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Church, CPM come closer

Kochi, Nov. 10: A feud over matters material has brought a section of the Church and the CPM closer in Kerala, where the seemingly irreconcilable Christianity and communism have struck deep roots.

The Orthodox faction of the Malankara Church of Kerala, which is locked in a bitter dispute with the Patriarch group over the past two decades, has approached the CPM for support in an unparalleled move in the turbulent political history of the state.

The CPM, now in the opposition in the state, seems to have given up its “ideological obstinacy” and evinced a keen interest in addressing the grievances of the Church.

On Thursday night, the CPM sent one of its topmost leaders in Kerala, Paloli Muhammed Kutty, for discussions with representatives of the Church. Two leaders of the Orthodox Church had closed-door parleys with Kutty, who is also the convener of the CPM-led Left Democratic Front.

This was barely a few hours after the Orthodox Church announced its decision to “deal politically with the indifference of the ruling “Congress-led United Democratic Front government’’ in Kerala.

Whatever the final outcome, the meeting marks a new beginning for both the Church and the CPM in Kerala. So far, the Church and the CPM had consistently maintained that they are ideologically incompatible.

Even now, not many CPM leaders have forgiven the Church for its perceived role in the ‘Liberation Struggle’ of 1959, which led to the dismissal of the E.M.S. Namboodiripad government, the world’s first elected communist regime.

The two groups emerged in the Malankara Church – an independent denomination, it is neither Catholic nor Protestant – following differences over allegiance.

Control of religious institutions and property, including many places of worship and educational establishments, is at the centre of the spat between the Orthodox and Patriarch sections. The value of the property runs into crores of rupees.

In July, the Supreme Court had given a verdict on a legal dispute between the two sections. The verdict is generally considered to be in favour of the Orthodox section, though the Patraiarchs claim that it is open to debate and is of an interim nature.

The Orthodox faction’s complaint against the UDF is that it is not helping to implement the court order and allow it to gain control of the Malankara Church properties.

At the hour-long meeting on Thursday night, Metropolitans Thomas Mar Athanasius and Mathews Mar Sevarios apprised the LDF convener of the details of the verdict.

The two believe that the verdict had vested control of majority of Malankara churches with the Orthodox faction. They also expressed the Church’s concern over the UDF government’s failure in implementing the court order.

The Metropolitans stressed that democratic forces should raise their voice against the government’s ‘‘denial of justice’’ to the Orthodox faction.

The CPM leader gave a patient hearing and assured the Church leaders that he would take up the issue at the next meeting of the LDF on November 16. LDF leaders and senior Church functionaries will again meet again on November 18. Besides, a high-level committee of the Church will meet on November 20 to review the outcome of the November 18 meeting, sources said.

There are reports that the initiative of the leadership of the Orthodox faction has caused confusion in the Church itself and may lead to divisions within the faction.

Christian leaders from the southern district of Kottayam — once a bastion of parties linked to the Church — are reportedly opposed to seeking the help of “communists” in the Church dispute. But younger members of the Church are apparently pressuring the leadership to go on the offensive with the LDF’s support.

This “young group” in the Orthodox faction had a series of informal discussions in the last few weeks with several CPM leaders, including party central committee member M.A. Baby. These discussions led to Thursday’s unusual meeting.

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