07/07/2011, 00.00
INDIA

Mumbai priests accused of illegal sales of church property

by Nirmala Carvalho
The charges relate to Our Lady of Salvation Church in Dadar, St Michael’s Church in Mahim, Nazareth Church in Bhayandar and IC Church in Borivli. According to the Association of Concerned Catholics (Aocc) the parish priest sold the land without consulting the community. But the chancellor of the archdiocese of Mumbai denies the charges.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) - "The sale of land of the churches must be transparent”, say Catholic communities in Mumbai, seeking to light on cases of corruption involving some priests. A meeting the Association of Concerned Catholics (Aocc) discussed the cases related to Our Lady of Salvation Church in Dadar, St Michael’s Church in Mahim, Nazareth Church in Bhayandar and IC Church in Borivli, whose pastors have sold land to an outside company without consulting the community.

According to Greg Pereira, president of Aocc, the root cause for corruption is the rule of sole trustee, which grants all power to the priests on the sale of the property. "For this reason - says Pereira - the Aocc had requested Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai, to abolish this rule." The president of Aocc adds: "These are issues that remain pending for a long time: people were aware of these things, but nobody has ever spoken about them."

On the contrary Fr. Savio Fernandes, chancellor of the archdiocese of Mumbai, told AsiaNews that "in most cases, all procedures were followed."

Fr. Fernandes explained that the sale of church property the archdiocese followed canonical and civil law. Canon Law stipulates that in order to sell the property there must be: there be: a just reason, such as urgent necessity, evident advantage, or a religious, charitable or other great pastoral reason. A written expert valuation of the property to be sold is to be obtained. Once you have the opportunity to proceed with the sale, the money raised should be invested with caution for the "benefit of the Church", or spent in accordance with the expressed purpose to obtain permission.

Each sale also requires the permission of the archbishop. It needs the consent of the Archdiocesan Finance Committee (lay experts on economic matters) and the Archdiocesan College of Consultors (the priests who control pastoral aspect of the sale) before granting permission. In addition, if the value of the property to be sold exceeds 10 million rupees (about 157mila Euros), the Holy See must give their consent.


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