Cheriyapally is the light of Kothamangalam, says Samiti

‘SC verdict has not done justice to the people of the town’

The Matha Maithri Samrakshana Samiti (council for protection of religious amity), with its members drawn from various religions, has emerged at the centre of the continuing standoff between the Orthodox and Jacobite factions of the Malankara Church over control of parishes.

Samiti members have been on a relay sit-in in front of the historic Marthoman Cheriyapally at Kothamangalam for nearly 50 days now, demanding that the church not be taken over by the State to be handed over to the Orthodox group in keeping with the July 3, 2017 Supreme Court verdict, which handed over total control of all Malankara parishes to the Orthodox faction. The SC had said in its verdict that all parallel services and control of parishes should end as the Orthodox group took control. Parish churches are being taken over by the State and handed over to the Orthodox group amid stiff resistance from the Jacobites.

However, the emergence of the Samiti at the vanguard of resistance has baffled observers though Jacobite leaders, and Samiti members find it the most normal course of action in the face of the SC verdict.

“The Cheriyapally [in the name of St. Thomas the Apostle] is the light of Kothamangalam, and we cannot let the light go out,” said K.A. Naushad, CPI(M) leader of the Opposition in the Kothamangalam municipal council and chairman of the Samiti. “The church is the cause for all good things and the prosperity of Kothamangalam, which is the gateway to the high ranges. People from all religions believe that Bava Eldho Mar Baselios, who was buried at the church, is a saint whose blessings are on the entire town,” he added.

Though the Samiti respects the SC verdict, it has not done justice to people belonging to various religions in the town. They do not want the church to be closed down. If closed down, it will be a bad day for Kothamangalam, Mr. Naushad observed.

However, senior priest Father Thomas Paul Ramban, who is tipped to take over as the vicar once the church is handed over to the Orthodox group, said it was all an artificial alliance and not a spontaneous coming together of people in the town. He said political leaders, who initially supported the Samiti, had withdrawn, and that it was controlled by members of the Jacobite faction. “It is not a spontaneous movement but is being publicly portrayed as such,” said another senior Orthodox priest.

Father Thomas Paul said the Orthodox group was not bothered about the Samiti. The Jacobites cannot claim the church to be theirs because the Malankara church split is recent, while the church is more than 330 years old, and the parish was under the Orthodox faction between 1958 and 1974, he claimed. He also said there was serious rivalry between groups within the Jacobite faction.

Samiti general convenor A.G. George, who is also the municipal vice chairman, justified the formation of the Samiti, claiming that Kothamangalam became a prosperous town because of the Cheriyapally and activities centred on the church.

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Printable version | Jul 14, 2020 7:17:56 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/cheriyapally-is-the-light-of-kothamangalam-says-samiti/article30628789.ece

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