Kochi: A year after Cardinal George Alencherry was removed as head of the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese following an alleged land deal involving him, the Vatican Thursday reinstated him, giving back all administrative powers of the key archdiocese of the Syro-Malabar Church.
Alencherry, the head of the Syro-Malabar Church, secured full powers of Major Archbishop of the Archdiocese after the Vatican directed Bishop Jacob Manathodath, who was appointed as the archdiocese's Apostolic Administrator last year, to go back to his Palakkad diocese to carry out his pastoral duties.
Pope Francis took the decision in the light of studies carried out on different levels over the recent developments in the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese, a statement issued by the Syro-Malabar Church Media Commission said here.
"The Pastoral Ministry of Bishop Mar Jacob Manathodath as Apostolic Administrator of the Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly has come to an end. Bishop Mar Jacob Manathodath will continue his ministry as the Bishop of the eparchy of Palghat (Palakkad).
"At the expiry of the mandate of the administrator in the Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly, the Archeparchy will come back to the administration of Major Archbishop George Cardinal Alencherry," it said.
In a setback to a section of priests in the archdiocese, who had been seeking probe into the alleged land deal involving Alencherry, the Vatican "suspended" two senior Bishops of the Archdiocese from the offices of the Auxiliary Bishops of the Archdiocese.
"Bishop Sebastian Adayanthrath and Bishop Jose Puthenveetil are suspended from their Offices of Auxiliary Bishops of the Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly.
The Holy Synod of the Syro-Malabar Church is hereby instructed to decide a new Pastoral Ministry for the Auxiliary Bishops," the statement said.
The development comes exactly a year after Manathodath, Bishop of Palakkad diocese, was appointed as the Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese by the Pope in view of controversies due to alleged irregularities in land deals involving Alencherry.
Manathodath was appointed as Apostolic Administrator by the Pope, considering the "particular situation" prevailing in the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese.
The statement Thursday said the papal decisions were taken after having seriously studied the report as well as the directives submitted by the apostolic administrator.
During the period leading up to the Synod of the Syro-Malabar Church, the Permanent Synod of the Syro-Malabar Church will assist the Major Archbishop in the administration of the Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly, "derogating the normal canonical procedures but respecting the civil laws in force", the statement said.
During this period, necessary decisions could be taken and implemented using the legal mechanisms for restitution or recovery of the financial losses suffered, it added.
A division bench of the Kerala High Court had last year set aside a single bench order, directing police to book Alencherry and three others over alleged irregularities in land deals in the archdiocese.
In its order, the Bench had said the single bench order "suffers from legal infirmity and deserves to be set aside".
A six-member inquiry committee appointed by the Church to probe alleged irregularities in the land deals had said Cardinal Alencherry "seems to have fully known and involved" in the alienation and purchase of lands by the archdiocese between April 1, 2015 and November 30, 2017.
The panel, comprising priests, was appointed by Alencherry, after some priests and faithful accused him of selling prime land of the archdiocese for "a very low price."
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.