“We backed out from open protest considering the request of the District Collector. He has given us a written assurance that the issue would be solved in two weeks, if not the court order would be executed,” said Fr Johns Abraham Konat, priest trustee of Orthodox Church. Following this, His Holiness Baselios Marthoma Paulose II , the head of Orthodox Syrian Church of the East, concluded his fasting late on Sunday.
“The Synod Council and Managing Committee of the church will meet on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. The meeting of these high level committees will take a decision on the future course of action,” said E C Elias, secretary, Orthodox Syrian church.
The supreme head of the Orthodox Church, H H Baselios Marthoma Paulose II was on an indefinite fast since Sunday Sept. 10 evening, demanding execution of the court order which allows the Orthodox Church to have the ownership of the Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Kolencherry, and the Kottoor chapel under it.
Mediations and requests by Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy helped in alleviating the deteriorating situation in Kolencherry. Oommen Chandy, on Sunday18th September sought 15 days time from the Orthodox Church and parallel Jacobite Syrian Christian Church (Dissident Patriarchal faction) to solve the dispute over ownership of the Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Kolencherry, and the Kottoor chapel under it at Kolencherry in Ernakulam district. Honb’le Chief Minister Oommen Chandy made the appeal after marathon meetings with the representatives of the parallel Jacobite Syrian Christian Church and Orthodox Church. Earlier Chandy had held discussions with union government ministers of India Vayalar Ravi, K V Thomas and district administration and senior police officers. If within two weeks a solution is not in sight, court orders would be implemented, he said. Chandy also urged the supreme Catholicos of the Orthodox Church and Regional Catholicos of parallel Jacobite Syrian Christian Church group to end their agitations.
A meeting of the action council of the Orthodox Church, which is demanding implementation of the district court order, at Kolenchery on Sunday18th September night has decided to accept Chief Minister’s request. Following this, His Holiness Baselios Marthoma Paulose II, the head of Orthodox Syrian Church, and H.E. Dr. Mathews Mar Severios Metropolitan(Kandanad East) concluded their fasting late on Sunday. Both of them decided to end the fasting by 11.30 p. m. on Sunday 18th September by receiving karikinvellam from H.E. Thomas Mar Athanasius Metropolitan (Chengannur) and H. E. Dr. Thomas Mar Athanasios Metropolitan (Kandanad East), the president of the core committee which was entrusted to lead the Upavasa Prarthana Yagnam (fasting prayer sacrificing program). Chief Minister Oommen Chandy gave leadership to the discussions which finally culminated in the ending of the fasting. The decision came after His Holiness received a written assurance from the side of the Government that the Court order will be implemented after 15 days.
A last attempt will be made during these 15 days to solve the issue amicably. If no result comes out from these discussions, the Government will implement the court verdict. This decision of the government was written and signed by the Ernakulam District Collector for the Government of Kerala. The Orthodox Church received the document by 11 p.m. which was scrutinized by their advocate Sreekumar and the bishops of the church present at Kolenchery. After getting the consent of all, H. H. declared that H. H. is ending the fasting.
Recent court verdict and an indefinite fast
The St Peter’s and St Paul’s Church, which remained closed for several years, was opened in 2010 following the Ernakulam district court intervention. The district court in December 2, 2010, released the key to Fr. Jacob Kurian, a priest belonging to the Orthodox Church and granted permission to the two factions to conduct service. The Orthodox Church was conducting the services for two consecutive weeks and the parallel Jacobite faction for the third week. This arrangement was prevailing as on August 16, 2011 when their suit was dismissed.
On August 16th 2011 the district court handed control of the parish to Orthodox church rejecting all pleas and false claims from parallel Jacobite side and declared the parish is an integral part of Malanakara Orthodox Syrian church and shall be governed under the Church constitution passed in 1934. The parish comes under the Kandanad West diocese. On August 16th His Eminence Dr. Mathews Mar Severious, the Metropolitan of Kandanad west celebrated Holy service peacefully in the parish.
The trouble began on Saturday 9th September with the parallel Jacobite Syrian Christian group holding protest marches demanding status quo at the Kolenchery St. Peter's & St. Paul's Church. Under the status quo ante, the parallel Jacobite group were allowed to offer Mass every third Sunday. Regional Catholicos of parallel Jacobite Syrian Christian Church group Baselios Thomas I had demanded the restoration of status quo ante and led a protest sit-in near the Church on Saturday afternoon. The protest was called off late in the night.
Tensions started on Sunday 10th September when the police blocked the Metropolitan His Eminence Dr. Mathews Mar Severious and other priests from entering the parish and celebrating the Holy Mass. Police vacated all of Orthodox members presented in the church on Sunday. The Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Kolencherry, and the Kottoor chapel under it have been closed down temporarily and prohibitory orders under Section 144 Cr.PC declared around these institutions. It was on Sunday 2.30 pm that RDO R Maniyamma declared curfew as per district collector's direction.
The Orthodox Church has criticized the closure of the Church and described it as a conspiracy by the Chief Minister and the District Collector. The Orthodox Church, under the leadership of His Holiness Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II, started fasting 200 metres away from Kolenchery St. Peter's and St. Paul's Church (where curfew has been imposed) around 4 pm on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the parallel Jacobite Syrian Christian Church group under Regional Catholicos Baselios Thomas I began an indefinite protest prayer at 6 pm near the shrine at Kolenchery Junction against a recent order of the Ernakulam District Court that hands over the administration of St. Peter's and St. Paul's Church at Kolencherry to the rival Orthodox Church and demanding that status quo should be maintained.
An urgent meeting of The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church Working and Managing Committee was held on September 13th and decided to call an urgent meeting of Malankara Syrian Christian Association, which was held on September 15th to discuss the situation and unanimously decided to continue the indefinite fasting until the court order is fully executed. Protest meeting are arranged in all diocese in Kerala under the leadership of Diocesan Metropolitan’s and Diocesan council.
While the Orthodox Church decided to call off the agitation following the request from the Government of Kerala on Sunday18th September, The parallel Jacobite faction has not decided to withdraw the protest against a recent order of the Ernakulam District Court that hands over the administration of St. Peter's and St. Paul's Church at Kolencherry to the rival Orthodox Church. The parallel Jacobite faction is holding the indefinite protest prayer at Kolenchery parallel Jacobite Syrian Christian chapel.