Protesting against the reinstatement of Cardinal George Alencherry as Major Archbishop of the Ernakulam Archdiocese, a section of Catholic priests on Thursday launched an indefinite fast at the Bishops House in Kochi. The priests, through their hunger strike, have demanded Alencherry's removal as Major Archbishop.
Meanwhile, police have been deployed outside the Bishop's House to avoid any law and order breakage.
Earlier on Thursday, the representatives of priests had reached the house, where they had held discussions with the Cardinal on various issues pertaining to the archdiocese including controversial land deals allegedly involving the top priest.
They, however, were not satisfied with the Cardinals response and declared an indefinite fast and prayers at the Bishops House seeking the removal of Alencherry as the Major Archbishop.
"The Cardinal should be removed from the administrative responsibility of the Archdiocese as he failed to protect its priests and laity," a protesting priest told reporters.
The priests demanded that the suspended auxiliary bishops of the Archdiocese should be brought back to their posts, he added.
The protesters said the Cardinal should not be allowed to chair the meeting of the Synod "as he is an accused in many cases."
The next synod meeting should be chaired by a representative of Pope Francis, they said.
The fresh developments come a week after Alencherry asked the laity and priests in the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese to be wary of 'divisive' activities in the church and urged them not to cooperate or encourage such moves.
He had also said a new bishop with special powers would be appointed to ensure the growth of the archdiocese and its pastoral engagements.
The circular was issued against the backdrop of protests by a section of priests in the archdiocese against the reinstatement of Alencherry as major archbishop last month.
The protesting priests seek an independent investigation into the land deals allegedly involving the Cardinal in the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese.
Alencherry secured full powers of Major Archbishop of the archdiocese after the Vatican directed Bishop Jacob Manathodath, appointed as the archdiocese's Apostolic Administrator last year, to go back to his Palakkad diocese to carry out his pastoral duties.
The protesting priests have questioned the decision to suspend Bishop Sebastian Adayanthrath and Bishop Jose Puthenveetil from their offices of Auxiliary Bishops of the Archdiocese.
The issue of controversial land deals involving top priests of the Syro-Malabar Church has been in the news for quite some time.
The Syro-Malabar Church has over 30 dioceses in the country and four outside - in the US, Canada, Australia and Britain - serving over five million faithful.
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