A crisis loomed large over Kerala's influential Syro-Malabar Catholic Church with priests of an Archdiocese reading out a circular during Sunday mass in churches under its jurisdiction blaming Church head Cardinal George Alencherry over a criminal case filed against a section of priests.
The "unprecedented" move by the priests comes days after they came out openly against the arrest of a 24-year-old man for allegedly forging bank documents against Alencherry, who is also the major Archbishop of the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese.
The clarification circular issued by Vicar General of the Ernakulam - Angamaly Archdiocese, Fr Varghese Pottackal, said the Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese, Bishop Jacob Manathodath and senior priest Fr Paul Thelakkat were made accused in the forgery case filed on behalf of the Synod of the Syro-Malabar Church.
The circular was read out in many churches in the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese, a Church source said.
"It is an unprecedented situation. Such a move against the Church head is unheard in our Church," the source said.
The circular said although the Cardinal had assured that everything possible would be made to get these two priests off the list of the accused as there was no intention to make them as accused in the case, no steps in this direction have been taken so far.
They still continue as accused in the case, it said.
Referring to the case against one more priest of the Archdiocese in connection with the case, the circular said not a single priest of the Archdiocese have made any sort of forgery of documents against the Cardinal.
The circular termed as "wrong" the propaganda that efforts were made to defame the Cardinal using the forged documents.
Alleging that the youth Adithya Valavi arrested was subjected to torture in custody, the Archdiocese urged the government to order either a CBI or a judicial probe into the forgery case.
The youth was kept in the police custody illegally and was subjected to torture to make him say names of priests in the case, it said.
The police said there were altogether four accused in the case Paul Thelakkat (first accused), Bishop Jacob Manathodath (second accused), Adithya Valavi (third accused), and Fr Antony Kallokkaran alias Tony (fourth accused).
Earlier, three bishops of the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese had come out openly against the arrest of Adithya Valavi, who is a post-graduate from an IIT, claiming that he is not a criminal and he had no role in forging documents.
The priests had claimed that the man, a faithful, while working as an intern with a reputed business group in Kochi, had taken a screenshot of documents allegedly having Alencherry's name from the computer server of the firm and brought it to the notice of a church priest he knew.
The priest had reportedly shared it with another priest, who allegedly submitted it to a Synod of the Syro-Malabar Church.
The priests, including auxiliary bishops of the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese, had also demanded a high-level investigation into the forgery case.
Adithya's father Zachariah had alleged that his son was physically and mentally tortured by the police in custody.
Adithya was also forced to make a statement against Father Tony Kallookaran, vicar of Muringoor Sanjoe Nagar church, he had alleged.
Refuting allegations of torture in custody, the police had said they were carrying out a "scientific probe" into the case.
The police said investigation has revealed that the forged documents were created by Adithya from his computer kept at his fathers hardware shop.
The issue of controversial land deals involving top priests of the Syro-Malabar Church has been in the news for quite some time.
The Syro-Malabar Church has over 30 dioceses in the country and four outside -- in the US, Canada, Australia and Britain -- serving over five million faithful.
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