Recent Kolenchery Church Verdict

Written By: on Aug 23rd, 2011 and filed under Columns, Opinions.


The judgment pronounced by the District Court Ernakulam on 16th August 2011 about the administration of the St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s Church, Kolenchery was the verdict on an Original Suit filed by the Patriarchal group in 2007 (OS 43/2007) for obtaining the following relief.

1. For obtaining a declaration that the Kolenchery church and its assets are liable to be administered only in accordance with the terms of an Udampady registered in 1913 and not in accordance with the 1934 constitution.

2. To settle a scheme for administering the church and its assets and its institutions.

3. For getting an order from the court to appoint a receiver who may prepare a voters list of all the parishioners and conduct fresh elections to the managing committee.

4. To issue an injunction prohibiting the handing over of keys of the church to Fr. Jacob Kurian, the vicar appointed by H. G. Dr. Mathews Mar Severios.

The court after considering the various issues passed a verdict on these crucial issues as follows.

1. Whether a declaration that the church is administered by the 1913 Udampady is allowable?

The patriarch’s party’s main contention was that 1934 constitution was not accepted by the Kolenchery church. The judgment says that the Supreme Court (SC) judgment 1995 upholds the 1934 constitution and there is no mention that each parish should accept this constitution by convening a general body of the parishioners. This means that each parish of the Church is bound by the SC judgment to accept the 1934 constitution. No special decision of the parishioners is necessary for this. The SC verdict is applicable to the Kolenchery church even if the church was not a party to those suits. So the verdict clearly says the Patriarch’s group even cannot contend that the 1934 constitution is not valid and not applicable to the Kolenchery church. So it cannot be declared that the church should be governed by the 1913 Udampady.

2. Whether a scheme of administration has to be settled?

The Patriarch’s party claimed that after 1972 elections were not held to the managing committee of the parish and the governing body of its institutions. The Orthodox Church argued that elections were held regularly according to the 1934 constitution, and such elections were recognized by the metropolitan. Evidences of such elections were produced before the court. The verdict says that the stand of the Patriarch’s group cannot be accepted as it is against the SC finding. “First of all they have to accept and recognize 1934 constitution and then only their prayer for conducting election to committees can be considered. There is no question at all to frame a scheme (for administration) when 1934 constitution is in existence and when it is held valid and applicable to the 1st defendant (Kolenchery church)”. Thus the court dismissed their prayer to settle a scheme of
administration. The judgment further says that “the parish members in the church has right to decide regarding the administration of the properties and the educational institutions under it. But as stated earlier, only when the plaintiffs (Patriarch’s group) or other members in the Patriarch faction accept and recognize 1934 constitution, their contention can be entertained”. So the point is answered against the Patriarch’s group.

3. The court also considered whether election to managing committee has to be conducted by a receiver. The finding of the question in No. 2 does not allow for such an action and thus it was not allowed.

4. The plaintiffs prayed for an injunction to restrain Fr. Jacob Kurian and his agents from receiving the keys of the church. No such injunction was allowed.

The court dismissed all the prayers of the plaintiffs (Patriarch’s group) and confirmed that Fr. Jacob Kurian is entitled to get the keys of the church – the keys were already in his possession as per the interim order in IA 3984/2010

Evaluation

This order is very important for the future litigation of the Church. It upholds the SC verdict and affirms that the 1934 constitution is binding on the parish churches. The basic contention of the Patriarch’s group that the SC judgment is not binding to the parishes is quashed. The verdict says that those who do not accept the 1934 constitution do not have any claim on the administration of the church and its properties. By asking to hand over the keys to Fr. Jacob Kurian the court has recognized the authority of the bishop (H. G. Dr. Mathews Mar Severios) who appointed him over the administration of the church and its properties.

