Church of North India’s Kolkata diocese gets new bishop

Kolkata, Oct. 10, 2018: Reverend Probal Kanto Dutta, the bishop of the Durgapur diocese of the Church of North India (CNI), was appointed the bishop of the Calcutta Diocese by the synod of CNI in Delhi.

Dutta had been holding additional charge of the Calcutta diocese since August, when the synod, the highest decision-making body of the CNI, refused to extend the tenure of Reverend Ashoke Biswas, the head of the Calcutta diocese, on the ground that he had not applied for an extension.

The executive committee of the synod on October 9 transferred Dutta to Calcutta, applying a clause in the CNI constitution that empowers the committee to appoint a bishop of a diocese through transfer, a source in the church said.

When the post of bishop of a diocese falls vacant, either a new bishop is elected or the post filled by means of a transfer, according to CNI rules.

The decision to transfer Dutta from Durgapur to Calcutta was taken at a special meeting of the synod’s executive committee in Delhi on Tuesday.

The synod had appointed Dutta as the moderator’s episcopal commissary to the Calcutta diocese on August 27 and asked him to hold its additional charge for at least six months till the appointment of a full-time successor to Biswas.

The synod on Tuesday unanimously decided to apply the transfer clause for appointing the bishop of Calcutta instead of conducting elections as the process would take at least three months.

Biswas, the previous bishop, had moved court “seeking justice” against the synod’s decision to assign Dutta to govern the Calcutta diocese till the election of its new head. The case is pending in court, a source close to Biswas said.

Biswas retired in August 2016 at the age of 65. According to the rule-book, a bishop can be granted an extension till the age of 68, subject to his applying for renewal of the term each year.

Biswas had told Metro that he had applied for an extension in 2016 and 2017 but not this time as the synod had extended the retirement age of CNI bishops and presbyters from 65 to 68.

The church had been facing difficulties in ensuring smooth functioning of some of the schools run by the CNI in the absence of a bishop.

The bishop is the chairman of the governing boards of all CNI schools.

The constitution of the schools empowers only the chairman to approve major policy decisions. The schools’ rules do not mention any provision allowing the moderator’s episcopal commissary to be the signatory on certain documents related to important matters, the CNI official said.

“We will not face these difficulties now in running the schools,” Dutta told Metro from Delhi.

Dutta will be installed as the 20th bishop of the Calcutta diocese at the St Paul’s Cathedral on October 14. He will start functioning as the bishop of Calcutta with immediate effect, a CNI official said from Delhi after the meeting.


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