Pope suspends controversial Kerala bishop

October 24th, 2008 - 12:05 am ICT by IANS  

Kochi (Kerala) Oct 23 (IANS) Pope Benedict XVI Thursday suspended Bishop John Thattumkal, who was involved in a major controversy after he adopted a woman.Speaking to IANS, Fr Stephen Alathara, spokesperson of the Latin church here, said that a communiqué had been received from the Vatican suspending the bishop and that an enquiry had been ordered into the episode.

“Archbishop Daniel Acharuparambil here has been asked to constitute a three member committee consisting of bishops to conduct a detailed inquiry into all that has happened. Thattumkal will now hold no office of power,” Alathara said.

Reports indicate that such an extreme step has been taken for the first time in the country.

“Going by past records of similar enquiries that have been conducted outside our country, no one should be surprised if the enquiry takes a few years. The communiqué says that a final decision would be taken only after the enquiry report is submitted and till then he remains suspended,” Alathara said.

Trouble began for Thattumkal after local media reported the 58-year-old bishop had adopted a woman named Sony Joseph whose age was said to be 26.

It has now emerged that she is in her late 30s.

The news is believed to have been leaked by angry priests of the diocese.

The bishop, in a letter, said he was willing to withdraw the adoption if the church felt he had erred.

He is reported to have met the woman during a pilgrimage to Europe last April.

Joseph was previously under the guardianship of C.K. Joseph, a priest of the Thumpamon diocese of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church in Pathanamthitta district.

His church took disciplinary action against him in 2005 and since then he has been stripped of all his parish duties.

Though Catholic priests here believe the action of the bishop is a violation of the church law and has no precedence, Thattumkal initially justified his move arguing that there had seen instances where priests and bishops had adopted children.

The Pope’s action comes after the Delhi based Apostolic Nuncio (Vatican ambassador) to India, Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana, had submitted a detailed report to the Vatican after summoning the controversial bishop.

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