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Orthodox priest taken into police custody during face-off with Jacobites over control of Kerala church

As tension prevailed, the stand-off between the warring Orthodox and Jacobite factions over control of the Kothamangalam Mar Thoma Cheriya Palli Church, entered its second day.

Police on Friday forcefully took into custody Orthodox priest Father Thomas Paul Ramban, who armed with a high court order, waited outside the church since Thursday to gain entry into the church.

Ramban told the media that police, while taking him into custody, informed him that the Ernakulam district collector has issued the order for his arrest.

“Today, when I said I want to relieve myself, I was taken to the toilet by police and when I came out, they said they are taking me into custody as my health is poor. I have made my stand clear that unless I see the arrest order, I will not cooperate with doctors. I have with me the orders from court that has allowed me to pray at the church,” said Ramban from a hospital near here.

On Thursday, when Ramban reached the church, he was prevented by hundreds of Jacobite parishioners from entering the Kothamangalam church and police had to arrest about two dozen Jacobite parishioners, including women, to cool down tempers.

But the priest was adamant and refused to leave without praying at the church. He remained in his vehicle, parked outside the church. The row over the particular church has been going on for many years.

Reacting to a statement made by the supreme head of the Jacobite Church, Catholicos Baselios Thomas, the supreme head of the Orthodox Church Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II ruled out talks to end the stalemate.

“This case has been going on for 45 years, and now we have the verdict in our favour. The Kerala government should ensure that the rule of the land is enforced, but today, they are standing with the violators of the law of the land,” said the head of the Orthodox Church.

The Syrian Orthodox Church has two factions — the Orthodox, which form the majority and has its headquarters in Kottayam, and the Jacobites, who consider the Patriarch of Antioch, based in Beirut, as their supreme leader.

During a brief period, between 1958 and 1970, following a Supreme Court ruling, both factions had remained under one roof with Kottayam being their headquarters. However, since 1970 they have been at war over the church’s control.

Trouble has been simmering since 2017, when after decades of trial, the apex court in its final verdict said there are no grounds for Jacobites to claim any of the churches of the Orthodox section.

First Published: Dec 21, 2018 19:20 IST

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