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Vatican steps in to discipline troubled Indian congregation

The newly appointed apostolic visitor specializes in strategic human resource management

UCA News reporter, New Delhi

UCA News reporter, New Delhi

Updated: October 17, 2020 05:51 AM GMT
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Vatican steps in to discipline troubled Indian congregation

A screenshot of the website of the Kerala-based Missionary Congregation of Blessed Sacrament (MCBS), which faces disciplinary action from the Vatican. 

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The Vatican has taken steps to restrain an India-based men's religious congregation after it faced a revolt from some members who accused its leadership of election manipulation and harassment of members.

The Vatican Congregation for the Oriental Churches has appointed an apostolic visitor for the Kerala-based Missionary Congregation of Blessed Sacrament (MCBS), its superior general Father Joseph Maleparampil said in an Oct. 15 communication to the members.

Apostolic visitor Father Paul Achandy has been appointed "ad nutum Sanctae Sedis for our congregation," he said.

The Latin expression "ad nutum Sanctae Sedis" literarily means "at the disposition of the Holy See." It refers to Rome taking over an ecclesiastical jurisdiction following a conflict situation and reserving the right to run it until a final decision is made.

The Vatican move follows some MCBS priests' complaints that Father Maleparampil and his team acted unconstitutionally, harassed members and illegally postponed general elections.

The congregation has only two provinces. In one of them, the leadership team has already completed two terms but did not conduct an election in March, allegedly under cover of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Congregation for the Oriental Churches had permitted the superior general to postpone the election for four months. That means the election should have started on Aug. 13 but it did not.

"We regret to approach you repeatedly for fairness and justice due to the unconstitutional behavior of our superior general and provincial superiors," said a communication sent to the Vatican in August.

With the superior general's tacit approval, the provincials also thwarted a decision to bifurcate one province for more than six years. It was an attempt to help a coterie continue in power, they alleged.

Members who challenged such decisions were punished with unlawful transfers, while one priest has been suspended and then illegally dismissed. The priest continues in the congregation, but his case is now being heard in the Vatican.

"Many of the members of MCBS have written to you regarding the unconstitutional and unfair behavior of the superior general against many of our members," the priests' letter said.

"We humbly request you to instruct the superior general to conduct the elections of the delegates in time and proceed to the commencement of the General and Provincial Synaxes," said the appeal to the Vatican, a copy of which has been shared with UCA News.

Father Maleparampil did not respond to the calls and text messages from UCA News seeking his response.

The Kerala-based congregation was founded in 1933 by Fathers Mathew Alakulam and Joseph Paredom, two priests of the Eastern-rite Syro-Malabar Church.

The congregation has some 500 members who work across India. They also work in Africa, America, Australia, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the Philippines.

Apostolic visitor Father Achandy is a 57-year priest of India's first indigenous men's congregation, the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate.

He holds a master's degree in business administration and a doctorate in management. He specializes in strategic human resource management.

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