Tension prevailed at a church near Kochi throughout Sunday after the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church supremo was besieged by a rival faction, protesting against an alleged attempt by the Orthodox group to take over the administration of Jacobite churches.
Malankara Orthodox head priest Baselios Marthoma Paulose II was kept under siege by members of the Jacobite faction for several hours at the St Mary's Church in Varikkoli and could leave only in the evening.
Baselios Marthoma Paulose II was visiting the church to conduct the Sunday mass. When he was coming out of the church after the mass, he was blocked by the Jacobite faction.
The situation took a turn for the worse when some people climbed up the church tower and tried to deface the emblem of the patriarch by pouring paint over it. A police contingent was present at the spot and any law and order issue was averted.
The district authorities decided to close the church following the incident. The tehsildar locked up the church on a direction by the RDO and said it would be reopened only after the impasse ends.
The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church has two factions - the majority Orthodox faction which has its headquarters in Kottayam, while the Jacobite faction's supreme leader is the Patriarch of Antioch, based in Damascus.
The feud between these two factions is more than a century old and it was for a brief period from 1958 to 1970, following a Supreme Court ruling both the factions remained under one roof with Kottayam being the headquarters of the church.
In July, the Supreme Court upheld a Kerala High Court order which allowed the Orthodox Church to take over the administration of all the churches, including of the Jacobite factions also, and since then, there has been some tension at a few churches.