A Brief History of the Present Litigation

The original suite (OS) which culminated in the present judgment was filed by the Patriarch’s party in 2007. During the pendency of the OS both parties (The Patriarch’s party as well as the Orthodox Church) filed IAs seeking interim relief. Both the IAs was heard together by the District Court and an order was given in 2 – 12 – 2010. According to this the court ordered that the church be opened. The Orthodox Church can celebrate Qurbana on two Sundays and the patriarch’s party may be given freedom to celebrate Qurbana on every third Sunday. The keys were to be given to Fr. Jacob Kurian who was recognized as the rightful vicar of the parish and the administration has to be carried out by the existing managing committee which was elected by the Orthodox Church according to the 1934 constitution. This arrangement was fixed till the disposal of the OS.

According to this order the Kolenchery church was opened once again in 2 – 12 – 2010 and we took possession of the church and its properties. The maintenance work of the church was initiated. The patriarch’s party had no other right except to celebrate liturgy every third Sunday. The patriarch’s party filed an appeal in the High Court challenging this interim order. But the High Court did not give them any additional relief but directed the district court to dispose off the OS within 2 months. Thus the District court took up the matter and issued the judgment on 16th August 2011 and H. G. Dr. Mathews Mar Severios Metropolitan celebrated Holy Qurbana at Kolenchery church on 17th August 2011.

The Patriarch’s party approached the same court for a stay order. On 18th August the same District court stayed the operation of the judgment for 15 days in order to get reasonable time to file appeal. The parties are directed to maintain status quo with regard to the services conducted by both parties. No judgment or any verdict was issued from any Honorable Court to restrain H. G. Dr. Mathews Mar Severios Metropolitan from exercising His Grace’s Episcopal authority and celebrating Holy Qurbana at Kolenchery church.

Fr. Dr. Johns Abraham Konat (Priest Trustee, Malankara Orthodox Church)
Aug. 20, 2011

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24 Responses for “Recent Kolenchery Church Verdict”

  1. varkey says:

    @oomen G panicker – Do u know anything about the history and origin of syrian orthodox church..I have been reading some of your posts in internet..

    Better stop your non sense now

  2. Alex Devassy says:

    @Oomen G. Panicker

    Stop crying. This isn’t a serial drama on Asianet. Stop putting your biased opinions on how to resolve the issue. You’re just a kelavan who has voice has no real influence on the topic, especially when you’re in Philadelphia.

    And remember, in the end, we’re all Christians. I pray for you.

  3. Geogy says:

    Whatever said and done the problems and issue in the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church shall be resolved by the people itself (i.e. democratic way).
    With court order or verdicts it will never be resolved. The advocate & judges make money out that…

    Moreover, the other religion (Hindu & other Christian denominations) wants Malankara Syrian Christians to fight among each other move in different group..If the Syrian Christians in malankara be UNITED, we will be 1st in Christian denomination (i.e. as Catholics have different denomination like Roman, Latin & Syrian, Rethu etc..)..

    But in current scenario it is very difficult to be UNITED as both CHURCH “faith” are different..

    Currently we are having around 20-25 church which are in dispute/cases (most in Kadanad, Angamali & Kochi)..Those church issue shall be resolved in democratic manner by decision of “pothu yogam”..It is parishioners who decide how to administer the church…

    In Kolenchery church, Court or Govt shall call “pothu yogum” and conduct election and majority shall administer the church activities…
    Holy mass can be conducted by both faction i.e. IOC & SOC for their allocated time…

    But if the Govt/Court favors the IOC church by not allowing the majority to conduct their spiritual needs; then it will become a great issue in that region..

    The IOC member existed in Kolenchery church only after the UNITY i.e. between 1958 to 1972.. Before 1958 there was no IOC member in the church; and also in the Kandanad, Angamali & Kochi region…

  4. simon says:

    @Joseph. One has to go through the judgement dated 20th June 1995 of the Supreme Court of India to get a complete idea of the situation. This judgement is available on http://judis.nic.in/supremecourt/chejudis.asp . All you need is to click on the “Date of Judgement” on the left side and enter the date. You will get the whole judgement. The judgement is about 68 pages long and takes a lot of patient reading.

    I shall try to explain the whole matter in a very simple manner. This is just to explain why a “physical church” is the centre of controversy nowadays.

