In unprecedented step, Thamarassery Bishop strips dissident priest Fr Aji of all rights

The Thamarassery Bishop’s order prohibits Fr Aji from exercising his priestly duties in public and imposes strict regulations on his freedom of speech and movement.
Fr Ajimon Puthiyaparambil, Bishop Remigiose Inchananiyil
Fr Ajimon Puthiyaparambil, Bishop Remigiose Inchananiyil

In an unprecedented move, the Bishop of Thamarassery Remigiose Inchananiyil issued an order stripping Fr Aji Puthiyaparambil of his rights and freedom. Aji Puthiyaparambil, a Catholic priest under the Thamarassery diocese of the Syro Malabar church, had stepped down from priestly ministerial duties in April this year, calling for the reform of the church. Following this, the diocese constituted a tribunal against him to try him for various alleged offences including seditious acts against the church hierarchy. Aji received the order, dated November 10, following his appeal that cited procedural lapses in the constitution of the tribunal. 

The letter from Bishop Inchananiyil includes a series of stringent prohibitions. It prohibits Aji from exercising his priestly duties in public, imposing strict regulations on his freedom of speech and movement. According to the Bishop's letter, Aji is permitted to celebrate Holy Mass only in the private chapel at the Diocesan Priests Home in Marykunnu, Kozhikode, where he is mandated to reside until the conclusion of the trial. "Fr Thomas (Aji) Puthiyaparambil is not only prohibited from exercising sacred orders till the conclusion of the penal trial but also prohibited from public reception of Holy Communion,” the order read.

The bishop enforced restrictions on Aji's media engagements, stating, "I hereby prohibit you till further orders from participating in any TV Channel discussions or interviews. Moreover, you are prohibited from writing and publishing anything through the instruments of mass media."

Reacting to the order, Aji expressed resilience in the face of adversity. Speaking to TNM, he stated, "I am neither worried nor scared. The entire church leadership does not back this order, it is only that they are not able to speak out." Drawing parallels with the Biblical trial of Jesus Christ, Aji remarked, "Christ was put through a trial even though they had decided what his punishment would be prior to that. The trial was held just for the sake of it. It is the same in my case — they have already fixed my punishment, and a tribunal was constituted in order to put on the appearance of just trial. Such prohibition orders are the whiplashes that I have to endure during my trial.” 

Aji added that he will not be deterred in his mission to point out the decay in the church by the trial or such orders. “I will continue onward with my prophetic mission. My media engagements, including my writings, will continue," he said.

A senior Catholic priest from Ernakulam told TNM called the order a “strange move” from a Bishop. “Actions were taken against priests who have serious cases against them and have committed crimes. Here what was the crime done by Fr Aji? They have decided to expel him. This is totally undemocratic,” he said.

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