Mangaluru, Dec 23, 2016: Seeking a more open course to recover more than Rs 5 crore misappropriated by Holy Cross Church former parish priest Fr Valerian Pinto between May 2008 and May 2015, the Ctholics of Holy Cross Church at Cordel in Kulashekara staged a novel protest in front of Bishop’s House at Kodialbail on Dec 22, Thursday.
As part of the rare community protest in the Munnabhai fashion, about 50 people of Cordel took part in a prayer service by wearing black T-shirts with other devotees between 6 pm and 7 pm and then sang Christmas Carols outside the Bishop’s House with lit candles and then handed over a greeting card to the Bishop’s representative as the Bishop was not at home. Unfortunately he and his priests were attending a political X’mas celebration in town, it was said.
It may be noted here that local media, had published a report early in June 2015, charging that crores of rupees were misappropriated by Rev Valerian Pino, the then parish priest while implementing 21 projects during his tenure in the church.
The projects included renovation of church, cemetary and park among others. Subsequently, Bishop Rev Dr Aloysius Paul D’Souza had set up an enquiry commission headed by Bendur Parish Priest Fr Antony Serrao with members Fr Valerian D’Souza (parish priest of Milagres church), Fr Joseph Martis (Rector of St Joseph Seminary and consultor to bishop), Fr Vincent Monteiro (consultor to bishop) and Fr Willliam Menezes (PRO of the diocese).
Finance Committee of Cordel church appointed a fact-finding committee, comprising Bank of Maharashtra former chairman and managing director Allen C Pereira, KCCI former president Capt John Prasad Menezes, St Aloysius College PG Dean Prof Edmund Frank, St Aloysius College former dean Prof Rolphie Mascanehas and Ladies Club Chairperson Wilma Pais, Dr. Ronald Fernandes a local based journalist among others. Quite interestingly, both the committees unearthed misappropriation to the tune of over Rs 5 crore. The priest had diverted the church funds to purchase land and had also transferred the funds to some individuals.
Apology : Meanwhile, in a surprise move, Fr Valerian Pinto in a hand written letter dated May 30, 2016, to the Bishop, claimed that he himself is solely responsible for the misappropriation. He even gave a cheque for Rs 4,89,000 which was not honoured due to insufficient funds (Subsequently, a criminal case has been filed at Mangaluru court).
Later much to the embarrassment of the bishop, Fr Valerian Pinto made a U-turn and wrote to the Vatican (Rome) charging that the Bishop is part of misappropriation. When queried, the Bishop said that though the priest had voluntarily given a letter of apology and offered to pay back the money according to his means, later on, he changed his stand and started saying that the apology was forced on him. "After he changed his stand saying that apology was forced on him, he has started challenging my authority and refused to cooperate with me in settling this issue," the Bishop said and added that he is awaiting a reply from the Vatican authorities.
Kulashekara Parish Vice President Praveen Patrao said that when Fr Valerian himself has given apology six months ago, why is the Bishop not taking any action against the priest, he still continues as a parish priest of the region and is relocated to shelter him from public. "If the Vatican has prevented the Bishop from taking action against the priest, let him (Bishop) reveal it," he said and added that the parishioners had to resort to silent protest as they have already explored all the possibilities and silent, but dignified protest was the last resort. Interestingly, there were hardly any youth among the ’protesters’ and most of them hold reputed places in society. This is seen as one of the many blots that are nullified in Christians institutions here..