Kochi, May 26 : A crisis loomed large over Kerala’s Syro-Malabar Catholic Church with priests of an archdiocese reading out a circular during Sunday Mass in churches blaming Church head Cardinal George Alencherry over a criminal case filed against a section of priests.
The move by the priests, unprecedented in the Indian Church history, comes days after they protested the arrest of a 24-year-old man for allegedly forging bank documents against Cardinal Alencherry, who is also the archbishop of the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese.
The clarification issued by Father Varghese Pottackal, the archdiocesan vicar general, said Bishop Jacob Manathodath, apostolic administrator of the archdiocese, and senior priest Father Paul Thelakat were made accused in the forgery case filed on behalf of the Synod of the Syro-Malabar Church.
The circular was read out in many churches in the archdiocese, a Church source said.
“It is an unprecedented situation. Such a move against the Church head is unheard in our Church,” the source said.
The circular said although the cardinal had assured that everything possible would be made to get these two priests off the list of the accused as there was no intention to make them accused in the case, no steps in this direction have been taken so far.
They still continue as accused in the case, it said.
Referring to the case against one more priest of the archdiocese in connection with the case, the circular said not a single priest has made any sort of forgery of documents against the cardinal.
The circular termed as “wrong” the propaganda that some were trying to defame the cardinal using the forged documents.
Alleging that the youth arrested in the case, Adithya Valavi, was subjected to torture in custody, the archdiocese urged the government to order either a CBI or a judicial probe into the forgery case.
The youth was kept in the police custody illegally and was subjected to torture to make him say names of priests in the case, it said.
The police said there were altogether four accused in the case Father Thelakat (first accused), Bishop Manathodath (second accused), Valavi (third accused), and Father Antony Kallokkaran alias Tony (fourth accused).
Earlier, three bishops of the archdiocese had come out openly against the arrest of Valavi, a masters’ graduate from an Indian Institute of Technology, claiming that he is not a criminal and he had no role in forging documents.
The priests had claimed that the man, a Catholic, while working as an intern with a business group in Kochi, had taken a screenshot of documents allegedly having Cardinal Alencherry’s name from the computer server of the firm and brought it to the notice of Father Thelakat, he knew.
The priest had reportedly shared it with Bishop Manathodath who allegedly submitted it to a Syro-Malabar synod.
Adithya’s father Zachariah had alleged that his son was physically and mentally tortured by the police in custody.
Adithya was also forced to make a statement against Father Tony Kallookaran, vicar of Muringoor Sanjoe Nagar church, he had alleged.
Refuting allegations of torture in custody, the police had said they were carrying out a “scientific probe” into the case.
The police said investigation has revealed that the forged documents were created by Adithya from his computer kept at his father’s hardware shop.
The issue of controversial land deals involving top priests of the Syro-Malabar Church has been in the news for quite some time.
The Syro-Malabar Church has more than 30 dioceses in India and four outside — in the US, Canada, Australia and Britain — serving over 5million faithful.