HC directs Ernakulam district admin to hand over church key to orthodox faction

Kochi: The Kerala High Court on Thursday directed the Ernakulam district administration to hand over the key of a church in nearby Piravom to the orthodox faction.

A division bench comprising justices A M Shaffique and T V Anilkumar also directed the police to continue providing protection to the church known as Piravom Valiyapalli, doors of which were thrown open to orthodox faction recently for conducting holy mass.

The bench gave the direction while considering pleas filed by an orthodox priest and others seeking police protection to implement the Supreme Court verdict granting them possession of the church and its properties.

The orthodox faction offered holy mass after the police took over its control from rival Jacobite faction on September 26 following a high court directive.

The orthodox faction entered the church amid tight security as a nearly two-year-old Supreme Court order in favour of it was finally implemented.

Directing the district administration to hand over the key of the church to the orthodox faction, the court on Thursday held that the priest of the faction should be accepted by all who offer prayers at the church.

It, however, allowed the faithful belonging to the Jacobite faction to attend prayers in the church.

The bench postponed its verdict on a plea filed by Jacobite faction seeking their rights over the chapels and assets of the church.

The Court also granted more time to the state attorney to file a detailed report on the control of the Piravom church and its chapels.

The orthodox and Jacobite factions have been locked in a tussle over the possession of the church and matters worsened after the Supreme Court ordered that the control of the place of worship be given to the orthodox group.

The orthodox faction had moved the high court after the state government failed to implement the order of the top court.

In its 2017 verdict, the apex court had held that 1,100 parishes and their churches under the Malankara church should be controlled by the orthodox group as per the 1934 Malankara church guidelines.

The Jacobite-orthodox row dates back to 1912 and has led to violent clashes between the two groups in Kerala.

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