Syro-Malabar Church: Bishops' committee to study financial allegations

Syro-Malabar Church: Bishops' committee to study financial allegations

Under fire over allegations of financial mismanagement and breach of trust in the purchase and sale of land by the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese, the Syro-Malabar Church has constituted a five-member committee of bishops to study the issue.

The decision was taken at an ongoing synod of bishops under the church in Kochi on Tuesday.

The archdiocese had availed a Rs 60-crore bank loan in 2015 for the purchase of a 23.22-acre plot in Mattoor in Thuravoor village, identified for the construction of a medical college.

For  the payment of bank interest, estimated at about Rs 6 crore annually, the archdiocese decided to sell five plots of land it owned (306.98 cents in total).

The archdiocese stated that the person assigned to sell the plots violated the terms in the agreement  that was signed in 2016 and sold the land as 36 individual plots.

Of the Rs 27.3 crore due to the archdiocese from the sale, only Rs 9.13 crore was received.

Further, the purchase of more land in Ernakulam and Idukki in 2017 had left the archdiocese with an overall debt of Rs 24 crore, apart from the Rs 60 crore availed as loan.

The allegations have turned the heat on Major Archbishop Mar George Alencherry even as the archdiocese maintains that a breach of agreement by  the middleman had led to the debt.

Fr Jimmy Poochakkatt, official spokesperson of the church, said the synod has had "serious discussions" about the controversial land deals.

The committee of bishops will have Archbishop Mar Mathew Moolakkatt as its convenor.

Paulachan Puthuppara, a Kerala High Court advocate, has already sought a police investigation into the church's land deals.

He contended that the deals involved criminal offences, including evasion of stamp duty and tax, and opposed moves by the church to settle the issue internally, within the scope and strictures of the canon law of the Catholic Church.

Earlier, a six-member internal committee had submitted a report on the land deals.

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