Indian bishop resigns amid complaints of misuse of funds, attempted marriage

The flag of India in St. Peter's Square. Credit: Alexey Gotovsky/CNA.
The flag of India in St. Peter's Square. Credit: Alexey Gotovsky/CNA.

.- Pope Francis accepted Monday the resignation of Bishop Prasad Gallela from the pastoral government of the Diocese of Cuddapah, in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. Gallala was in August the object of a criminal complaint for allegedly using diocesan funds to maintain an alleged “wife” and adult son.

Bishop emeritus of Guntur, Bali Gali, was named temporary apostolic administrator sede vacante of the diocese.  

In a statement Dec. 10, Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, Auxiliary Bishop of Ranchi and secretary general of the Indian bishops’ conference, said, “We thank Bishop Prasad Gallela for his dedicated services to the Church in Cuddapah and the Church in India, and we entrust him to the intercession of Our Lady, Queen of Apostles.”  

Gallela, 56, has consistently denied the charges of embezzlement or that he has a concubine or child. According to UCA News, Gallela maintains that the woman and 18-year-old man identified by the petitioners are the wife and son of his deceased brother, for whom his family cares.

The bishop had been summoned to appear before Lok Adalat, a government-approved forum for settling pending court cases, Aug. 18. The outcome of the court case is unclear.

A Dec. 10 announcement from the Vatican provided no explanation for the bishop’s resignation, stating only that “the Holy Father Francis accepted the resignation from the pastoral government of the Diocese of Cuddapah (India), presented by Msgr. Prasad Gallela.”

Two lay members of Gallela’s diocese brought charges against him in June, including accusations of money laundering, misappropriation of diocesan funds, corruption, and cheating civil and religious authorities, according to UCA News.

They also claim to have documents proving his attempted marriage to a woman, and that he bought properties for her and their son using millions of Indian rupees (tens of thousands of US dollars) from donations and other public funds.

UCA News reported in August that Fr. A.X.J. Bosco, who works for the rights of low-caste Indians, claimed the allegations were several years old and connected with an ongoing caste fight within the Church in India. He also drew a connection with the allegations and the April 2016 kidnapping and assault of Gallela.

About the documents supporting the allegations, Bosco said they needed to be verified by competent authorities.

Gallela said the allegations were false and told UCA News he thinks those accusing him are the same people who kidnapped him. “They are high-caste people and have the power, means and money. Everybody is afraid to talk against them,” he said.

Gallela was ordained a priest in 1989. He has been the bishop of the Diocese of Cuddapah since March 1, 2008. Cuddapah, a suffragan diocese of Hyderabad, has around 134,000 Catholics.