Our Sanctuaries are turned into Den of thieves.

“From the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest every one deals falsely” (Jer. 6: 13)

The Thariode CSI Church, today known as Padinjarethara, and its cemetery are situated on a hill top surrounded on three sides with water overlooking the catchment area of the Banasura dam providing a serene, enchanting and indescribable experience. Bishop Benjamin and subsequently, Bishop George Issac cherished many dreams of turning this place into a Family Retreat /Meditation Centre. But Bishop K. P. Kuruvilla could see this place only as a hen that lays golden eggs. Foxes’ eyes will always be in the chicken’s shelter. He decided to sell the property including the church and the cemetery raising the bogey of submergence of the property.

The history of Padinjarethara Church dates back to 1957 when the foundation stone for the present church was laid.  The present church was dedicated in 1961. Till 1968, it remained as an out station of the Manathavadi Pastorate. The early architects of this parish were Rev. Francis Samuel of Mananthavadi Pastorate, an independent missionary from Switzerland, Zuber, a voluntary evangelist, Chacko Upadeshi who was also an ex-service man from Chenganoore and Bishop Benjamin. This parish was a refuge, solace, inspiration and a source of spiritual nourishment for the early settlers. Many early generation settlers in Wayanad had found their final resting place in the cemetery close to the church. Even now one can count at least 60 tomb stones in the cemetery.

The property where the church is situated was gifted to the CSI by Edathil, a Hindu family. The family gifted about one acre of land at the top most place of a mountain. There were about 100 families during the period 1960-90 as members of this parish. During the 60s, with the special interest and effort of Bishop Benjamin the whole mountain was bought and the valley of the mountain became Thariyode Angady. This parish and the surrounding areas have many stories to tell about the sacrificial service of many who built up the parish. It is said that the whole amount for the construction of the Thariyode church was contributed by a lady from Switzerland who collected the money by stitching and selling handkerchiefs. In 1968, the parish became an outstation of the Vyithiri Pastorate. In the 80s, about 4 kms away from the church and the cemetery a new township emerged in Padinjarethara and a school belonging to the Ayroor estate became the focal point for people to come together for a Sunday school and Worship. Thus the Thariyode Church and the cemetery faded into oblivion and new church and congregation came to be established in Padinjarethara. But, the cemetery still continued to be the one where the dead were buried.

Due to neglect and irresponsible stewardship, much of the land was lost during this period by encroachment leaving behind 5 acres of land. Out of these five acres, 2.5 acres was acquired by the government as it fell within the catchment area of the Banasura Dam. The remaining 2.5 acres of land, surrounded by waters on three fronts and providing an enchanting view of the horizon, remained as the habitat of the church and the cemetery.

But, this is more than enough a temptation and reason for Bishop Kuruvilla and his accomplices to descend on this valuable property. Vultures gather wherever there is carcass.  Instead of dreaming about any mission project or Family Life Centre or meditation centre (for which the property is ideally suited) which the earlier Bishops had dreamt about, Bishop Kuruvilla saw in it a fortune.  This became one of the earliest attempts by Bishop Kuruvilla to alienate valuable church property. It is natural that birds of the same feather flock together. He was soon joined by Philip Abraham, Vythiri Pastorate Secretary, in this shady deal. The rest of the story is shrouded in mystery. The parish members in Padinjarethara believe or they were made to believe that the property was sold for Rs. 19,000 per cent. There was an offer of Rs. 15000 and Rs. 17000 from among the parish members themselves. But from reliable source we learnt that an agreement was signed with Mr. Baiju Varghese, Managing partner of Mountain shadow resorts, Padinjarethara, Wayanad for Rs. 15000 per cent. Bishop and his henchmen received an advance of Rs. 20 lakhs, but as per records, only 15 lakhs was found deposited in the CSITA Account in Shornur. Who has pocketed the balance of Rs. 5 lakhs? Where is the agreement made in 2007?
Many more ghosts are tumbling out of the cupboard. The CSITA managing committee, which met on April 26, 2010 refused permission to sell this land and asked the Bishop to return the advance received by him. The Diocesan Finance Committee which met on April 29 also resolved to return the advance. But we understand that till today no action has been taken on this. Probably, the treasurer, who has been acting as a rubber stamp all these years, may not know to whom he should return the money and on the basis of what agreement. But will anybody in their right senses deal with these unscrupulous fellows without a valid agreement? Whom does this buyer represent? What might be the alleged purpose for which proceeds from this sale would have been put to use? What is the certified rate of 2.5 acres of land assessed as per the CSITA manual? Why did the bishop and his cronies not seek the permission of the CSITA before receiving the advance of Rs. 20 lakhs? These and many more questions remain unanswered. The bishop misrepresented facts to the Executive Committee and they were made to believe that the whole property would be submerged. But only common sense is required to understand that nobody would bid for a property that would be submerged. Most often many in the EC and the key functionaries of the diocese has been acting as morons and dancing to the tune of the Bishop without any regard for Christian values, democratic norms and integrity of character.

The complete deal and the true face of it will be revealed only when as a Christian community we insist that the advance be given back and the bishop should come out clean of this accusation. Where do we go as the sheep for guidance, correction and spiritual nurture? What is our witness under these circumstances? If we keep silent at such times as these, God’s judgement will come upon us too. Let us unite and raise our voice to reclaim our Christian witness.


Anonymous said...

This is happening in Churches across India
We Need to Be Involved and Aware and Question Where and when Necessary if any Doubts.
Also the Management Council of The Parish as well as the Diocese Must be Routinely rotated thus ensuring that no individual Continues in Office for a long Duration so as to create interests confilciting those of the church.
Malpractices in the Church and Nowadays Common and parishoners must take interest to Correct such malpracticies as well as Take active interest.

also priests and bishops being human beings need money to carry on their lives and the diocese must improve their allowances handsomely in such a way that their financial worries are nullified and they dont even think of such avenues.

Deepak Ipe said...

I am a little scpetical reading about all this. I have visited this website for the first time today and am shocked at the news I am reading. However, let me ask a question this forum. I really appreciate the spirit that is shown by the members of this forum to collect the information and furnishing it to all of us. However my question still remains:
Can a bishop on his own accord do this much of damage to a diocese such as North Kerala when we have an elected Executive Council in the diocese? I am referring to the 3 stories I have read;
1. Selling the property at Thalikullam
2. Cutting of trees at Vaniamkulam
3. Selling the property at Thariode
When these cases were brought to the attention of the executive committee, was any action taken? If there has not been any action in this regard, we are admitting that all the members in the North Kerala Diocese are fools and one useless fellow who comes from outside the diocese can swindle all of us and get away. Again if all this is right, I understand K. P Kuruvilla has been cheating the government also as mentioned in the article about the Thalikulam property case. There has not been any action from the government also? I am surprised and on another note, it is showing that one person as mean as K. P. Kuruvilla can have his way in the NKD, while we all members standby as idiotic spectators.

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