Cardinal Mar George Alencherry, on Sunday, issued a circular on the major land deals controversy, stating that no actions were taken that would put the church at a loss. The circular was issued to be read in churches under the Ernakulam-Angamalay Archdiocese.
“I have only considered the common good of the church in the land deal case and have not taken any steps that could bring the church any loss,” Cardinal Alencherry said in the circular.
The controversial land deal case dates back to 2016 when the Ernakulam Archdiocese sold a three-acre land in Kochi to repay its bank loan worth Rs 60 crore. The loan was reportedly taken to buy a tract of land in Ernakulam, for the construction of a medical college. Although the agent (appointed by the church to assist in the deal) had estimated the value of the land at just Rs 27.30 crore, the local people and several priests in the church claimed that its real value was at least Rs 80 crore.
A police case has been registered in the issue, with Cardinal Alencherry as one of the accused. A case has been registered under Sections 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), 406 (punishment for criminal breach of trust), 120B (punishment of criminal conspiracy), 329 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt to extort property, or to constrain to an illegal act) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code.
Meanwhile, members of Archdiocesan Movement for Transparency (AMT), which is standing as a correcting force within the Church, said that out of the 345 churches under the Archdiocese, only 28 of them read the circular.
Apostolic administrator Jacob Manathodath was appointed to administer the church last year when the land deal became a controversy. But in June, a circular was issued by the Archdiocese, stating that Alencherry’s powers have been restored.
Alencherry, in his circular, stressed that the removal of two auxiliary bishops from their positions and also apostolic administrator Jacob Manathodath’s term coming to an end were not his decisions, rather, it was decided directly by the Pope.
“It is disheartening to see many misunderstandings in the decision taken by the Holy Father (the Pope) and the actions taken by some to create a split among believers. As the head of the Archdiocese, I request all believers to be cautious against these measures and should not engage or support anti-church activities,” said Alencherry.