Vatican gets tough with Indian archdiocese, in Land Scandal….

Vatican gets tough with Ernakulam archdiocese
Three prelates removed from administration of Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese as apostolic administrator is appointed.

Kochi: In an unprecedented move, the Vatican has bypassed the Eastern-rite Syro-Malabar Church’s decision-making synod and taken away the administrative jobs of three prelates of an archdiocese beset with financial controversy and infighting.

Pope Francis appointed Bishop Jacob Manathodath of Palghat as the apostolic administrator of Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese on June 22 with a mandate to stem financial controversies aggravated by disputed land deals.

“There remains the grave and worrying” situation of division between priests, auxiliary bishops and Cardinal George Alencherry, said a letter from Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Oriental Congregation.

It said the administrator’s primary job is to seek “healing of these fractures and eventually propose solutions that require the intervention of the Synod of Bishops,” the supreme decision-making body of the Syro-Malabar Church based in Kerala.

The archdiocese was embroiled in a controversy in November 2017 when the presbyteral council, the canonical body of priests, publicly accused Cardinal Alencherry, the major archbishop, of being part of dubious land deals.

The priest-representatives told media that the cardinal, two senior priests and a real estate agent had sold several plots of land at undervalued prices, incurring a loss of more than US$10 million. They also accused the cardinal of bypassing the canonical body.

The letter from Cardinal Sandri said the administrative powers of auxiliary bishops Sebastian Adayantrath and Jose Puthernveetil have been suspended. The letter also suspended all archdiocesan offices and its council, giving the new administrator the freedom to reshape them or constitute new ones.

The letter asked the new administrator to conduct an audit of the archdiocese by an independent agency and send the result to only the Apostolic See in a confidential manner.

It said Cardinal Alencherry “should absolutely not be involved” in any decisions. However, the administrator may appoint a synodal committee to help him, but it should have only a consultative role.

The new administrator is also mandated to ascertain the responsibility of people “who have wounded church unity with unfounded allegations, lacking the spirit of obedience and ecclesial sense,” which resulted in a “public scandal damaging the Syro-Malabar Church.”

It is first time in the history of this Asian Church that the Vatican has suspended the administrative powers of all the bishops in a diocese, said a senior priest who asked to remain anonymous.

“It shows a grave situation of ethical violations and the inability of the synod to effectively settle the issue,” he said.

The situation forced the Vatican to bypass the synod that became self-governing in 1992, he noted.

Call for reconciliation

The apostolic administrator has appointed a new vicar-general, financial officer, chancellor and pro-vice-chancellor in the archdiocese. He also issued a circular sending a message of reconciliation to Catholics, which was read out in all parishes on June 24.

The allegations of financial irregularities have sullied the reputation of the archdiocese. “We will be able to rebuild this if everybody cooperates,” it said.

Cardinal Alencherry refused to comment on the developments. However, his supporters do not see the Vatican intervention as a setback for him.

Santhimon Jacob, a vocal supporter of the cardinal, claimed the Vatican move does not mean anything as the cardinal had already delegated his administrative powers to the two auxiliary bishops in the wake of the land controversy.

He also noted the assertion in Cardinal Sandri’s letter that the Vatican move comes at the recommendation of the cardinal and the synod.

The cardinal’s critics, however, feel that an impartial investigation into the land deals could even lead to his exit from his current positions.

Father Kuriakose Mundadan, former secretary of the presbyteral council and a member of the six-member committee that probed the land deals, said the Vatican has given clear instructions to get to the bottom of the issue.

“The instruction to have an independent audit and to send its report only to the Vatican shows that they want to know the truth. We are confident that Pope Francis will side only with the truth,” Father Mundadan told

He said he and other priests are not worried about disciplinary action. “We have been raising the issue in the internal forums of the church since September 2017. None, including the members of the synod, gave us any convincing explanation or moved to act.”

Father Mundadan said they were forced to speak in public because of inaction. He said the Vatican intervention comes after the priests’ body made two representations to the Vatican.

Bishop Manathodath, 71, who was ordained a priest in Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese in 1972, will continue as bishop of Palghat while having the additional responsibilities of administrator.

Source: UCAN

1 Comment

  1. Isaac Gomes said,

    June 27, 2018 at 4:32 pm

    At last it seems the Pope is taking some corrective action on the Indian Church Hierarchy’s absolute lack of transparency and accountability especially in matters of temporal goods. This opaque operation is evident in the Ernakulam Archdiocese and most probably in other dioceses too.

    This lack of transparency on the part of most in Indian Church Hierarchy, which believes that the Vatican is 5900+ km away from New Delhi and can do little to probe its (Indian Church’s) affairs, is one of the main reasons Pope Francis is not visiting India, though he has visited neighbouring Myanmar and Bangladesh.

    It will be interesting to know the exact role of the Administrator. For a start, will he ensure establishment of Parish Finance Committees and update of the Assets Registers in all parishes in Kerala? Will the Laity in Kerala be allowed to inspect such Registers?

    The Indian Express Thiruvananthapuram 23 June 2018 read as follows:


    Hit by controversy over allegations of dubious financial dealilngs and causing huge loss to the Church, Cardinal George Allencherry was DIVESTED of all administrative powers as the head of the Ernakulam Archdiocese, by the Vatican.

    BIshop Jacob Manathodath of Palakkad diocese has been appointed the Apostolic Administrator of the archdiocese, sources said.

    The unprecedented action from Pope Francis is seen as a severe setback for Alencherry, who is the head of the Kochi-based Syro Malabar Catholic Church, and is also among the Indian Cardinals eligible to elect the Pope. Alencherry wold now remain as Cardinal and head of the Church but would not have any role in the governance of the Archdiocese of Ernakulam. The Archdiocese had suffered a loss of Rs 90 Crore following controversial land dealings executed by the Cardinal in 2016.

    The letter from Rome which announced the appointment of a new Apostolic Administrator for the Archdiocese, said the decision to remove Alencherry was taken in the light of the communication received from the Apostolic Nuncio.

    Church sources said that Rome has taken serious note of the demand of priests that the Cardinal should quit. “Vatican has found substance in the allegations. The decision is a victory for those who stand for morality, integrity and transparency. Rome has removed the Cardinal as the administrator of a diocese. Now, the Cardinal would have to explain to the public the locus standi for his continuation as the head of the Church,” said a priest, without wishing to be identified.



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