Tamil Nadu

Close clergy’s personal trusts, Pope’s envoy instructs Tamil Nadu Bishops

Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, Apostolic Nuncio to India. Photo: ccbi.in  

Expressing concern over the “tendency among the Catholic clergy in Tamil Nadu to establish and manage independent trusts”, Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, Apostolic Nuncio to India, has instructed Bishops to close the existing personal trusts.

Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, who visited the Diocese of Kottar, said the trusts were being registered as NGOs, ostensibly to provide assistance to those in need. “Even if the aim of such trusts may appear to be praiseworthy, all too often they become financial and political power bases for the priests involved,” he said in a letter to the Archbishops and the Bishops and the Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council (TNBC) on October 8.

He said that according to the canon law 286, “clerics are prohibited from conducting business or trade personally or through others for their own advantage or that of others, except with the permission of legitimate ecclesiastical authority”. “Clerics or religious who exercise a trade or business contrary to the prescripts of the canons are to be punished according to the gravity of the deceit,” he said, quoting canon law 1392.

Urging the TNBC to find out the details of the personal trusts held by priests, the Apostolic Nuncio instructed the Bishops to close them and not to allow any new one.

He made it clear that no trust should be under the sole control of a member of the clergy. “Bring under the control of the diocesan trust or the diocesan social services trust those trusts that are of genuine benefit to the life and mission of the diocese.”

Bishop Thomas Aquinas, Bishop of Coimbatore, has already circulated the Apostolic Nuncio’s letter to the priests and asked them to close their trusts. “Our diocese is not willing to bring them under the diocesan control,” he said in his letter to the priests on October 16.

Asked for his opinion, Peter Alphonse, chairman, State Minorities Commission, said the issue had already been brought to his notice. “It is the right time for the Catholic community... to keep their house in order. The purpose of the mission is to help the downtrodden, and not individuals, whoever they may be,” he said.

Former IAS officer M.G. Devasahayam said that according to the canon law and the Bible, the clergy should take care of only spiritual and ecclesiastical affairs, and are not supposed to handle properties and material affairs. He said that it was the failure of the project to open a medical college and hospital at Muttom, Kanniyakumari district, on a huge loan, that had necessitated the visit of the Nuncio and his subsequent instructions.

“That is why I have been pressing for the constitution of a committee of faithfuls, with professional knowledge, to look after the properties and other issues. Of course, there are non-corrupt priests. But they lack knowledge,” said Mr. Devasahyam, who was involved in the restoration of church properties at the Boat Club and the properties of D’Monte Trust in Chennai.

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Printable version | Nov 30, 2021 1:45:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/close-clergys-personal-trusts-popes-envoy-instructs-tamil-nadu-bishops/article37155425.ece

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