Astana, March 20, 2019: The bishops’ conference of Kazakhstan has issued a statement of support for Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, apostolic nuncio to that country.
The Indian prelate has recently been accused of financial and personal misconduct during his time of service as the Vatican’s chief diplomat at the United Nations.
“Archbishop Chullikatt has been working very earnestly for the good of the people and the Church in Kazakhstan,” the conference said in a communiqué issued March 19.
“Immediately after his arrival, with zeal and joy, he started visiting all the parishes of Kazakhstan. He has been working very hard for the good of all of us here, and we are particularly grateful for all the assistance he gives to the bishops’ conference. Besides, he is involved in good projects at various levels (educational, social, charitable, etc.) for the people of Kazakhstan.”
“For us, Archbishop Chullikatt is the kind of nuncio we bishops in Kazakhstan would like to have with us at least for a few more years,” the statement continued.
Archbishop Chullikatt, a native of the southern Indian state of Kerala, led the Holy See’s permanent observer mission at the U.N. from 2010 until 2014. He became apostolic nuncio to Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan in 2016.
On March 15, Catholic News Agency (CNA) reported allegations from former officials and employees of the Holy See’s U.N. mission office that Archbishop Chullikatt had mismanaged some financial matters, especially those concerning the payment of employees and contractors, and that he had reportedly engaged in an inappropriate romantic relationship while he led that office.
That report detailed allegations made by three priests who had been in service to the U.N. mission during Archbishop Chullikatt’s tenure. Since publication, an additional priest, also a former official of the U.N. mission, confirmed to CNA his knowledge of the misconduct that had been reported.
Crux first reported the allegations of financial misconduct March 11, in a report that also said information about the archbishop’s alleged financial misconduct was reported to the Vatican’s Secretariat of State in 2013 and that the archbishop remained in his post for another six months after those reports were filed.
The communiqué from the Kazakhstan bishops said that, in “all these almost past three years of his presence in Kazakhstan, we heard only good things about Archbishop Chullikatt from the priests, religious sisters and from our laypeople, as well from those who work at the apostolic nunciature in Astana.”
“There was not noticed the slightest suspicion about Archbishop Chullikatt’s moral conduct or any improper behavior towards women,” the statement added. “According to our information, his dealings and treatment towards his collaborators and employees in the nunciature is marked by kindness, courtesy and tact. We never heard any complaint in this regard.”
On March 11, the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the U.N. issued a statement saying that, during the time Archbishop Chullikatt led the mission, “the visa status of all members of the diplomatic, technical and service staff of the mission, whether religious or lay, was fully in line with the applicable provisions of U.S. State Department regulations.”
“The remuneration received by the members of the service staff of the mission at the time was higher than the minimum salary required at the time by the laws of New York and included a generous compensation package (contributions on a pension fund, health and dental insurance, a 13th month benefit, a fully furnished apartment, a full month’s paid vacation and daily meals),” the statement added.
The statement from the Kazakhstan bishops’ conference, signed by Bishop Jose Luis Sierra, president of the conference, and Bishop Athanasius Schneider, its secretary-general, said that “we are pleased to recognize the statement from the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations … which states that the employment conditions and the visa status of all members of the diplomatic, technical and service staff of the mission during the tenure of Archbishop Chullikatt were fully in line with the laws of New York and the applicable provisions of U.S. State Department regulations.”
“Thereby the relevant accusations” reported in the Crux and CNA articles “against Archbishop Chullikatt have been proven to be unfounded with regard to this concrete issue.”
“We also wish to recognize with sincere gratitude the important role played by Archbishop Chullikatt during his mission at the United Nations as a staunch defender of the unborn, of the traditional marriage and the institution of the family, often in close collaboration with many friendly Muslim-majority countries, including Kazakhstan,” the bishops’ statement added.
“We express our hope that Archbishop Chullikatt can continue his exemplary apostolic work in Kazakhstan with many spiritual fruits and we wish him strength and abundant divine blessings.”