Kochi: Cardinal George Alenchery, Major Archbishop of Syro-Malabar Church, has suffered a setback with the Ernakulam Principal Sessions Court on Saturday declining to quash the Thrikkakkara magistrate court order that he should face trial in the controversial land deal in Kochi.
Apart from Cardinal Alenchery, the others who sought to quash the order were Joshy Puthuva, former finance officer of Ernakulam-Angmaly archdiocese, and Saju Varghese, who purchased the land.
The verdict came when the synod of the Syro-Malabar Church is in session at its headquarters at St. Thomas Mount, Kakkanad, Kochi. The verdict is also expected to provide a boost to ‘Almaya Munnettam,’ a laity organization which is scheduled to hold a ‘prayer procession’ to St. Thomas Mount on Sunday with a series of demands. A section of priests and laity of the Ernakulma-Angamaly archdiocese alleges that the hush-hush land deal had resulted in a loss of nearly `90 crore to the Church.
The sale of nearly 3.5 acres of the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese had snowballed into a major controversy for more than year with a few senior priests and laity organizations alleging that the deal was executed without proper consultation or evaluation. The land was also sold for a price much lower than the market rate. Joshy Var-ghese, a native of Peru-mbavoor, had approached the magistrate court seeking its intervention and a probe in the matter.
The Archdiocese Move-ment for Transparency (AMT) welcomed the or-der of the sessions court. In a statement, AMT president Mathew Karondu-kadvan and general secretary Reju Kanjookkaran demanded the resignation of Cardinal Alenchery from all official positions and asked him to face the legal process.
“This is a slap on the face of Cardinal Alenchery for his arrogance,” they said.
As the controversy raged, Vatican had asked the Church to initiate proper investigations into the matter and submit a report to it. Accounting firm KPMG, which was entrusted with the job, submitted its report which is now under the consideration of Vatican.
The 11-day synod is expected to discuss the matter even as Almaya Munettam and other laity organisations called for publication of the report and an open debate on its content.
Protest called off: The Almaya Munnettam called off its planned protest march to St. Thomas Mount at Kakkanad in response to a circular issued by four bishops of the Church asking it not to undertake it while the synod was in session.
A meeting of the Almaya Munnettam held at Renewal Centre at Kaloor on Saturday decided to hold a ‘prayer rally’ instead. The discussions in the past one week had failed to find a solution to the issues connected with the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese and the demands raised by them, said P.P. Jerard, Shaiju Antony, Reju Kanjookkaran and others. Their key demands include the appointment of an archbishop with functional autonomy for Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese, reinstatement of auxiliary bishops to their formal positions and publication of inquiry reports connected with the land deals.