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Kerala govt decides to bring in ordinance on burial rites

Kerala govt decides to bring in ordinance on burial rites

Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala government on Wednesday decided to bring in an ordinance permitting conduct of burial rituals of Jacobite parishoners in their family cemetery now under the control of the orthodox faction of the Malankara church.

The government decided to take the ordinance route after all efforts to resolve the issue through discussions failed, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told reporters here.

A decision in this regard was take at a cabinet meeting here this morning.

The move comes in the backdrop of standoff between the two factions over the burial rituals which recently led to over a month long delay in the conduct of the funeral of a 91 -year-old woman in Alappuzha.

The two factions-- Jacobite and Orthodox have been at loggerheads for long over the possession of church properties.

After the Supreme Court verdict of 2017, more than 1,000 churches, hitherto held by Jacobites, were ordered to be handed over to the Orthodox faction which has been insisting burial of Jaobite faithful can be allowed in cemeteries under its control provided last rites were peformed by its priests.

The Jacobite faction welcomed the government move to bring the ordinance as a "brave decision" taken to ensure "a dignified burial" for bodies of their faithful in churches now controlled by the Orthodox faction, while

the latter said they wouldchallenge it legally, if it goes against the spirit of the apex court order.

Vijayan said: "We had been taking all efforts to resolve the issue. Though we tried to hold discussions, one section refused to come for talks," adding the state Governor had also made some efforts to resolve the vexed issue.

But after all their attempts to find a solution failed, the government decided to bring in the ordinance, he said.

The relatives of the deceased have the right to conduct the funeral rites by a priest of their choice outside the church and then bring the body back to the place of worship for burial, he said.

Every person has the right to be cremated in their family cemetry as per the ordinance, Vijayan said.

While pointing out that the government was not taking an adamant stand on the issue, he said their only concern was to ensure speedy burial of the dead.

There were instances with the issue turning emotive and law and order problems cropping up, chief minister noted.

Vijayan said there was nothing illegal in bringing out the ordinance and the government's only intention was to settle the matter as per law.

Reacting to the government's decision, Malankara Orthodox Church secretary Biju Oommen said: "If the essence of the ordinance is against the spirit of the Supreme Court judgement, we will challenge it legally."

Senior Jacobite priest and church spokesperson Kuriakose Mor Theophilose said in Kochi they were grateful to the government for its "brave decision" to bring in ordinance to ensure their faithful a "dignified burial".

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