Kochi: Crisis deepened in Kerala's Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Friday, with about 200 priests of the influential Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese publicly protesting the Vatican's decision to reinstate Cardinal George Alencherry as Major Archbishop with all administrative powers.
Launching a scathing attack on the Cardinal, the priests made it clear they and the faithful could not accept him as their Major Archbishop as he is an "accused in financial misappropriation cases related to the church land deals."
The priests, who met at nearby Aluva, also adopted a resolution slamming the Vatican's Oriental Congregation's decision to suspend two senior Bishops of the Archdiocese from the offices of the Auxiliary Bishops of the Archdiocese.
"This can be seen only as an act of vengeance,"they said.
The developments come a day after the Syro-Malabar Church Media Commission said in a statement that Alencherry, head of Syro-Malabar Church, secured full powers of Major Archbishop of the Archdiocese after the Vatican directed Bishop Jacob Manathodath, appointed as the archdiocese's Apostolic Administrator last year, to go back to his Palakkad diocese to carry out his pastoral duties.
Questioning the decision to suspend Bishop Sebastian Adayanthrath and Bishop Jose Puthenveetil from their Offices of Auxiliary Bishops of Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese, the priests said no convincing documentary proof has been produced by the Synod of Syro-Malabar Church to justify the decision.
Rallying behind the suspended bishops, the priests, who had earlier fought Cardinal Alencherry over a controversial land deal in the Archdiocese, allegedly involving him, sought to know why both the Bishops were suspended.
Both the Oriental Congregation, which has authority over all matters relating to the Oriental Churches and Syro-Malabar Synod have the responsibility to convince the priests and laity of the decision to suspend the bishops,the priests said.
They also urged the Oriental Congregation and Synod of Syro-Malabar Church to convince them and the laity about the "serious lapses and corruption" in the land deal.
Stating that the Vatican's decision to reinstate Alencherry has affected the faithful, the priests said they would not cooperate with the Major Archbishop, who has no moral right to rule over them.
Alencherry had secured full powers of Major Archbishop of the Archdiocese Thursday 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.
A statement by the Syro-Malabar Church Media Commission had said 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 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.
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.