A year after Cardinal Mar George Alencherry was reduced to a figurehead without any real powers in the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese of the Syro-Malabar Church, his powers have been restored. This comes after the term of the apostolic administrator Jacob Manathodath, who was appointed in June last year after major controversy over land deals, ended this month. While a statement from the Archdiocese claims this was the decision of the Pope, a group of whistleblowers who have been fighting a land scam in the Church say that this is false.
A press release issued by the Archdiocese Media Commission said that the administrative responsibility of the Ernakulam-Angamaly diocese will now be delivered by Cardinal Alencherry. “This has been decided by Pope Francis in the light of the recent developments in of the diocese. Jacob Manathodath has been posted as the Bishop of the Palakkad diocese,” the statement said.
The Vatican appointed Jacob Manathodath as the apostolic administrator for the Archdiocese in June 2018 entrusting the administrative responsibilities with him that in effect made the post of Archbishop a nominal one. The Vatican's direction had come after a series of land deal rows that have put the diocese as well Cardinal Alencherry on the defensive. In fact, in May this year, a circular against Cardinal Alencherry was read in all churches under the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese of the Syro- Malabar Church, after Cardinal Alencherry allegedly filed vendetta driven complaints against several priests, including Jacob Manathodath.
The Archdiocesan Movement for Transparency (AMT), that is standing as a correcting force within the Church, has alleged that the press statement of the Archdiocese is misleading as well as one that would cause concern among believers.
It is a matter of concern that the Cardinal is allowed to resume his duty while the assistant Bishops have been removed. We don’t believe it as a decision that has from the side of the Pope; but the decision taken by Oriental Congregation has been presented as that of the Pope,” AMT alleged in a statement.
“In the Vatican order it just says that the appointment of the apostolic administrator ends, it is not mentioned anywhere that Cardinal has been reinstated,” AMT General Secretary Riju Kanjookaran told TNM.
"The Cardinal has not yet been ready to accept any reports on the land scams," the ATM statement said, warning that they would organise strong protest against restoring his powers.