Big blow to LDF as Orthodox faction holds discussions with RSS over church dispute
With the dispute with the Jacobite faction still underway, the Orthodox faction has decided to better its relations with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). According to reports, the Orthodox faction met with RSS join secretary Manmohan Vaidya in Kochi today.
Ahmedabad diocese’s Bishop Geevarghese Mar Yulios and Kochi diocese’s Bishop Yakoob Mar Irenios held discussions with Vaidya on politics and the ongoing church conflict. Reportedly, the Bishops said that ties between the Orthodox factions and the RSS have been amicable. Not only with the RSS, but the Orthodox faction has also developed better relations with the Centre after Prime Minister Narendra Modi intervened and made an attempt to mediate the church dispute between the Jacobite and Orthodox factions of the Malankara Church.
With Kerala Assembly elections round the corner, Orthodox improving its relations with the RSS could be worrying signs for the Left Democratic Front (LDF). In the 2016 Assembly elections, the Orthodox faction lent its support to the LDF but did not receive any backing from the Front over the church conflict issue.
In 2020, the Orthodox faction was upset with the LDF government over the church conflict and withdrew from talks initiated by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. The faction went on to allege that the Vijayan government was favouring the Jacobite faction over the Kothamangalam Church dispute. The LDF could possibly lose a few voters from the Orthodox faction in the upcoming elections. However, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could gain in the Assembly polls as the Orthodox faction does not take the UDF seriously.
For over a century, the Orthodox and the Jacobite factions of the Malankara Church are disputing over the ownership of nearly 1,000 churches in Kerala. These two factions were one entity and came under the Malankara Church. The Malankara church is believed to be established by St. Thomas, one of the Apostles of Jesus Christ. The factions began their fight around 1911. However, according to reports, the factions were reunited for a brief period (between 1959 to 1972-73). The two sides have been at war since and nearly 300 churches had to be closed due to the fights.
The church dispute reached the doors of the Supreme Court. On July 3, 2017, the Court ordered that the churches must be handed to the Orthodox churches and upheld the validity of the Malankara constitution of 1934. This verdict made matters worse as the two factions are still fighting to this day. Despite the SC verdict, the Jacobite faction said it will not give up its churches to the Orthodox faction and protests are continuing. Despite nearly four years, the present Kerala government has failed to implement the Supreme Court verdict.