Indian Catholic News

Criminal case filed against Cardinal Alencherry in land row

The Cardinal has been accused of selling prime lands at undervalued prices causing losses to the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese.

Cardinal George Alencherry (Photo credit: Indian Express)

The Kochi Central Police has today filed a criminal case against Syro-Malabar church head Cardinal George Alencherry in a controversial land deal, reports The Indian Express.

The Cardinal has been accused of selling prime lands at undervalued prices causing losses to the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese, of which he is the head as well.

“The Cardinal has been made the first accused in the case. Charges under sections 120 (B) for criminal conspiracy, 406 for criminal breach of trust and 415 for cheating under the Indian Penal Code have been filed in the case,” a senior police official said.

Other accused in the case include Father Joshy Puthuva, Father Sebastian Vadakkumpadan and broker Saju Varghese.

The case was filed against Cardinal Alencherry following the orders of the Kerala High Court to the police. A single bench of Justice Kamal B Pasha had said that prima facie there is evidence to show that the Cardinal and the other priests have committed criminal breach of trust, conspiracy and cheating.

Last week, over 200 priests marched to the residence of Cardinal Alencherry to ask him to stay away from his responsibilities in the Church especially when the High Court asked for a criminal case to be filed against him. The protestors alleged that the police was delaying in registering the FIR against Cardinal and others.

Following the March 9 protests by priests, senior bishops of Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC) stepped in to resolve the crisis in the Syro-Malabar church.

KCBC president Archbishop Soosa Pakiam of Thiruvananthapuram (Latin Rite) and Syro-Malankara church head Cardinal Baselios Cleemis held meetings with Cardinal Alencherry, auxiliary bishops and agitating priests of the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese.

A section of the faithful and several priests within the archdiocese came out against the Cardinal after the controversial land deal. The sale of 3.06 acres of land belonging to the Church in Kochi in 2015 should have fetched Rs 27 crore, substantially more than the Rs 9 crore it actually fetched. The role of land mafia in the deal is suspected, they said.

A six-member panel appointed by the archdiocese to look into the land deal had found grave offences allegedly committed by Cardinal Alencherry and other priests. The panel report was subsequently sent to the Vatican.

The allegation against the Cardinal has led to major fissures within the Syro-Malabar Church, which controls 35 dioceses and lakhs of followers across the state. Cardinal Alencherry still enjoys support of priests, bishops and faithful in other dioceses. This was alleged as reason for police delay in filing the FIR.

Source: Indian Express, India Today

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