    Church is an organisation. Any organisation needs a constitution. Malankara Church has a constitution made in 1934. This constitution is held valid by the Judgement of the Supreme Court. So any person who accepts this Constitution of 1934 can be the member of this Malankara Church and vote in the elections. Unfortunately the Patriarch Section of the Kolencherry Church, although a majority there, cannot accept the Constitution of 1934. If they accept the constitution they will have to accept the supremacy of the Catholicos also. Hence, it is not possible to just hold an election and decide to whom the “physical church” should be given. If an election is held with the people who declare allegiance to the 1934 Constitution the Catholicos section will definitely win, as only they will be voting.

    The details of the present controversy is detailed in the above article by Rev Fr Dr Konat.

    The Catholicos faction wants the court order to be implemented and the Patriarch faction does not want it to be implemented.

    This is the reason for the controversy in Kolencherry.

  5. Mr. Thomas you can cry all you want and type all that you can as long as your fingers take you. You talk about self respect, as everyone knows that each and every bishop of the Patriarch side is made a bishop on the basis of the token money they deposit to so called Shresta Bava. In fact when he was a priest (Achen) in the Malankara Orthodox Church, he happened to be the vicar of our church in Calcutta, so I do not need to learn much from you.

    You are too bad in history though. Learn it well before you comment anyway just for your very small info. Infact some of your own Patriarch’s have accepted this too one of them happened to be “Patriarch Sleeba Zoha” – who recognized the traditional dignity of the autonomous Metropolitan of India.

    Malankara Orthodox Church is an ancient Church of India and it traces its origin to as far back as A. D. 52 when St. Thomas one of the Disciples of Jesus Christ came to India and established Christianity in the South Western parts of the sub-continent. The St. Thomas Christians or the Indian Christians exist at present in different churches and denominations. But a major section of the parent body of St. Thomas Christians which has maintained its independent nature constitutes the Orthodox Church under the Catholicate of the East with Headquarters at Devalokam, Kottayam.

    Anyway lets say and be proud and say “JAI JAI CATHOLICOS”

  6. The likes of ‘Oommen G. Panicker’ (a grand-uncle of Navya Nair or cousin of Sivadasa Menon perhaps, given his very Christian surname) will get their own one day, when his children or grand children forget about their ancestors buried in Kundara, if any, and decide that the Kottayam ‘Simhasana’ is too far away for them to respect, and decide to create a more local ‘American Simhasana’.
    And to Prasad, HH the Patriarch is not the head of the ‘Patriarch Church’ but the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church, an apostolic church with substantially more history and self-respect than your 99-year old rabble-rousing hordes who raid the offices of non-church functionaries and govenment officials with slogans and shrill cries of ‘justice denied’.

  7. joseph says:

    I heard from my jacobite friend that the association of kolenchery church which is called by orthodox is attended by only around 300 persons who support them, where the total members in church is around 8000 and thereby misguided the court. Is the judges foolish to believe it? Anybody know whats the real fact in that?

  8. Mr. CAMA FRANSIS!

    Please show guts to reveal your real name and also address! To know me better, if you are from USA, you should come to Philadelphia and inquire with St. Thomas Indian Orthodox Church where I am a member since last 8 years! Or else, if you are from Kerala, please go and inquire with St. Thomas Orthodox Valiya Pally, Kundara, where the tomb of my forefathers called “Maliyekkal Panicker Family” is situated!

    Moreover, you should know that there is no Jama Masjid in Philadelphia and also a person called “Imam Rahmatulla”.

    YOU IGNORANT , YOU FAKE, YOU WICKED AND YOU WRETCHED, THY NAME IS CALLED “JACOBITE”!

  9. Almost all of us knows what the truth is

    With all due to respect to a few members, let me clarify first to Mr. P.C Joseph. Its easy for anyone to just type in anything they want, but it would be better if you can type facts and not what you would have liked it to be. Please learn the history before you comment and make a blunder.
    Orthodox Sabha is not under the Patriarch
    Jacobite Sabha is under the Patriarch, this is what the Patriarch wants and what the Jacobite’s have accepted (So that is their problem)

    Regarding Catholics and other Sabha’s who accept the Catholic Pope in Rome is their concern.

