Alencherry cites health reasons for resignation, critics say he was forced to step down

Cardinal George Alencherry, the Major Archbishop of Syro-Malabar Church
Cardinal George Alencherry, former Major Archbishop of Syro-Malabar Church. File photo: Manorama

Kochi: There was an atmosphere of uneasiness at the calm and serene Mount St Thomas at Kakkanad, the headquarters of the Syro-Malabar Church in Kerala, on Thursday evening as Cardinal George Alencherry announced his decision to resign as the Major Archbishop of the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese. His supporters in the laity were seen trying to convince themselves and others that nothing had happened though they knew well that the top clergyman’s role in the church won’t be same as it used to be.

“He is still the cardinal and the head of the church. He has only relinquished the major archbishop’s post. He still possess the voting right for the papal election,” a supporter of the cardinal told this correspondent. He had come from another institution under the church to stand with the cardinal at the crucial moment.

He repeated the official explanation that Alencherry had tendered his resignation before the Pope last year and it was accepted only now.

At a press meet called by him, the Cardinal said that he had, back in 2019, tendered his resignation before the Pope, but it was not accepted as the Church Synod did not agree with his decision. Subsequently, he again tendered his resignation in November last year and a year later the Pope accepted it and allowed him to relinquish his position as Major Archbishop and head of the Syro-Malabar Church, Alencherry said.

The 78-year-old Cardinal cited his failing health and the rising pastoral duties in the church as the reason for resigning.

His critics, evidently, were not able to buy the claims. They firmly believe that Alencherry was forced to step down following the allegations against him over the controversial land dealings.

For quite sometime, the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese has been a divided house with a section supporting the cardinal and the other vehemently opposing him. The dispute over the liturgy escalated the factionalism with the anti-Cardinal section also opposing the implementation of the unified holy mass over the existing practice in which the priest faces the laity while reading the mass.

The Archdiocese Protection Committee of the Ernakulam-Angamaly diocese, which voices the anti-cardinal stances, welcomed Alencherry's resignation calling it the culmination of his "dishonest and insincere" ministry.

It said that his resignation was the success of the honest stand taken by priests and laity of the Ernakulam-Angamaly diocese regarding the land dispute case allegedly involving Alencherry.

A member of the laity group which has been vocal in its criticism of the cardinal said the resignation was evidence to the fact that the Vatican has been looking into the land deal allegations against the top clergyman. He claimed that the Vatican has been examining the evidence against Alencherry for months especially in the wake of the Supreme Court refusing to quash the cases against him in March.

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