Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II calls for truce between church factions

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The Patriarch, on his second apostolic visit to India, told reporters on Tuesday,
Patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church Igantius Aphrem II accepting a floral welcome by special children of Centre for Empowerment and Enrichment in Kochi on Tuesday. (Photo: SUNOJ NINAN MATHEW)

KOCHI: Ignatius Aphrem II, Patriarch of Antioch & the East and supreme head of the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church, called for peace between the two factions of the Malankara Orthodox Church based on respect for each other and dignity. The Patriarch, on his second apostolic visit to India, told reporters on Tuesday, “I will do all I can to achieve peace based on respect, dignity and mutual acceptance.” The Patriarch expected a positive response from Catholicos Baselius Thomas Paulose-II, head of the Malankara Orthodox Church, to the invitation for talks.

The Catholicos had not responded so far. Saying that he was concerned about the ordinary folks of the Church, he said, “We are not the Church, we are its servants.” The dispute betw-een the two factions had hit the ordinary members as weddings, funerals and other services were being disrupted due to the rift. He will not visit the Parumala pilgrim centre as part of efforts not to aggravate the situation. Under-lying his deep desire for peace between the two groups, he said he was the spiritual father of all believers. The Patriarch will visit New Delhi to meet the President and the Prime Minister and would seek their interventions to achieve peace in the Church in India.

However, he made it clear that he did not expect Delhi to directly intervene in the matter, but to be a facilitator of the peace process. He thanked Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan for encouraging him to visit the state in a bid to achieve peace in the Malankara Church. The government had made arrangements for his visit as a state guest, he said. On the Supreme Court verdict in the dispute between the two groups of the Church, the Patriarch said his visit to India is marked by several “difficult and painful events.”

A group of people have been deprived of their churches and places of worship, he said and added that he had extended an invitation to all for talks to achieve peace. On leadership changes in the Malankara Jacobite Church, he said the local synod would decide such matters and that he would not impose or force any changes. Christians unlikely to return to Syria: The Syrian government forces recently achieved success in their fight with the rebels, but most Christians fled, the Patriarch said. Most of them were unlikely to return, he said and added that even if five per cent of them returned, it would be a good result.