    Just as the Pope is the head of the Catholic Church. the Catholicate is the head of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church
    The Patriarch is the head of the Patriarch Church and those who want to accept him like the Jacobite’s

    Next to Mr.Sabu
    I think you have allready recieved the answer from Mr. Oommen.
    But still think and write do not make yourself so cheap. May God Bless You

    Next To Mr. Cama
    Take care of yourself. By just having a Christian Name you do not become a Christian.

    MAY TRUTH PREVAIL AND MAY THE ALMIGHTY BLESS EACH ONE OF US

    ‘JAI JAI CATHOLICOS”

  10. My dear son Sabu,

    I have now entered the age of 60 and age wise, I should be your father! Are you calling your father ‘Iyyal”? I am sure, you ‘yakkobites” do not respect even their own father!

    Come to Philadelphia, USA and you will see yourself what I am doing here! For your information, I had worked over 28 years in Gujarat and since last 8 years I am working in USA. It can be you, who is living at the cost your wife!

    Finally, who are you to tell me to stop my commentary, since I am a paid subscriber and column writer of “Orthodox Herald’?

  11. Cama Francis says:

    Oommen G Panicker was formerly the Imam of Philadelphia Jama Masji and his real name is Palliparambil K Rahmathullah. Now he has changed his name to Oommen G Panicker.

  12. sabu says:

    @ Mr. Oomben Panicker,

    Iyalkku vere pani onnum ille? Bharyaude chelavilayirikkum!! Please stop your commentary!!!

  13. I am at a loss to understand as to which group Mr. Ninan belongs, when he calls both the groups – the Orthodox & Jacobites to stop the nonsense! Is he an Orthodox, Jacobite, Marthomite or Roman Catholic to say this? His is over worried about the fact that Christ’s name is spoiled in public as well as in media! First of all, he should find out which group is legally and historically right and which one is wrong, as both the factions cannot be right at the same time!

    People like Mr. P.C. Joseph do make ignorant comments, when they make statements like, ” Orthodox faction by definition as well as court order are under the Patriarch”. He do compare the Orthodox Church in Kerala and elsewhere with the Roman Catholic Church under the Pope and want to put the Patriarch of Antioch in Pope’s seat! This is against the Orthodox church history, the 1934 Malankara Church Constitution and also the Apex Court orders!

  14. Reni Daniel says:

    Fiat justitia ruat caelum

    “Let justice be done though the heavens fall.”

    Justice must be realized regardless of consequences.

  15. MR. OOMMEN CHANDY, KERALA CHIEF MINISTER, WHO HAPPENS TO BE A MEMBER OF MALANKARA ORTHODOX CHURCH BY BIRTH, IS A POLITICIAN ALWAYS PLAYING DOUBLE ROLE, RIGHT FROM THE VERY BEGINNING. IN ORDER TO GAIN ORTHODOX VOTES, HE USED TO GOES TO PUTHUPALLY CHURCH AND TO GRAB JACOBITE VOTES, HE SENT HIS WIFE TO MANJANIKKARA DAYARA! WHEN I EXPOSED HIS DOUBLE ROLE EARLIER, MANY OF MY ORTHODOX FRIENDS CHOOSE TO OPPOSE ME, STATING THAT HE IS PURE AND ONE HUNDRED PERCENT ORTHODOX !

    NOW THAT HIS REAL FACE IS BEING EXPOSED ! HE, WHO IS IN CHARGE OF HOME & POLICE DEPARTMENT, IS NOT IN A POSITION TO IMPLEMENT THE ERNAKULAM SPECIAL COURT ORDER WITH REGARD TO KOLENCHERRY CHURCH! THIS IS JUST BECAUSE, THERE ARE NO OTHER ORTHODOX CHURCH MEMBERS IN HIS CABINET AND THAT HE GOT POWERFUL A OPPOSITION WITHIN HIS CABINET FROM MR. T.M. JACOB, WHO IS A JACOBITE!

