Pope Francis Intervenes In Controversial Land Sale By Kerala Syro-Malabar Church, Appoints New Admin

Pope Francis Intervenes In Controversial Land Sale By Kerala Syro-Malabar Church, Appoints New Admin Pope Francis prays during his general audience in St Peter’s square at the Vatican on October 5, 2016. / AFP / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo by VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)

The Vatican has made a direct intervention in the affairs of Syro-Malabar Church in Kerala, following controversy over land deals under Archbishop Cardinal George Alenchery. Pope Francis has replaced Alenchery with Jacob Manathodath, Bishop of Palakkad diocese, as the Apostolic administrator of the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese. Alenchery will, however, continue to be metropolitan Archbishop of the Archdiocese.

Decccan Chronicle has reported that the Pope’s intervention is being seen as an effort to end the disputes affecting the Syro-Malabar church over the last few months. In December last year, a council of the Syro-Malabar church wrote a letter to Pope Francis demanding a probe into the land deals that resulted in loss of crores of rupees.

The priests wrote the letter after a church council found that under Alenchery, the sale of lands resulted in losses. The church sold five of its land holdings to repay Rs 58 crore bank loan it availed of in 2015 to buy 25 acres of land at Yordanapuram near Kalady to construct a medical college hospital.

Allegations against Alenchery, who has denied any wrongdoing, are that the land sale should have easily fetched anything above Rs 75 crore.

While the church should have got Rs 27 crore, it received only Rs 9 crore. In particular, a land was sold in violation of the agreement of congregation to Belgian-based congregation Alexian Brothers. The land was received as a donation and it was sold without permission from the priests.

In view of the sale below market value, Kerala police filed a case against Alenchery and three others in March this year. However, the case against him was dismissed by the Kerala High Court on 22 May.