in focus: Faith matters | Lok Sabha Election 2019

Ripples of Church schism in State’s pollscape

Patriarch of Antioch and all the East Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan

Patriarch of Antioch and all the East Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan   | Photo Credit: sreejith r.kumar

All efforts to bring the warring groups together ahead of the Lok Sabha election have floundered

Whether the growing rift between the Jacobite and Orthodox factions of the Malankara Church will have its impact on the present Lok Sabha election is a question being raised on the pollscape of Kerala as the State government’s efforts to bring the warring groups together ahead of the polls have floundered.

Observers see political overtones in the recent standoff between the factions over the right over parish churches as the election campaign picks up momentum. The most recent tussle at the Bethel Suloko church at Perumbavoor has been a typical one in which both the factions stood their ground demanding their right to the iconic church. The impasse ended with the district administration temporarily taking charge of the church. While the Jacobite faction appears to be happy over the development, the Orthodox faction feels that justice has not been done to it in the light of the July 3, 2017 Supreme Court verdict.

The Orthodox group reiterates that lasting peace could be obtained only within the framework of the Supreme Court verdict, which has banned parallel administration of parishes. It insists that the other faction accept the 1934 Malankara Church constitution.

Headache for govt.

The over-a-century-old schism has caused headache to successive governments whenever it spilled over to the street. While the Jacobites owe their allegiance to Patriarch of Antioch and All the East Ignatius Aphrem II, the Orthodox faction is headed by Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan Baselios Mar Thomas Paulose II. The two factions have been functioning as two Churches since 2001: the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church.

Social and political commentator A. Jayashankar feels that the factionalism will be reflected in the election as it has always been in the past. There is a running rivalry between the groups, he says pointing out some of the experiences of the past elections. However, he feels that a rapprochement is possible with political intervention. But the intervention should look beyond garnering votes and recognise the actual divide, he says adding that both the factions should be ready for give and take.

Father Johns Abraham Konattu, official spokesman of the Orthodox Church, says they want justice to be carried out and their support would go to the political formation that does it. He says there is a trust deficit between the groups which is a major stumbling block to an amicable settlement.

Moncy Vavachan, State president, Malankara Samadhana Samithi, a forum for peace in Malankara, says a settlement will be possible only through the spirit of give and take. It is impossible to bridge the gap without sacrifices, he says.

Jacobite Catholicos Baselios Thomas I has publicly stuck to the stand that his church will back the party that comes out in support of it. Youhanon Mar Milithios, Metropolitan of the Thumpamon diocese of the Jacobite Church, says the Thumpamon, Kollam and Niranom dioceses have decided to boycott the election protesting against the “denial of justice” to the church by the State authorities. He blames the government for the denial of entry to the relatives of a dead person to the Kattachira church, near Kayamkulam.

No political stand

Biju Oommen, secretary, Malankara Church, says the denomination has not taken any political stand with regard to the election. However, it is a fact that the church members are deeply hurt over the denial of justice by the government.

As the warring factions harden their stance, it remains to be seen how it would affect the poll outcome in constituencies where they have pockets of influence, especially in southern and central Kerala.

(With inputs from Radhakrishnan Kuttoor in Pathanamthitta)

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Printable version | Jun 3, 2020 5:27:41 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/lok-sabha-2019/ripples-of-church-schism-in-states-pollscape/article26741939.ece

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