Cardinal Alencherry removed as head of Ernakulam archdiocese

Shaju Philip
Cardinal George Alencherry

Following an outcry from a section of priests and others, the Synod of Syro-Malabar Church on Friday removed Cardinal George Alencherry as head of the Ernakulam archdiocese. The Synod, with the consent of Vatican, appointed Bishop Antony Kariyil as the Vicar Archbishop, a post created to tide over the crisis in the Syro- Malabar Church. Alencherry has been in the dock for shady land deals which caused a loss of Rs 90 crore to the archdiocese.

Alencherry would continue as Cardinal and overall head of the Syro-Malabar Church, one of the 23 eastern churches under Rome.

In a related development, two auxiliary bishops Sebastian Adayanthrath and Jose Puthenveettil, who had been under suspension for last two months for having supported the revolt against Alencherry, were rehabilitated in dioceses outside Kerala.

While Puthenveettil was send to Faridabad, Adayanthrath was shifted to the diocese of Mandya in Karnataka, where Kariyil was the bishop.

A circular from Vatican, giving consent to the changes, stated on Friday that events related to governance of Ernakulam archdiocese and attitude of some priests continued to create concern. All these are a severe blow to the Catholic Church in the country, said the circular.

Trouble in the Church began two years ago when priests at the archdiocese revolted against Alencherry over the land deals. In the wake of the allegations, Alencherry was last year removed as administrator of the archdiocese.

Two months ago, the Vatican reinstated Alencherry and suspended the auxiliaries who revolted. Priests of the archdiocese were upset over the move. They boycotted him and also staged a dharna at the archbishop s house. Subsequently, the Church assured the priests that the Synod will look into their demand for the removal of Alencherry and appointment of a new administrative archbishop.

The Synod, comprising 55-odd bishops, on Friday pointed out lapses on the part of Alencherry in the land deals. The Synod took strong exception to the revolt by the priests, but did not take any action against them.

Fr Jose Vailikkodath, who led the rebellion, said they were happy that a new administrative archbishop had been appointed. It is a moment of victory for the priests and a section of laity who led the protest against the Cardinal. But, it is sad that the Synod has failed to find remedy for the financial loss, he said.