Pair accused of mining granite stone from a plot of land under Thamarassery Diocese in Kerala state
Bishop Remigiose Inchananiyil of Thamarassery. (Photo: dioceseofthamarassery.org)
A Catholic bishop and priest in the southern Indian state of Kerala have been ordered to pay more than 2 million rupees in fines for the illegal mining of granite stone in their diocese.
Bishop Remigiose Inchananiyil of Thamarassery and parish priest Father Mathew Thakadiel are to pay 2,353,013 rupees (US$31,000) on or before April 30, according to an order from the state’s mining and geology department.
The government department in its notice accused the two of illegally mining close to 60,000 cubic meters of granite on a plot of land under the Little Flower parish in Pushpagiri village from 2002 to 2010.
The initial complaint was filed by the Catholic Laymen’s Association (CLA), which said the diocese and the parish mined the land without prior government permission, a charge that was denied by the local parishioners’ association.
P.U. Mathew, president of the parishioners’ association, said in a statement that they would appeal the “baseless government order” while pointing out that the stone was mined for the construction of a church, school and convent with valid approvals from government departments.
The statement clarified that the mining was done according to the decision and supervision of the parish council and neither the bishop nor the parish priest were responsible for it. Bishop Inchananiyil was unnecessarily dragged into the case by “a vested interest,” the association claimed.
George said they had tried to talk to the bishop and the priest to initiate corrective action but they had refused, compelling the CLA to approach the court
Authorities had conducted an inspection of the site without prior notice to the concerned parties, so the parishioners demanded a fresh probe.
However, CLA secretary M.L. George said the departmental action was initiated after Kerala High Court ordered it to ascertain the losses incurred by the illegal act.
“If the diocese goes for appeal, we will not sit idle. We will also fight it,” he told UCA News on April 25. “This is just beginning.”
George said they had tried to talk to the bishop and the priest to initiate corrective action but they had refused, compelling the CLA to approach the court.
“It is true that if the diocese accepts the fine, it will be followed by several criminal offenses such as obtaining explosives without a valid permission, its sources among other things,” he said.
The Catholic layman regretted that spiritual leaders like bishops and priests have deviated from their real mission and are now involved in illegal activities. “It is the duty of Catholics to correct them and lead them to the right path,” he added.
A diocesan official who did not want to be named said the bishop and the priest had not made any illegal gains and therefore “their innocence will be established in the court of law.”
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