Kochi: The Syro-Malabar Church has admitted to lapses in a property deal in Kochi that put the top priests in the line of fire. The Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese has incurred monetary loss from the deal, the major archbishop, cardinal George Alencherry, said on Tuesday.
The reaction comes close on the heels of a directive from the Kerala High Court to file a case against the cardinal and three others. The court pointed out that the case involved a criminal conspiracy, breach of trust and financial irregularities, lashing out at the police for not registering a case despite being in possession of enough information. The court reminded the police that their inaction amounted to contempt of court.
The court rejected arguments that only the Pope could initiate actions against the bishop and said that the cardinal was subject to the laws of the land. The court also rejected arguments that the bishop had supreme authority over the diocese’s assets.
Justice Kemal Pasha pointed out that the bishop and other priests were merely the custodians of the church’s assets.
The court said that financial irregularities were evident in the case and even the archdiocese has admitted to huge losses after an internal investigation into the allegations.
The archdiocese said that it would wait for the court’s order and decide on the future course of action collectively. The cardinal said that the church erred in keeping the account of the money it received from the land sale. The buyers and the agents faulted on depositing the money, he said.
He claimed that the church leadership entered into the deal after consulting the church councils and it had adhered to all conventions.
Apart from the cardinal, two priests - Sebastian Vadakkumbadan and Josy Puthuva - and a land broker - Saju Varghese - face criminal charges in the case.