Kerala government buries offered a bill to ensure the good administration of Church properties after pressure from protest groups

Bowing under pressure from the Church, Kerala’s Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government has decided to bury a bill mooted by the Law Reforms Commission to ensure fair and transparent administration of church properties and funds besides a mechanism to adjudicate disputes within the Church.

The commission, headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice KT Thomas, was given the task in light of several disputes in various denominations of the church over alienation of the church properties by the members of the clergy and prelates.

The government took a U-turn following protests and threats from various quarters of the Church. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced the decision to hold back the bill, which was published in the commission’s website, on the eve of protests against the move called by various denominations of the Church.

As part of the protests, prayer meetings and rallies were held across the state on Sunday. A circular issued by Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) — the apex body of bishops belonging to three Catholic rites in the state — calling for united struggle against the move was read out in all Catholic churches in the state on Sunday.

Earlier, the Inter-Church Council, a common platform for all Christian churches in the state, had warned of dire consequences if the government went ahead with the legislation. A bishop had even threatened to launch a liberation struggle on the lines of the 1958 struggle, which brought down the first democratically elected Communist government in the state.

The chief minister’s assertion came a day after CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan clarified that the government would not pursue the bill. The U-turn has come as a shock to the reformists, who have been demanding transfer of power on temporal affairs of the Church now vested with the bishops to the laity.

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