After being reinstated as Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Diocese of Ernakulam-Angamali, Kerala, India, on June 27, 2019, Cardinal George Alencherry was again removed from office by the Vatican on August 30, 2019. Earlier on August 24, the state of Kerala, India, had announced that the cardinal would be prosecuted by the courts, for a series of financial misappropriations.
The eparchy of Ernakulam-Angalami continues to tear itself apart. This Eastern Rite Catholic Church is the largest in India, with more than thirty dioceses—or eparchies—and more than five million faithful. Its headquarters are in Ernakulam, a suburb of Cochin, Kerala, in southern India.
In June 2018, Cardinal George Alencherry, head of the Syro-Malabar Church was removed from office and summoned to Rome. A group of priests accused him of stirring up deep divisions in the presbyterium, but especially of conducting a shady deal in the sale of a piece of land, a transaction effected, they claimed, for personal ends, which would have lost the equivalent of 8.7 million euros to the eparchy.
Reinstated by the Vatican in June 2019, the Indian prelate continued for several weeks to be subjected to the rebellion of 450 priests obstinately refusing to obey him.
Indictment for Financial Fraud
On August 24th, another thunderclap in the sky of Kerala: the principal court of this Indian state announced that the cardinal—along with the bursar of the diocese—would be indicted for financial fraud.
Bishop Alencherry’s position became untenable, so the Holy See confirmed on August 30 that it has named Bishop Anthony Karayil as vicar of the eparchy of Ernakulam, with rank of archbishop.
Officially, the cardinal remains the ordinary of the place—his name must continue to be mentioned in the canon of the Mass after that of the sovereign pontiff—but he no longer has the right to exercise his authority over the Syro-Malabar Church, nor over his diocese.
Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect for the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, in a letter dated August 29, 2019, explained that “administrative changes” were under way to find “a durable and adequate solution” to the crisis