Cardinal Mar George Alencherry who is accused of wrongdoing in a land transaction involving Church properties has reportedly made a startling comment in the Kerala HC. He claimed that only the Pope can punish him under Canon law if he had committed any wrongdoing in the land sale case.
The Cardinal has been accused of favouring a middleman who sold Church land worth 27 crores for a price of 13 crores. In spite of selling below its market value, the Church had received only 9.3 crores. A local publication named Covai Post reported that the Cardinal blamed demonetisation for the unpaid balance. Covai Post also claimed that the Pope had been approached for taking action against him, but nothing had been done so far. However, another source says that a Vatican official was examining the complaint.
Justice Pasha, who was hearing the case responded to the Cardinal by saying that the Pope had no jurisdiction in India. He ordered the police to file a case if they got a complaint in this matter under IPC (Indian penal code). He clarified that Canon law had no validity in India. The judge had also observed that the Cardinal was only a custodian of the church properties and wondered if he had the right to sell its properties.
Reports suggest that the land was being sold in order to repay the loan taken to set up a medical college. The medical college project had been abandoned and therefore, the land bought for the purpose had to be sold by the church. In the process of these activities, a middleman named Saju Varghese and the Cardinal have been accused of underselling the property.