Kochi, All does not seem well in Kerala-headquartered Syro Malabar Catholic Church. Troubles began last year when the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdioceses in 2016 sold a three-acre plot of land in Kochi.
At the height of the crisis last year, for the first time in the history of a state, a criminal case was registered against Cardinal George Alencherry, the supreme head of a Church and even his powers were curbed by the Pope.
On Friday, the crisis blew over as far as Alencherry was concerned, when the Vatican decided to return his administrative powers following registration of a case and suspension of two bishops. Following this, a protest also took place with around 150 priests taking part in it.
One of Alencherry’s close aides, Binu Chacko, dismissed all this. “It’s just a storm in a teacup,” he remarked.
“Whatever one saw and heard has not at all affected the Church or the laity. It’s true that there has been some unrest in the Ernakulam-Angamaly diocese of our church. Just wait and see… all the issues will be settled,” said Chacko, who is the Vice President of the Indian Catholic Forum.
On Friday, the rebel faction led by around 150 priests decided not to cooperate with Alencherry as they were cut up with the suspension of two auxiliary Bishops Sebastian Adayanthrath and Jose Puthenveetil.
“In no way can these priests who are upset go against the orders of the Vatican, as opposing it is just not possible. To date, there exists no case at all against the Cardinal. First the high court quashed the case registered against him in the land deal. Following this, a fresh case was filed in a magistrate court and that too has been stayed by the Ernakulam district court.
“There was just a smokescreen created in the land deal. All the money has been received in the sale of the church land… it took a while to get the money and there was nothing else,” added Chacko.
Retired Superintendent of Police and a strong Catholic believer, George Joseph told IANS that this should never be seen as a revolt by priests and if they try to play smart, they should be ousted.
“Religion is not like politics, where democracy reigns supreme. Be it any religion, there are conventions and practices that are followed. For the Catholics, it’s the Canon Law that’s the driving force.
“Anyone who knows the work done by the Catholic churches in Kerala in the field of education, social service and running of health care institutions, would never point fingers at Alencherry,” said Joseph.
Earlier this month, two Catholic priests — Paul Thelekat and Antony Kalokaran — secured anticipatory bail in a case of forging documents to defame Alencherry in the land deal case, after the police arrested an M.Tech student, who the police claim was behind the creation of the forged documents.
Thelekat told IANS that since he has secured anticipatory bail, it would be inappropriate to speak anything on this.
However, senior priest Kuriakose Mundadan told IANS that Friday’s meeting of around 150 priests attached to the Ernakulam-Angamaly dioceses was called to discuss the fresh decision of the Vatican.
“It was a hurriedly called meeting and everyone is surprised by what is happening with the fresh directions from Vatican. No reasons have been given for suspending two auxiliary bishops, which is something, that has never happened before.
“What’s even more surprising is that the Vatican directed Bishop Jacob Manathodath, appointed as the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese’s Apostolic Administrator last year, to go back to his Palakkad diocese to carry out his pastoral duties. We will now wait for the August synod meeting, when things will become clear,” said Mundadan.