In a significant move, the Vatican has appointed the apostolic administrator for the Ernakulam- Angamaly Archdiocese of the Syro- Malabar church.
The Vatican‚Äôs direct intervention comes as an after effect of the series of land deal rows that have put the diocese and in particular the supreme head of the church -Cardinal Mar George Alencherry- on the defensive.
The Vatican announced the decision on Friday at 12 noon. With this, the post of the Archbishop will become a nominal one as his responsibilities will be entrusted with the apostolic administrator. This could perhaps be the first time in the history of the church that an Archbishop, whom the devotees worship with utmost respect, has been downgraded. The move comes after a controversy that has tainted his image as well as that of the church.
‚ÄúNormally, an apostle administrator is appointed in the absence of an Archbishop as a temporary arrangement. But here, considering the developments in the Church, the appointment is equal to removal of the Archbishop. The apostle will be responsible for doing all the works which used to be done by the Archbishop, including signing the papers which he used to sign. The appointment implies the removal of the Bishop without explicitly saying so. The post of the Archbishop will now be an ornamental one,‚ÄĚ a source close to the Church said.
The apostle administrator will be sworn in on Saturday evening in Kochi, where the headquarters of the Church is located. In the letter from the Vatican, it is reportedly said that the appointment has been made after considering the existing situation in the church.
In December 2017, allegations were raised by members of the Save Archdiocese Campaign that the church had incurred huge losses by selling the land owned by it for lower prices. The deal was allegedly made to get over the debt burden that the church had incurred after buying property at Mattur, in Ernakulam, to build a medical college.
After the details of the deals were exposed, it kicked up a row with both the Church and the Cardinal going on the defensive. Later, members of the Save Archdiocese Campaign formed the Archdiocesan Movement for Transparency (AMT). The AMT exposed another deal through which the Cardinal allegedly re-registered a house and 6 cents of land worth Rs 1 crore in Kochi in the name of his brother‚Äôs family.