Kochi: Priests of the Orthodox faction on Sunday conducted holy mass at a church in nearby Piravom amid tight security as a nearly two-year old Supreme Court order in favour of them was finally implemented.
Armed with a Kerala High Court directive, the Orthodox faction entered the church known as "Piravom Valiyapalli", a major Christian spiritual centre in the state, two days after Ernakulam district administration took over its control from rival Jacobite group.
The church had witnessed tense situation last week after the high court ordered the district administration to take over its control for implementing the Supreme Court order granting its possession to the Orthodox faction.
For the first time after the apex court order, the priests and followers of the Orthodox faction entered the church on Sunday morning after its doors were thrown opened to them by the administration.
A security ring was thrown around the church and Piravom town to prevent any untoward incident in view of implementation of the apex court order on the decades-old factional feud in the administration of the church.
Hundreds of protesting Jacobite followers, led by their priests, who lost one of their prominent spiritual centres in the legal battle, assembled in Piravom town and held their Sunday prayers on the road side.
Later, the Jacobites, who owe their allegiance to the Patriarch of Antioch, held a protest march
An earlier attempt by the Orthodox faction to enter the church was foiled on Wednesday by Jacobite priests and followers who locked the doors from inside.
Police then made a forced entry and removed the protesting priests and others followers before Ernakulam District Collector S Suhas took control of the church, paving the way for implementation of the apex court orders.
After the district administration took control of the church, the Kerala High Court had on Friday directed that Orthodox faction priests can conduct holy mass.
A division bench of Justices A M Shaffique and N Anil Kumar has also ordered that those who create obstruction can be arrested and put in civil prison until further orders.
Considering pleas filed by an Orthodox priest and others seeking police protection to implement the Supreme Court verdict, the high court had said all believers can attend the holy mass to be offered by the priest on Sunday.
The court, however, has directed that the key of the church shall be kept by the Ernakulam district collector.
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.
Last Sunday, Orthodox priests entered the Kandanad St Marys Church near here and offered holy mass.
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.