Prevent priests from being financial power bases, warns Indian bishops’ nuncio

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New Delhi – The Pope’s representative in India has ordered Catholic bishops in the southern state of Tamil Nadu to prevent priests from engaging in activities that make them “bases of financial and political power.”

UCA News reported that Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli has called on the Tamil Nadu Council of Bishops to tackle the trend of priests forming and running trusts or non-governmental organizations independent of their dioceses, thus violating canon law.

In a letter in early October, Archbishop Girelli noted a trend among the clergy to establish independent trusts “usually registered under the guise of a non-governmental organization, supposed to provide assistance to those in need”.

“While the purpose of such trusts may seem laudable, too often these trusts become a political and financial power base for the priests involved.”

The Vatican official said the activities violated canon law and called on bishops to uphold the discipline of the law by shutting down all private trusts run by priests.

Church laws prohibit priests and religious from associating directly with independent or self-governing trusts, societies, or corporations, unless their involvement has been specifically authorized by the local bishop, the letter said.

He also reminded the bishops that canon law prohibits clerics “from doing business or commerce personally or through others, for their own benefit or that of others, except with the permission of ecclesiastical authority. legitimate”.

Archbishop Girelli also told bishops that Church laws allow them to take action against lost priests. Clerics or religious who exercise a profession or a business contrary to the prescriptions of the canons must be punished according to the seriousness of the case, specifies his letter, citing canon 1392.

The nuncio’s letter called on bishops to formulate clear guidelines to ensure that all trusts run by priests come under the direct control of the respective dioceses and genuinely benefit the mission of the diocese.

Dioceses should ensure that no trust is “under the exclusive control of a single member of the clergy,” the letter said.

The nuncio said his letter was published after visiting the diocese of Kottar at the southern tip of India.

But Father V. Hilarius, vicar general of the diocese of Kottar, told ucanews.com on October 19 that the nuncio’s letter “only underscored the provisions of canon law. It was a reminder to all of us.” .

He said some priests are setting up organizations to help the poor because the diocese is unable to fund all welfare plans, but the death of a founder and other members can lead to confusion over the leadership and succession.

These organizations seek and accept donations from India and abroad for charitable works and over time become independent entities capable of running projects independently of the dioceses.

The financial and social influence of priests creates power imbalances in the diocese. It occurs in the dioceses of India, but is particularly noticed in the southern states.

A senior priest who did not wish to be appointed said the nuncio “was boldly approaching a serious problem. This problem has been discussed several times in the past, but no one has dared to treat it with the required seriousness”, did he declare.

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