Cardinal George Alencherry, who faced land scam charges, quits as head of Kerala-based Syro-Malabar Church

cardinal george alencherry, who faced land scam charges, quits as head of kerala-based syro-malabar church

Cardinal George Alencherry, who faced land scam charges, quits as head of Kerala-based Syro-Malabar Church

Cardinal George Alencherry Thursday quit as the head of the Kerala-based Syro-Malabar Church, one of 23 eastern churches under Rome. His exit from the highest office in the Kerala Church came in the wake of protests over introducing a uniform way of offering Mass and a dubious land deal.

The decision was announced by Alencherry in Kochi in a press conference – an unprecedented departure from the tradition in the Church where such crucial decisions are made public at a meeting of bishops. He said he was stepping down on account of health grounds, and his request to quit the post has been pending with the Vatican since 2019.

Alencherry, who was democratically elected as the Cardinal from among the bishops in 2011, was forced to quit as the archbishop of the archdiocese of Ernakulam in 2019. In the Church, the Cardinal also holds the charge of archbishop of Ernakulam. Alencherry was removed as archbishop in the wake of protest against the bid to introduce a uniform way of offering Mass.

Besides, Alencherry had in 2017 faced a land scam that allegedly led to a loss of Rs 90 crore for the archdiocese, as per an internal committee. Subsequently, Alencherry had come under the scanner of central agencies such as the Income Tax Department and Enforcement Directorate. Even after being removed as the archbishop of Ernakulam, Alencherry had continued as the head of the Syro-Malabar Church.

The outgoing Cardinal said Bishop Sebastian Vaniyapurackal, who is a bishop at the Church headquarters in Kochi, has been given temporary charge of the administrator of the Church. The next head of the Church would be elected by the Synod of bishops in January.

Archbishop Andrews Thazhathu, who was made the administrator of the Ernakulam archdiocese, has also stepped down. Bishop emeritus Bosco Puthur would temporarily hold charge as the administrator at the archdiocese. Due to the clash between Alencherry and the priests, the St Mary’s Basilica in Kochi, which is the seat of Cardinal, has been closed since last December.

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