Ernakulam priests call off protest on synod assurance

By Matters India Reporter

Kochi, July 20, 2019: An indefinite protest by some priests of the archdioceses Ernakulam and Angamaly was called off on July 20 after the Permanent Synod of the Syro Malabar Catholic Church promised to address their grievances.

On July 19, the priests’ delegates had talks with the permanent synod members. Eight bishops and nine priests representatives attended the six hours of meeting where most issues were resolved.

A day earlier, some 200 of the 461 priests of the Syro-Malabar archdiocese launched the fast at the bishop’s house in Kochi against Cardinal George Alencherry, who is their archbishop.

The synod members assured the protesters of publishing inquiry reports on the land scam allegations against the cardinal as well as conveying the concerns of the priests to Pope Francis.

“We launched a protest by fasting and engaging in prayers. After the assurances, we are withdrawing our protest. We have been told the Church Synod next month will discuss threadbare the issues we raised,” a priest representative told reporters.

“The Friday meeting concluded that the cardinal alone won’t be able to resolve the issues and the Synod will take up our grievances,” said the priest.

The demands to be discussed next month include withdrawal of suspension of two auxiliary bishops, appointment of an archbishop for Ernakulam and Angamaly archdioceses and withdrawal of the case against senior priests alleged to have made fake documents to malign the cardinal.

The members of the Synod assured that the police case on the complaint that documents were fabricated against the priest would be withdrawn. The demand to appoint an administrative bishop would be considered.

The priests started the protest after administrative powers were recently restored to the cardinal who faced allegations of selling church’s prime lands at a throwaway price. One of the priests, Father Joseph Parekattil, who was fasting, was hospitalized.

While calling off their stir, the protesting priests said the bishops have responded positively to their demands including on the issue of cases filed against the laity and the priests in connection with a ‘church document forgery case.’

However, there was no affirmative assurance from the bishops on the priests’ major demand that Cardinal Alencherry be removed as the archbishop of the archdiocese. The bishops said they would place their demand before the complete synod which will meet in August.

According to the agreement, steps would be taken to complete the investigation into the forgery case at the earliest.

The bishops said they would apprise the priests’ sentiments before the Synod meeting, according to the protesters. The Synod will convey the priests’ sentiments on the issue to the Vatican since the auxiliary bishops were suspended by the Pope, they said.

The bishops also assured them that the suggestions of the Vatican on the controversial land deal allegedly involving Cardinal Alencherry would be implemented as soon as it is placed before the Synod meeting next month, the priests said. The priests said nine priests representing 451 priests of the archdiocese participated in the conciliatory talks with members of the permanent synod.

A 24-year-old man belonging to the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese was arrested in May for allegedly forging documents against Syro-Malabar Church head Alencherry. Three bishops of the Archdiocese had come out openly against the arrest of Adithya Valavi, who is a IIT post-graduate, claiming that he was not a criminal and had no role in forging documents.

The forgery case was filed after the priests intensified their agitation against Cardinal Alencherry in connection with controversial land deals allegedly involving him. The Syro-Malabar Church has over 30 dioceses in the country and four outside — in the US, Canada, Australia and Britain — serving over five million faithful..

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