For controversial Kerala bishop, it’s business as usual

October 18th, 2008 - 5:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Kochi, Oct 18 (IANS) The Kerala bishop who is caught in a controversy over adopting a woman was back to visiting his parish Saturday. It has also emerged that another priest had earlier been stripped off his parish duties because of his alleged relations with her.In the morning, 58-year-old Kochi bishop John Thattumkal belonging to the Verapoly Latin Archdiocese arrived at St. Lawrence Church here. He not only led the mass but also delivered a message dropping hints that even though he was being hounded, he would come out unscathed.

He performed his parish duties for the first time Saturday after the controversy broke out earlier this month.

The supreme head of the diocese here, Archbishop Daniel Acharuparambil, has already conducted an inquiry into allegations levelled by a section of priests that the adoption by the bishop was against the Canon Law. The report has been sent to the Vatican and further orders are awaited.

A top official attached to the Latin Church said the archbishop has submitted his report to the Apostolic Nuncio (Vatican ambassador) to India, Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana, in Delhi Oct 6.

“On Oct 10, the bishop himself was summoned to Delhi and his statement was also taken and they have sent that also to the Vatican. Since in India we have had no precedence of taking disciplinary action against a bishop, we are unable to say how long we will have to wait for orders from the Vatican,” the official told IANS.

On being asked if a bishop under the scanner could go about doing his job, he said the archbishop could not prevent a bishop from going ahead with his ministerial work. “Only when the report comes will anything be known,” he said.

The age of the woman whom the bishop had adopted has also become a matter of debate. While it was stated earlier in media reports that she was 26, reports indicate now that she may be in her 30s.

The woman was earlier under the ‘guardianship’ of C.K. Joseph, a priest belonging to the Thumpamon diocese of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church in Pathanamthitta district.

Lawyer Anil P. Varghese who had conducted an inquiry was asked to do so by the Thumpamon diocese over complaints from church members of Joseph’s relation with the woman said it had led to the church stripping the priest of all parish duties.

“Yes, I had conducted the inquiry and had submitted the report in 2005 and the complaints raised by the members were found to be true. Father Joseph had shown a letter from the mother of the woman asking him to take custody of her daughter,” said Varghese.

A parish priest attached to the Thumpamon diocese said there were two inquiries conducted by them and based on the reports they took action against Joseph.

“As a result he has not been given charge of any parish, but continues to be a priest. It was found that the woman used to pillion ride Fr Joseph’s two wheeler and that was not in good taste,” said the priest who did not wish to be identified.

Media reports said the woman is in her late 30s and apparently met the bishop while on a pilgrimage to Europe last April. Since then she has been reported to be close to the bishop and recently he adopted her, which is not allowed.

Trouble started when a section of the priests attached to the diocese of the bishop gave a written complaint to the higher-ups, which forced the archbishop to look into the matter.

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