The Church is one of the largest land-holders in Mumbai after the Mumbai Port Trust and the Bombay Parsi Punchayet, and the Catholics are demanding a Parsi Punchayet-like structure wherein residential colonies are developed for the community. – Jyoti Shelar
Twenty-six Catholics, including a priest, have said that they will sit on fast unto death from May 29 at the archdiocese in Colaba, demanding the resignation of the cardinal. The protesters allege that Oswald Cardinal Gracias, the Archbishop of Bombay, has been “blatantly consenting church land deals to benefit private developers”.
The Church is one of the largest land-holders in Mumbai after the Mumbai Port Trust and the Bombay Parsi Punchayet, and the Catholics are demanding a Parsi Punchayet-like structure wherein residential colonies are developed for the community.
“Huge plots of land are being sold to the private builders. The cardinal’s consent is needed in all land deals and he is allowing these deals for personal gains. We have managed to get a stay on two such deals, but the legal recourse requires a lot of money,” said Melwyn Fernandes, secretary of the Association of Concerned Catholics, who is one of the 26 people to sit on the fast.
According to Fernandes, in 2013, the group managed to get a stay on development rights of a 21,000 sq mt of Our Lady of Mercy Church land in Thane, which was sold to a builder. Another stay was obtained after the Church sold development rights of the Marinagar plot to a developer.
In 2013, a first information report was registered against a priest at Santacruz Police Station for allegedly forging documents of a chawl belonging to the Our Lady of Egypt Church, and selling it to private parties.
“The cardinal and the bishop are allowing mismanagement of the Church properties worth crores of rupees,” said Joseph Sodder, a Mahim resident and a St Michael’s Church parishioner, adding that till date the archdiocese has constructed only one Catholics-only colony consisting of eight buildings in Mahim.
He said, “This sudden demand for the cardinal’s resignation by a miniscule number of people is indeed a surprise. The Archdiocese of Bombay comprises over five lakh Catholics, out of which nearly all hold the cardinal in high regard. All our schools, colleges and other educational/technical institutions are built on the Church land. We have a number of housing colonies in various parts of the Archdiocese that are built on the Church land. In fact, some of the protesters are staying in housing societies built on such land.” – Mumbai Mirror, 21 May 2015
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