Cardinal, bishop and other priests involved in land and financial scandals in Kerala (1)

Cardinal, bishop and other priests involved in land and financial scandals in Kerala (1)

Cardinal George Alencherry with Pope

Rs 80 crores land sold for Rs 27.30 crore: Just like Vatican, the Indian Church has also been involved in many scandals from sex to money swindling and other activities. Particularly, from Kerala, the crimes related to the Church have been horrible from murder, sex and financial scams involving all types of priests, bishops and cardinals also. Pressure is mounting on Cardinal George Alencherry, head of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church based in Kerala, to resign after allegations that church land had been sold below market value in a deal that he had approved. Alencherry, 72, was ordained as a Cardinal, a priest of the highest rank in the Roman Catholic Church, by Pope Benedict XVI in February 2012. He is one of only five Cardinals in India. The deal in question concerns the sale of three acres of land in Kochi by the Ernakulam archdiocese in 2016 to repay a Rs 60-crore bank loan it had taken to build a medical college. The agent appointed by the church to conduct the deal had estimated the value of the land at Rs 27.30 crore, but the church has so far received only Rs 9.13 crore of that amount. However, priests and lay people critical of the action claim that the plot was actually worth at least Rs 80 crores[1].

Cardinal George Alencherry - V J Hyacinth complains to Pope

Cardinal can be subjected to legal action only with the permission of the Pope: Joseph Parecattil, a priest in the Ernakulam archdiocese, said that the Presbyteral Council of the Ernakulam archdiocese has decided to submit a formal request to the Pope to inquire into these financial dealings[2]. Ironically, in spite of financial scam, the Church could take action against cardinal, only if the Pope gives permission. Many do not understand the “State within state” working of church in India and elsewhere. The Presbyteral Council is a panel of 57 priests that looks after the archdiocese’s financial and administrative affairs. “This is the first-ever complaint from a Presbyteral Council in Kerala to the Pope requesting him to investigate financial irregularities,” said Parecattil. Another priest, who asked to remain anonymous, said Alencherry should step down if the Pope acts on the complaint. “He would have to quit to ensure free and fair investigation,” he added. Separately, the charitable organisation Mother Teresa Global Foundation has also sent a complaint to the Pope, urging him to remove the Cardinal from his post. “We represent the laity,” said VJ Hycinth, chairman of the foundation. “We pray to the Pope to take our complaint seriously.”

Cardinal George Alencherry - Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese

Murky land deals of the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese of the Syro-Malabar Church: The six-member committee comprising priests and experts which examined the murky land deals of the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese of the Syro-Malabar Church has recommended “legal action according to the law of the church and for violation of civil law” against the people responsible for the crisis created in the wake of the land transactions[3]. The report having 19 recommendations also called for an independent audit of the land and other transactions of the church by a reputed firm of chartered accountants[4]. “A complete assessment of all financial and land transactions of the Archdiocese could be done in a professional manner to sort out the present issues and to adopt safe and legally acceptable steps in all future transactions”.

Cardinal George Alencherry - Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese-Fr. Varghese Sabu

Forming committees to avoid legal proceedings: The Committee recommended legal action against Saju Varghese for the “recovery of the unpaid sale consideration pertaining to the property near Bharat Mata College, Thrikkakkara and also to recover the advance amount to Saju Varghese and others”. Another major recommendation called for immediate action to file income tax returns along with audited financial statements for the year ended March 31, 2017 to avoid a huge penalty and other penal provisions. The committee called for appointing a new finance officer with immediate effect “who is an expert in financial matters and has outstanding honesty”. The committee recommended collecting opinion and creative ideas from priests and lay leaders of the archdiocese at various levels to raise funds for the archdiocese to solve the crisis. Action should be taken to repay the loan liability in various banks to avoid a huge interest and recovery steps by banks, the committee said and pointed out that inter-trust transfer of funds were illegal and should not be promoted in future. Funds set apart for charity should not be diverted for any other purposes, it added.

Cardinal George Alencherry - Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese-priests

Cardinal George Alenchery, Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, Msg Sebastian Vadakkumpadam and Finance Officer Fr Joshy Puthuva involved: Detailed financial investigation of the financial transactions of all other associated trusts under the archdiocese and external internal auditing by a reputed firm of chartered accountants on a regular basis in the archdiocese as well as major trusts were the other recommendations. Documentation of all canonical bodies should be precise and accurate and should stick to the standardized format. Fixed asset register should be maintained immediately to safeguard the precious properties and buildings of the archdiocese. Recommending the observation of the provisions of canon law and civil law in all future transactions especially by the finance office, the committee also called for an induction programme for members of the financial council. Establishment of vigilance mechanisms and mandatory regular internal auditing for all ecclesiastical institutions was the other key recommendation. The committee in its report has mainly blamed the failures of Cardinal George Alenchery, Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, Msg Sebastian Vadakkumpadam and Finance Officer Fr Joshy Puthuva for the land deals and the scandal associated with the deals.

