In July 2019, another Church spokesman said that Alencherry acted in good faith in the land deals and had the support of the Vatican.
Father Abraham Kavilpurayidathil, then-press officer for the Syro-Malabar Church in Kerala, told CNA that in his view, the land deal was more complicated than is usually reported, and that Alencherry's actions were an effort to make the best decisions in an unexpected situation.
When the broker did not receive the money the diocese expected in the deal, the cardinal asked the broker to register in the archdiocese’s name two of the broker’s own plots of land, as security for the money owed the archdiocese.
“By doing so, in fact, Cardinal Alencherry tried his best to save the archeparchy from the loss in the land sale deed,” the spokesman told CNA in 2019. He characterized any failings as “technicalities” that could be internally remedied.
The archdiocese’s financial council gave permission for the sale, though not the synod of bishops which would usually need to approve a sale of this size.
In November 2017 the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly’s canonical presbyteral council had publicly accused Alencherry of involvement of dubious land deals. The council’s representatives charged that the cardinal, two senior priests, and a real estate agent sold land at undervalued prices, for a loss of $10 million. They accused the cardinal of bypassing the canonical body's authority.
The Vatican withdrew Alencherry's administrative authority in June 2018, appointing a temporary administrator to lead the diocese in his place, while the cardinal formally remained the archbishop. The apostolic administrator sent reports back to the Vatican about diocesan finances.
In June 2019, the Vatican restored the cardinal to his administrative duties, ordering him to submit monthly budget reports and other relevant documents to the Syro-Malabar permanent synod and to comply with all civil laws.
The reinstatement drew some protests, but the scope of these protests was disputed. The Associated Press reported that several hundred priests protested the Vatican's decision.
Kavilpurayidathil, however, told CNA that only one priest took on a hunger strike in protest of the cardinal. This priest was supported by some priests, but not hundreds.
The Church spokesman had claimed that the allegations against Alencherry are part of a coordinated attack against the cardinal. He said these were attempts at defamation of the cardinal by “a small group who constantly demands that he should resign.”
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
“For this purpose, somebody forged a few documents that show cardinal transacted money to business firms, that he has membership in famous clubs, that he convened business meetings along with some other bishops of the Latin Church of Kerala in a commercial institution,” Kavilpurayidathil told CNA.
Kevin J. Jones is a senior staff writer with Catholic News Agency. He was a recipient of a 2014 Catholic Relief Services' Egan Journalism Fellowship.