The Syro Malabar church today said it was against all encroachments, but the manner in which a Cross was removed during an eviction drive in Munnar was a "bit rough". Making the church's stand clear, Major Archbishop Cardinal Mar George Alencherry supported the eviction drive in Munnar and said erecting a Cross after encroaching forest land cannot be justified. However, there were differences of opinion in the church about the manner in which the 30-foot-tall metal cross was removed from Pappathychola in Munnar yesterday, he said. "The Church will not endorse any forest encroachment. Erecting a cross after encroaching forest land is not the declared policy of the Church,"he told reporters here. The Cardinal said there was a charge that the cross was erected in an encroached land in Munnar.
So the government had tried to remove it. "But some Church spokespersons have expressed displeasure and protest over the way the cross was removed. It is natural... Because cross is something which is closely associated with the belief of devotees," he said. Asked if the church would order an enquiry on the issue, the Cardinal said there is no need for any 'parallel investigation' as the matter was before the government. Asked about Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan expressing displeasure over removal of the cross, Alancherry said he must have felt that the manner in which it was uprooted could hurt religious sentiments. Meanwhile, Marxist veteran V S Achuthanandan said that encroachments in any form--be it cross or anything else- needs to be condemned. "All encroachments should be removed," he said. Congress-led UDF said the manner in which the cross was uprooted and removed was 'unethical'. It is difficult to believe that the Chief Minister was unaware of the move to remove the cross, UDF convenor P P Thankachan said. Opposition leader in the Kerala assembly, Ramesh Chennithala said the Chief Minister's stand over the issue was 'deceitful'. The cross was pulled down yesterday as part of an official anti-encroachment drive in Munnar hill station, with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan expressing strong displeasure over the act. It was set up on a 30-acre piece of land allegedly encroached by a group of people calling itself 'Spirit of Jesus.' Earlier today, evangelist Tom Scaria of the 'Spirit of Jesus' group was booked in connection with the erection of the cross.
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