A priest attached to the Syro Malabar Church has been absconding after being accused in two money swindling cases. Father Joseph Pamplani, former vicar of the Kattullamala St Mary's church, under the Thamarassery diocese of the Church, has been accused of swindling lakhs from two persons in Kozhikode district.
Fr Joseph allegedly took Rs 87.5 lakh from a native of Pullurampara after luring the latter to make him a partner in the diamond stone business. The priest also allegedly swindled Rs 80 lakh from a man in Kodenchery. This was after the priest promised him to give a parcel of land at Peerumedu in Idukki.
The Kodenchery police have been investigating the Rs 80 lakh money swindling case while the Thiruvambady police have been investigating the other case. Officers investigating both the cases told TNM that Joseph Pamplani has been absconding since the crime came to light.
“The complaint was filed a week ago. But the priest has been absconding even before that,” said Kodenchery Sub-Inspector Sreenivas KP. Thiruvambady Sub-Inspector Sanal Raj said that the complaint was received two months ago and the police were not able to trace the priest.
The priest had moved a lower court in Thiruvambady seeking anticipatory bail in the case. “But as the bail was rejected, he has moved the High Court. The petition is under the consideration at the court,” Sanal Raj said.
The Church has removed Fr Joseph from the post of the vicar and other responsibilities. “A priest is a representative of a community. Hence, once the FIR was filed, the Church removed the priest from all the responsibilities he held. The Church has also asked him to face any legal action against him,” Father Abraham Kavalpurayiidom, spokesperson of the diocese said.
Father Abraham also said that the church had no idea of the whereabouts of the priest.
However, the Catholic Laymen's Association, a collective of devotees of the church, blame the Church for protecting the priest and allege that Fr Joseph’s removal is just an eyewash. They also allege that the priest had also forged documents to secure the Punnaykkkal Saint Sebastian's High School, which is under Vilakmathode Parish of the diocese.
“The members of the parish had raised complaints against the priest in this regard. He had attempted to forge documents and change the ownership of the school from the parish to the diocese corporate educational agency, which is under the control of Thamarassery Bishop Fr Remigius Maria Paul Inchananiyi. The Bishop is responsible for the actions of the priests. Hence, the Bishop cannot wash his hands of the crimes of grave nature committed by the priest,” the association Secretary, George Maliyeckal said in a statement issued on November 30.
The Association is also taking out a protest against this priest. George told TNM that the action by the Church is a farce and is an understanding between the priest and the church. “The Association will go ahead with the protest,” he said.