Priests turn pressure on Kerala cardinal to quit and face probe

George Alancherry has been facing a wave of allegations after a series of land deals caused significant monetary loss to the church

Thiruvananthapuram: The Syro-Malabar Church in Kerala faced an unprecedented situation on Friday as hundreds of priests demanded that their church head, the cardinal, step aside from his post and face charges related to a murky land deal he presided over.

The priests said as many as 448 of them had signed a memorandum asking cardinal George Alancherry to step down.

The cardinal has been facing a wave of allegations after a series of land deals caused significant monetary loss to the church.

His troubles were compounded when the state high court made it clear that a case could be filed with regard to the loss that is alleged to have been caused in the land deals, the details of which remain foggy.

There are contradictory figures being put out, but one estimate says that the cardinal’s decision to sell some parcels of church land caused a loss of Rs860 million to the church.

Matters deteriorated further for the cardinal on Friday when a group of priests made their stand against the cardinal public. The priests submitted their memorandum to auxiliary bishop, Sebastian Edayantharath, demanding that Alancherry step aside from all responsibilities until the investigation was completed.

The high court had ordered the police to register a first information report in the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese land scam. The court said there was prima facie evidence to indicate a criminal conspiracy, breach of trust, and criminal misappropriation in the land deals. Besides the cardinal, three others are listed as respondents in the case.

The priests who are against the cardinal’s continuance in his post held a meeting on Friday morning, submitted their memorandum to the auxiliary bishop, and then met the media, thus exposing the episode to public glare.

The division within the church over the land scam became clear this week when posters appeared in Ernakulam, apparently put up by those supporting the cardinal, which demanded that those opposing the cardinal be expelled from church.

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