KERALA Murder Suspect Jacobite Pastor Surrenders
A Jacobite Syrian priest, prime suspect in the murder of a Christian lay leader, has given himself up to a court in Kochi, India.
Father Varghese Thekkekara of the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church surrendered after a demand from the Kerala High Court. He was granted bail of 25,000 rupees (US $542) on his own recognizance and two sureties of the same amount.
Father Thekkekara was charged with conspiring to hire henchmen to murder Malankara Varghese, a management committee member from the rival Malankara Orthodox Church. Police have also accused 19 others, including criminal gang members, of the 2002 murder. The Jacobite Church suspended the priest upon his accusation.
It is thought that the murder was part of a long-running feud within the Syrian Malankara Church, which split into Jacobite and Orthodox factions
after a dispute over property and money, more than a century ago.
The Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church recognizes the Patriarch of Antioch as its spiritual head while the Malankara Orthodox Church reveres a local prelate as its leader.
The two factions jointly own 1,026 churches across Kerala, their base. Since the split, each faction has tried repeatedly to gain control over the other’s domain.
Saramma Varghese, the victim’s widow, said she would not stop her fight for justice. I believe there is a wider conspiracy behind the murder,” she said. “I believe more church leaders are involved, including bishops.”