Christians in Kerala recently took out a march and staged a dharna in front of the state secretariat demanding enactment of a law to protect Church properties from misuse by priests and clergy. The demonstration was organized by All Kerala Church Act Action Council. According to the Council, the Church Properties & Institutions Bill has been gathering dust for decades.
The Council wanted the implementation of the proposals carried by the report submitted before the Government of Kerala by the Kerala Law Reforms Commission headed by late Justice VR Krishna Iyer.
They want the formulation of a Church Act and to bring all Church properties under Indian civil rules. The protest was a joint action by Malankara Action Council For Church Act Bill Implementation, Maccabees and Joint Christian Council.
Leaders after leaders who spoke on the occasion stated that there was no point in blaming them as anti-Church. Their agitation was against some priests, not against their religion. Action Council leaders demanded the democratic administration of the Church properties as per the Indian Constitution; the properties of believers should not be grabbed by Bishops or any others.
The protest is significant in the context of several Church scandals surfaced during the last few months. The latest one was concerning a land deal. Even the personal involvement of Cardinal George Alencherry is alleged in it. The Church’s counsel submitted before the court, they act under Canon Law; the ‘local’ civil rules not applicable to them. According to the Canon Law the Church properties come under the proprietorship and control of Vatican.
Given these sorts of legal issues, the initiative of the Action Council is of paramount importance. Living in India and operating as per the rules and laws of a foreign land is really amazing. Call for meaningful reforms originates from within is really significant.