It’s price the Lord as factionalism grips Kerala churches
Thiruvananthapuram: Divinity has taken a backseat and its a free for all over power and money between the authorities in Kerala churches.
According to the latest Census, Christians comprise 61.41 lakh (29.94 lakh males and 31.47 lakh females) of Kerala’s 33.4 million population.
Among the Christians, about 50 per cent are Catholics (their three different Churches owe allegiance to the Pope), while the remaining 50 per cent comprise the non-Catholics — the Orthodox and Jacobite factions of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and the Mar Thoma Church (all three headquartered in Kerala) as well as the Church of South India (CSI) (South Kerala dioceses).
A peep into the workings of these churches reveals that peace and contentment — that Christ wished — have gone out of the window and those who run these churches are spending more time in courts and police stations to sort out issues, some of which are criminal in nature.
At the Ernakulam-Angamaly diocese of the Syro Malabar Catholic Church, an intense battle is on and perhaps for the first time in the history of the Church, its supreme leader Cardinal George Alencherry was arraigned after allegations of irregularities in a three-acre land deal.
Even though the Kerala High Court dismissed the criminal case, around 250 of the 450 priests attached to the dioceses are up in arms and have threatened to take their protest to the streets, if the Cardinal does not stop bending every rule to suit him.
The rival factions are threatening to get the better of each other at a crucial synod meeting of the diocese scheduled in August.
At the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, the Orthodox and Jacobite factions are at war over church control. The fight has been on for decades and despite a Supreme Court in 2017 — that gave the Orthodox faction the right to administer 1,100 churches and parishes under the Malankara Church and ruled that the Jacobites had no ground to claim any of the churches, the factions refuse to relent.
The Jacobite faction has just two options — to either accept the leadership of Marthoma Paulose II, the supreme leader of the Orthodox church or form a new church by handing over the churches which they now run.
The Kerala government has had to set up a five-member ministerial committee, headed by State Industries Minister E.P.Jayarajan, to broker peace between the warring factions.
At Thiruvalla-headquartered Mar Thoma Church, the supreme leader of the Church Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan and a rival faction are heading for a showdown over the nomination of a priest to bishophood.
The two factions are getting ready to take on each other at the upcoming legislative Assembly of the Church (Mandalam) in September.
Likewise at the South Kerala dioceses of the CSI Church, a feud between rival factions has taken a turn for the worse with a police case registered over charges of siphoning of huge amount of money.