CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 23 June 2018

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Priests look to Vatican in Kerala land deal case

KOCHI (UCAN): After the High Court of Kerala, India dismissed a case against George Cardinal Alencherry over a land deal that has rocked the Church for more than a year, priests have submitted a formal request for the Pope Francis to look into the matter.
 
Cardinal Alencherry, also the major archbishop and head of the Eastern-rite Syro-Malabar Church, was accused, along with Father Joshy Puthuva and Father Sebastian Vadakkumpadan and a real estate agent, Saju Varghese, of selling several plots of land and incurring a loss of more than US$10 million ($78.4 million).
 
The chief justice, Antony Dominic, dismissed the case on May 22 on grounds on grounds of legal infirmity because the petitioner approached the court complaining of police inaction within hours of filing a police complaint.
 
Father Kuriakose Mundadan, secretary of the presbyteral council, a canonical body of priests in the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese said that the court has “not given us any justice. The moral and ethical violations and the related frustrations continue.” 
 
The case came to court after a church committee claimed land was sold at undervalued prices and money was missing. The court on March 18 asked police to investigate if there was a breach of trust by the accused.
 
When the cardinal challenged the proceedings and contended that he followed Church laws in dealing with land, the court allowed an investigation of technical aspects of the case without going into its merits.
 
“The court has not quashed the police complaint. It has not said there is no case against the cardinal, nor that the police should not investigate. However, we continue with the problem without a solution,” Father Mundadan said.
 
He said the church committee’s report showed there had been “clear malpractices, lack of transparency and violation of Church laws. Seeking a solution, we have approached all Church bodies” including the Vatican and the synod, the highest decision-making body of the Syro-Malabar Church.
 
“We are yet to hear from these bodies,” Father Mundadan said. Priests in the archdiocese and lay people look to “higher Church bodies to find a solution to the moral and ethical violations we have experienced,” he added.   
 
Father Augustine Vattoly, a priest leading the movement seeking action against those involved in land deals, said the priests are looking to the Vatican. 
 
“Our presbyteral council has submitted a formal request to the pope to inquire into the land deals. We are awaiting his response to our request,” he said. 

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