Bengaluru: A major ruckus erupted in Kerala’s St Mary's Church at Piravom near Ernakulam district on Thursday, as hundreds of Jacobite Christians attempted to take over a church run by a rival faction - the Orthodox Christians.
The police arrested Joseph Mar Gregorios, Metropolitan trustee and head of the Jacobite Church, and several protestors, including women and children, leading to tension on the streets.
The protestors have been camping on the church premises since Wednesday, having locked the outer wall of the church.
On Thursday, the Kerala High Court asked the police to remove the protestors before 1.45pm. The police’s attempt to break up the protest led to clashes. Television visuals showed many, including elderly women, shouting slogans and being dragged away from the scene.
"This is not justice. We are not asking for any wealth, our ancestors are buried in this land," said one of the protestors, while being taken away by the police, to local news channels.
"We are being asked to move out of our own house. We will not do it, they will have to arrest us," said Joseph Mar Gregorios as the court order came. District collector S Suhas rushed to the spot and spoke to the church leaders, after which they courted arrest.
The district administration has locked down the church.
At the center of the power battle is the St Mary’s church, one of Kerala’s oldest churches said to be founded in the sixth century. A 2017 Supreme Court allowed Orthodox church to offer prayers at the church, much to the dismay of the Jacobites.
Descending from the common Kerala Christians, who date back to the days of an apostle of Jesus, St Thomas, the two factions were split in 1910. The Jacobite Syrian Church follows the Patriarch of Antioch, and are popularly known as Bava Kakshi. The Kerala Malankara Orthodox Church follows a Kottayam-based Bishop of their own, and are popularly known as Methran Kakshi.