Church closed after police intervene and make arrests

Catholicos Baselios Thomas I of the Jacobite faction of the Malankara Church was removed by the police from the Aluva Thrikkunnathu Seminary Church in the early hours of Saturday after he, accompanied by three bishops, a group of 15 priests, and about a hundred laymen, allegedly entered the church forcibly and offered the mass.

The police said the group arrived around 4 a.m. with an ambulance in tow, carrying at least a day’s food supply.

The church has remained closed for about four decades on court orders.

The police intervened after receiving information about the violation of status quo, and arrested those who entered the church, which has now been shut until negotiations to settle the current bout of a long-running dispute over the ownership of the church between the Jacobite and the Orthodox factions.

Tight security

The seminary church and its surroundings, most prominently the tombs of four fathers of the Malankara Church, looked like a fortress with a large number of policemen barring entry into the premises. Barricades have been erected to prevent anyone from straying into the premises.

The district administration has clamped Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, preventing assembly of persons near the church premises, for two months.

A spokesperson for the Jacobite Church alleged police brutality on the Catholicos, who was admitted to a private hospital near Edappally. The Catholicos reportedly complained of fatigue after he refused to leave the police station where his followers and he were removed to initially. Those who were detained with him have been released.

The Jacobite group will observe a protest day on Sunday across its parishes against the police action, the spokesperson said.

Orthodox protest

A spokesperson for the Orthodox group said the action by the Jacobite Catholicos was unchristian, and politically motivated to bring pressure on Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. It was a challenge to law and order and the established status quo, he said.

The Thrikkunnathu Seminary Church is a sentimental issue that has rankled both the factions, with the tombs of the four saints of the Malankara Church situated within its premises. Though no mass is allowed inside the church, prayers are offered at the tombs of saints, including that of St. Paulose Mar Athanasius. The district administration allows the mass to be offered by turns inside the disputed church on January 25, the memorial day of the saints.

However, Catholicos Baselios refused to offer the mass on the day in protest against an allegedly body search that was conducted by the police as the Jacobite group arrived for the mass.

Meanwhile, the Jacobite Alamaya Fourm has condemned the action of the Catholicos. A statement issued by the forum here said the action was “unchristian.”

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