    MR. OOMMEN CHANDY NOW IS IN BETWEEN SATAN AND SEA (PAMOIL CASE & KOLENCHERRY CHURCH ISSUE). DEAR ORTHODOX FELLOW MEMBERS , PLEASE PRAY FOR HIM!!

  16. Joseph P C says:

    One solution I can think of at this stage is that both factions remain as independant Sabhas but both under the Patriarch of Antioch and forget the litigations! All memebrs will be free to join the Church of their locations as per convenience.Orthodox faction by defenition as well as court order are under the Patriarch.Jacobite faction has to be accomodative to accept the other as as their equals.Look at Catholics..there are different Sabhas but all under Pope.What are the problems in working towards that?

  17. THE GOVERNMENT SEEMS TO BE PLAYING DOUBLE GAME AT THE INFLUENCE
    OF THE JACOBITE POLITICIANS BY NOT SHOWING READINESS TO IMPLEMENT THE COURT ORDER WHICH IS FAVOURABLE TO THE ORTHODOX CHURCH.HIS HOLINESS THE CATHOLICOS STARTED FASTING ALONG WITH OTHER METROPOLITANS AT KOLENCHERRY AGAINST THIS INJUSTICE.

  18. Ninan says:

    Can you please stop all the nonsense – both to Orthodox & Jacobite group?
    Do anyone thought about the money that each group spends for Court expenses. Anyone thought about how the the Christs name is spoiled in media and public. I am damn sure that God the almighty is not supporting any such nuisense.

  19. Those who are calling for a dialogue now, in order to solve the Kolencherry Church issue and other church issues in Kerala, should have thought of it first, before they went to the Courts!

    It is the Patriarch (Jacobite) group at Kolencherry Church , who went to file a Court case at the Ernakulam District Court for an injection on Orthodox church! Having lost the case at the Special Court, then they applied for Stay of the court order. Then they once again filed an Appeal in the High Court for a Review of the case. The High Court, having once again turned down their Appeal, they got no other choice, but to obey the 1995 orders of the Supreme Court, i.e; to follow the 1934 Church Constitution and obey the Catholicose of the East, Paulose II (and not their leader, Thomas I).

    It is shameful and astonishing to hear from the mouths of these misguided elements; now preaching about Christianity, seeking for solutions and calling for peace and a dialogue with the Orthodox Church ! It is the Court Orders, that should prevail upon now and to my opinion, The Malankara Orthodox Church needs no more dialogue with the Jacobite group!

  20. JOHN K RAJAN says:

    The entire christianity except a few is pained due to this happenings. We have solutions for all our solutions in our bible. We are preaching others about the values of christianity and principle of love inbibed in our Holy Bible. But when it comes to our issues, we became worldly men to the core. Can we not find out a solution to this vexed issue through dialogue .

  21. Dear Mr. KK

    Do you want to say that those who follows the 2002 Puthencruz Society Constitution which has no Court validity, are the only true christians?

    In any dispute, either it is political or religious, the ruling of the Courts of the land should be respected!!

  22. KK says:

    The only true Christians I have seen in India is Mahatma Gandhi and J. Krishnamurti. And there are many great Christians based on dogmas, creeds, and beliefs. May God bless them all and their 1934 Constitution.

  23. Joe G. says:

    May God Have Mercy on us all!

  24. I call upon the Patriarch (Jacobite) group not to waste their money any more, by way of going for an Appeal once again to the High Court, Supreme Court, etc. , as it is of no use!

    Rather, they should select either any one of the following two options:-

    1. They should accept the 1934 church constitution and continue to be members of St.Peters & St.Pauls Orthodox Church, Kolencherry, under the jurisdiction of Catholicose of the East, HH Paulose II.

    Or else;

    2. They should construct another church of their own, for which, foundation stone has already been laid recently by their Shreshtha Catholicose, Thomas I.

    I hope, better sense will prevail upon them to stop the litigation and thus save their money!

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