Controversial Church land sale: Report submitted to Rome

By Matters India Reporter |

Kochi, March 5, 2019: Bishop Jacob Manathodath, apostolic administrator of Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese, on April 5 submitted to Rome the enquiry report on the controversial land sale.

The administrator handed over the report to Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the prefect of the Pontifical Congregation for Oriental Churches, in the Vatican, says a press release from Father Paul Karendan, the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese’s Public Relations Officer.

Cardinal Sandri and Bishop Manathodath spent two hours discussing the land sale controversy as well as court case on fake documents against Cardinal Alencherry, head of the Syro-Malabar Church, the larger of the two Oriental Catholic rites in India.

The 75-year-old Argentinian cardinal said he would study the report seriously and take appropriate action. Until then, the Vatican official wants the content of the report kept confidential, the PRO’s note says quoting Bishop Manathodath.

A series of real estate transactions since 2015 reportedly resulted in financial losses for the archdiocese. On November 29, 2017, Cardinal Alencherry set up a committee to investigate. The committee submitted its report on January 4, 2018

The city police initiated an investigation into the real estate transactions after a private citizen, a lay Catholic, lodged a complaint against Cardinal Alencherry, two priests, and a real estate agent.

The Kerala High Court observed that there was prima facie evidence to indicate criminal conspiracy, breach of trust and misappropriation of money. The court also found the complainant had standing to bring the lawsuit because the property at issue was not private property, but assets held in trust with Cardinal Alencherry as caretaker.

Pope Francis on June 22, 2018, appointed Bishop Manathodath as the apostolic administrator of the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese.

His appointment, according to Cardinal Sandri, reflected Vatican concern about the real estate transactions as well as “ecclesiastical division” among the clergy and bishops in the archdiocese.

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