Date:12/08/2002 URL:

Southern States - Kerala

Church row takes new turn

By George Jacob

KOTTAYAM Aug. 11. The crisis in the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church appears to have taken a decisive turn with the Managing Committee owing allegiance to Catholicos Baselius Mar Thoma Mathews II, which met here the other day, deciding not to recognise the validity of the consecration of 10 bishops, including the senior most bishop in Indian Christendom, Bishop Abraham Mar Clemis, and the Catholicos Baselius Thomas I of the Patriarch faction.

The Managing Committee, which took several important decisions on the basis of the Supreme Court directive that they have the right to decide on "who are all the incumbents'' of the various dioceses, has also approved the list of 22 bishops including the four who had crossed over from the Patriarch faction and also on 25 dioceses, including four new ones. The dioceses of Angamali and Kandanad have been bifurcated, Thrissur has been added and a new dioceses, Mavelikara has been newly created.

The 10 bishops who have been `blacklisted' by the Orthodox Church also include Joseph Mar Gregorios, Juhanon Mar Philexinos, Thomas Mar Thimotheos, Benyamin Mar Osthathios, Geevarghees Mar Policarpos, Kuriakose Mar Eulios, Markose Mar Koorilos and Mathews Mar Ivanos. Bishop Abraham Mar Clemis, who has been serving the Knanaya Orthodox Church for more than half a century as the bishop and had served as Malankara Metropolitan for a brief period earlier, has the distinction of being excommunicated by the former Catholicos, Baselius Ougen. According to the Orthodox Church spokesman, the decision not to recognise his consecration was nothing unexpected as he had not declared his allegiance to Catholicos Baselius Mar Thomas Mathews II. Knanaya Church sources, however, pointed out that Mar Clemis was much senior to the Catholicos in the church hierarchy.

The four bishops who had crossed over to the Orthodox Church from the Patriarch faction and have been recognised by the Managing Committee are Bishop Abraham Mar Savarios (Angamali), Thomas Mar Athanasios (Kandanad), Juhanon Mar Milithos (Thrissur) and Zacharias Mar Nicholovas (U.S.)

The recommendations of the Managing Committee will have to be ratified by the Synod, but it is only a formality. According to sources, a total overhauling of the administrative structure is in the offing in the Orthodox Church and this process would be completed within six months.

They also said the publication of the list of bishops `blacklisted' by the Church did not amount to a closing of the doors on any peace moves still in process, since the decisions could be revoked by the authoritative body if the `blacklisted' persons expressed their allegiance to the 1934 Constitution and Catholicos Mathews II.

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