Church land sale sees cardinal in court

cardinal to appear

A top court in the southern Indian state of Kerala has demanded a cardinal appear to face questions over his alleged involvement in the sale of Church lands.

The Kerela High Court dismissed an appeal by Cardinal George Alencherry seeking exemption from appearing in a district court.

The decision means the head of Eastern rite Syro-Malabar Church will have to personally appear in a court in Ernakulam district in connection with the criminal cases pending against him.

Cardinal Alencherry had pleaded that the presence of his legal counsel be treated as his presence in court as he is “a senior citizen aged 77 years and the head of the Syro-Malabar Church” with duties like “performing religious ceremonies, rituals, including the ordination of bishops, priests, the consecration of churches” among other things.

Justice Ziyad Rahman dismissed the cardinal’s pleas as “untenable” as the offences alleged against him were serious and “punishable with imprisonment for seven years or more”.

The judge further observed that if the cardinal admittedly attends meetings across the globe, including in Rome, then he is not under any physical difficulty that could prevent him from appearing in court, which is barely three kilometres from his official residence.

The prelate is facing 14 criminal cases in connection with the dubious land deals executed in the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese since his appointment as its head in May 2011.

Those accusing him of alleged corruption in the sale of Church lands claim a loss of US$10 million to the archdiocese.

A church official, who did not want to be named, told UCA News: “A Catholic bishop does not sell diocesan properties in his individual capacity. He only follows the advice of his council of priests and others empowered to do so.”

These allegations forced the Vatican to curtail Cardinal Alencherry’s administrative powers and an apostolic administrator in June 2018.

Hundreds of Catholics in Ernakulam-Angamaly staged a torchlight protest in front of the Archbishop’s House, demanding the prelate’s resignation as the Major Archbishop in wake of the court order.

The protestors said the prelate had brought shame to the entire Syro-Malabar Church and the Christian community in India.



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