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Trouble mounts for Kerala Cardinal as Vatican removes him as head of archdiocese over land deal row

As reported by The Indian Express, the long drawn controversy over allegations of dubious financial dealings causing huge losses to the Church reached a crescendo, with Cardinal George Alencherry on Friday being stripped of all administrative powers as the head of the Ernakulam archdiocese by the Vatican, though, he will continue to remain the Cardinal and head of the Church, he would not have any role in the governance of the Archdiocese of Ernakulam.

The letter from Rome announced Bishop Jacob Manathodath of Palakkad diocese to be appointed as the new apostolic administrator of the archdiocese. It also mentioned the decision to remove Alencherry was taken in the light of the communication received from the Apostolic Nuncio.

This unprecedented move from Pope Francis is a severe blow on Alencherry, who is the head of the Kochi-based Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and is also among the Indian Cardinals eligible to elect the Pope.

The Archdiocese had suffered a loss of 90 crores following a controversial land dealing involving criminal conspiracy, breach of trust and misappropriation of money executed by the Cardinal in 2016.

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Action has been recommended against Cardinal George Alencherry for causing loss to the diocese. It has been recommended by a church panel probing land deals in the Archdiocese of Ernakulam, a case which also involves black money. The report was then sent to Rome via Apostolic Nuncio (the Vatican representative) in Delhi.

Church sources said that Rome had taken serious note of the outrage and demand of around 200 priests in Kerala’s Kochi who had staged a protest outside Cardinal George Alencherry’s house to demand his resignation over his alleged involvement in shady land deals.

After being removed as the apostolic administrator of the archdiocese the Cardinal would, however, have to explain to the public the locus standi for his continuation as the head of the Church.

Cardinal George Alencherry, the head of Syro-Malabar Catholic Church had found himself in big trouble after the Kerala High Court directed the police to file a criminal complaint against him and three others, namely, two priests Joshy Puthuva, Sebastian Vadakkumpadan and Saju Varghese Kunnel, a real estate broker involved in the land deals, alleging their involvement in a dubious land dealing.

This case pertains to the Cardinal, 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. In his defence, the Cardinal had claimed that the balance had remained unpaid due to demonetization.

Actions are the seed of fate, deeds grow into destiny: Surrounded by immense controversies, little did the Cardinal know that whatever he would wish for would unexpectedly come true. Had he known he would definitely use his intellect before putting across a hilarious ‘holy’ defence in front of the High Court. He had claimed in the High Court that only the Pope can punish him under Canon law if he had committed any wrongdoing in the land sale case. As Bob Marley once said, ‘Every man gotta right to decide his own destiny.’

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