayil Tharakan family had approached the Department of Archaeology in 2004 with a plea to bring the church under the Kerala Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1968. The High Court of Kerala directed the State in late February 2012 to declare the Ezhupunna church a monument under the 1968 Act.
The directive was, however, kept in abeyance through the court order of April 3, 2012 on a writ filed by the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly under the condition that the Archdiocese would keep the Ezhupunna church in good condition until further orders.
The State government had also made its intentions clear to bring the church under the 1968 Act by passing an order in May 2011. The government also issued a notification in November 2010 to this effect. However, the notification has been in abeyance after the interim court order of April 2012.