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Monday, Aug 19, 2019

Crisis grips Syro-Malabar church as over 150 priests oppose Cardinal’s reinstatement

Over 150 priests have decided not to co-operate with Cardinal Mar George Alancherry who was reinstated as the head of the diocese by Vatican on Thursday as he faces allegations of corruption.

india Updated: Jun 29, 2019 11:59 IST
Ramesh Babu
Ramesh Babu
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
Cardinal Mar George Alancherry was removed from the post last year after a section of believers and priests alleged that he had sold a prime land owned by the church in Kochi.
Cardinal Mar George Alancherry was removed from the post last year after a section of believers and priests alleged that he had sold a prime land owned by the church in Kochi.(Wikipedia/ Emmanuel Parekkattu)
         

The ongoing tussle between a section of priests and Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese aggravated after dissident priests held a meeting in Aluva (Kochi) on Friday. Registering discontentment, the priests have decided not to co-operate with Cardinal Mar George Alancherry who was reinstated as the head of the diocese by Vatican on Thursday as he faces allegations of corruption.

Alancherry was removed from the post last year after a section of believers and priests alleged that he had sold a prime land owned by the church in Kochi. The transaction by Alancherry was made below market price with the church reportedly losing Rs 63 crore in the deal.

In addition to reinstatement of the Cardinal, suspension of two auxillary bishops who were carrying out the day-to-day works of the archdiocese has also sparked friction among priests. Over 150 priests have decided not to co-operate with the Cardinal and have sought an explanation for their queries regarding the land deal and involvement in allegations against former Bishop of Jalandhar Franco Mullakkal rape case. According to the priests, when the rape case against former Bishop of Jalandhar Franco Mullakkal had surfaced, the victim first went to the Cardinal for help but he reportedly turned down her plea. Later the audio clips of conversation between the victim and the Cardinal surfaced. The Cardinal, rebel priests have said, is a witness in the case against Mullakkal. A section of priests including Father Paul Thelakkat openly supported the victim.

Condemning the Cardinal’s reinstatement, the priests have passed a resolution stating that they will “continue their struggle to cleanse the system”. They said they will try to inform Pope Francis about the “corruption and misdeeds” happening in the diocese.

“We condemn the reinstatement of Cardinal in the cover of darkness and he sought police assistance to assume his power. All our questions remain unanswered. We were not given proper hearing by church authorities. Is this the existing practice in the global church?” the resolution passed by the meet read. The resolution pointed out that the Cardinal was reinstated without any probe.

The Cardinal took charge on Thursday night in the presence of police officials in a bid to avert a showdown.

After the corruption charges against Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese, one of the most powerful dioceses in the country, at least 12 different complaints and four FIRs were filed in different police stations.

In May this year, an MTech graduate from IIT-Madras , Father Paul Thelekkat, former spokesman of the Syro-Malabar Church and Bishop Jacon Mananthodath, the apostolic administrator of the archdiocese were booked for forging documents against the Cardinal. Responding to the allegations, the accused have maintained that they were being hounded for exposing alleged corruption charges. The spokesman of the diocese was not available for comments.

First Published: Jun 29, 2019 11:59 IST

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