Kochi: Amid the legal wrangle between the Jacobite and Orthodox factions of the Malankara Church, the Kerala High Court has directed the state government to take over the St Thomas Church at Kothamangalam in Ernakulam district. The court also said that the District Collector should initiate the necessary measures in this regard and that the police force could be deployed if needed.
After the state government takes control of the church, which is popularly known as Marthoma Cheriyapalli, it should hand over the place of worship to the Orthodox Church later when the situation is peaceful, added the court.
However, the court has not stipulated the period for which the church will be under the control of the government.
It suggested police protection can be given if needed after the church is handed over to the Orthodox Church.
Amid claims and counter-claims about conducting funerals, the court said that there should be no obstacles in this regard.
When the church is under the control of the government, the funeral rites have to be conducted by Thomas Paul Ramban, who is holding the charge of vicar of the Orthodox side.
Meanwhile, devotees of the Jacobite Church alleged that Thomas Paul Ramban was not qualified to be the vicar according to the Church Constitution. Responding to the charge, the High Court said that they could approach the local court in this regard.
In 2017, the Supreme Court had ordered to hand over 1,000 parishes and churches of the Malankara Church to the Orthodox faction. The court had relied on the 1934 constitution of the Malankara Church while delivering the verdict. Earlier this year the apex court had chided the Kerala government for not implementing its 2017 judgement.
The old dispute is over the right to own church property and conduct prayers in churches.