A group of priests of the Syro-Malabar church hit the streets here today, urging Cardinal George Alencherry to keep off all responsibilities of the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese in view of a police probe on alleged irregularities in a land deal involving him.
A meeting of over 200 priests at St Mary's Basilica here also urged police to commence a probe after registering an FIR against Alencherry and three others on the complaint over the alleged irregularities.
The meeting, held days after Kerala High Court ordered police to register an FIR against Alencherry, also Archbishop of the Archdiocese, and three others on the complaint, passed a resolution urging him not to hold any authority in the archdiocese till a solution was found in the matter.
The priests also marched to the bishop's house here to hand over a memorandum in this regard to Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese. They demanded that it be sent to the Vatican.
According to the priests, if the Cardinal continued to enjoy power in the archdiocese, it would send a wrong message to the followers of the Church.
"We are in a crisis," Fr Kuriakose Mundadan, who is leading the campaign against the Cardinal, said.
The priests alleged that Alencherry and the others sold prime land of the archdiocese for "a very low price" and refused to make public the details about it.
"It is an internal matter of the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese. The properties earned by our forefathers for the archdiocese have been sold for a very low price in a non transparent manner. An investigation by a six-member panel has found irregularities in the business."
"Now the High Court has ordered a probe into it. So the Cardinal should keep off from all responsibilities of the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese till the police probe into the matter is over", the priest said.
Meanwhile, a group of people supporting Alencherry demanded action against the priests who declared "war against the Cardinal by violating all basic principles of priesthood".
Early this week, the High Court ordered the probe after rejecting Alencherry's contention that the land belonged to the diocese and that a third party could not complain about alleged loss in sale of such a private property.
The judge passed the order on a petition by one Shine Varghese from Cherthala, who had moved the court saying that the Ernakulam Central Police had not lodged a FIR on his complaint against the Cardinal and others over the land deals.
Besides Alencherry, priests Joshy Puthuva and Sebastian Vadakkumpadan and middleman Saju Varghese were the others against whom the complaint was lodged.
Directing police to conduct a free-and-fair probe after filing the FIR, the High Court had said that the alleged conspiracy and breach of trust issues could be investigated.
Alencherry's counsel had contended that the Cardinal could not be charged with breach of trust in the sale of land belonging to the church and the alleged financial loss.
In his complaint, the petitioner had sought registration of an FIR for criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust and cheating against the Cardinal and the three others.
Earlier, a six member church committee, which probed the alleged irregularities, said it found numerous instances of violation of canon and civil laws and recommended necessary action against those responsible.
The committee also said that the Cardinal "seems to have fully known and involved" in alienation and purchase of lands by the archdiocese between April 1,2015 and November 30, 2017.
The panel, comprising priests, was appointed by Alencherry.
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