Cardinal George Alencherry - Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese-Rani

Cardinal George Alencherry was involved “in the alienation and purchase of lands by the archdiocese”: The report by a committee of experts appointed by the Syro-Malabar Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly and headed by Fr Benny  Maramparampil to probe a series of land sales and purchase by the archdiocesan authorities says that the Major Archbishop Cardinal George Alencherry was involved “in the alienation and purchase of lands by the archdiocese” during the period between April 2015 and November 2017[5]. “It was with his knowledge and consent that the land was purchased at Mattoor. The Major Archbishop was directly involved in alienating all the five plots, which were sold into 36 plots”, the report said[6]. The report was presented before the Presbyteral Council (council of priests) of the archdiocese here on Tuesday (29-01-2018). A copy of the report was seen by The Hindu. The report relates to a series of land deals starting with the purchase of around 23 acres in Mattoor for a proposed medical college. This was followed by the sale of around 3 acres near Kochi in which the archdiocese had not received the entire sale proceeds. Since the archdiocese could not meet its loan repayment, it was decided that more than 3 acres in different places near Kochi owned by the archdiocese would be sold to repay the loan. The loan was taken to buy the land in Mattoor.

 

Deals violated the relevant provisions of the Canon Law and caused a financial loss: These deals snowballed into a major financial scandal with the council of priests raising the problem of the archdiocese not getting all of the sale proceeds, which amounted to ₹27.15 crore. The value of the plots sold shown in the land deed was ₹13.51 crore. Of this, the archdiocese received only ₹9.13 crore. “It is painful to note that at the time of execution of the sale deeds, the Major Archbishop has not ensured the receipt of money to the archdiocese”, the report said. It also said that the purchase of plots at Kottappady near Kothamangalam and near Devikulam was known only to the Archbishop and senior functionaries Fathers Sebastian Vadakkumpadan and Joshy Puthuva. The purchase was not discussed with or disclosed to the curia, the high-level decision making body of the archdiocese nor was it discussed with the Auxiliary Bishops. The report also says that even though the archdiocese received ₹9.13 crore from the land sale, no amount had been remitted into the loan account. These deals violated the relevant provisions of the Canon Law and caused a financial loss, the report said.

Cardinal George Alencherry - Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese-priests group

Vested group tries to cover up: As usual, as “The Hindu” reported that, a meeting of the newly elected pastoral council would be convened only after the meeting where the panel report will be discussed[7].  In the wake of the decision, the meeting of the pastoral council scheduled to be held on February 10, 2018 has been postponed to another date.  The Cardinal also informed the council the decision of the Syro Malabar Bishops’ Synod asking the Cardinal to delegate the day- to-day administration of the archdiocese to auxiliary bishops. The council condemned burning of Sathyadeepam weekly and attempts to prevent a meeting convened to discuss the issues at Subodhana Pastoral Centre, Angamaly, last Sunday (21-01-2018), by a section of the laity[8].      Presbyteral council secretary Fr Kuriakose Mundadan made it clear that the issue was related to the administration of the Archdiocese of Ernakulam and Angamaly and not related to the liturgy in any way.   He said social media posts and media reports blaming and insulting the Cardinal, auxiliary bishops and priests  were baseless. ‘’Such campaigns are carried out by people with vested interests,’’ Fr Mundadan said.

© Vedaprakash

02-02-2018

Cardinal George Alencherry - Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese-2

[1] Scroll.in, Head of Kerala’s Syro-Malabar Catholic Church urged to quit amidst accusations of corrupt land deal, by  TA Ameerudheen, Published Jan 08, 2018 · 06:30 am

[2] https://scroll.in/article/864015/head-of-keralas-syro-malabar-catholic-church-urged-to-quit-amidst-accusations-of-corrupt-land-deal

[3] Deccan Chronicle, Syro-Malabar Church panel seeks sanctification, Published: Feb 1, 2018, 6:52 am IST; Updated: Feb 1, 2018, 6:52 am IST.

[4] https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/current-affairs/010218/syro-malabar-church-panel-seeks-sanctification.html

[5] The Hindu, Report of experts points finger at Major Archbishop, KOCHI, JANUARY 30, 2018 22:35 IST; UPDATED: JANUARY 30, 2018 22:35 IST

[6] http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/report-of-experts-points-finger-at-major-archbishop/article22597874.ece

 

[7] Express News Service, Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese to issue circular on land deal, Published: 31st January 2018 01:23 AM, Last Updated: 31st January 2018 03:59 AM

[8] http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/kerala/2018/jan/31/ernakulam-angamaly-archdiocese-to-issue-circular-on-land-deal-1765856.html

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