MUMBAI – Just days after a group of community leaders demanded proof that the controversial bishop of Mysore in southern India was still alive, the Vatican announced Saturday that Pope Francis had accepted his resignation.
In a one-line statement, the Vatican Press Office said the pontiff had accepted the resignation of 58-year-old Kannikadass Antony William, who has faced multiple accusations of wrongdoing including sexual misconduct, corruption, kidnapping and even collusion in murder at various points over his stormy six-year tenure in Mysore.
Also on Jan. 13, Archbishop Felix Anthony Machado of Vasai, secretary general of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, released a more detail statement indicating that Francis had accepted Antony’s resignation “for pastoral reasons given the distressing situation in the diocese.”
Machado, a former official of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, said that the resignation was not a disciplinary measure but rather a decision take pro bono Ecclesia (“for the good of the Church”) in order to allow for a transition in leadership.
In effect, the move makes permanent a temporary measure adopted a year ago, when Antony was placed on administrative leave in January 2023. At the time the Vatican named retired Archbishop Bernard Moras of Bangalore as apostolic administrator of Mysore, and Machado’s statement indicated Moras will continue in that role until a successor is named.
When that decision was announced, Antony told a congregation during Mass that would be away from the diocese for an indefinite “medical leave.”
Located in in southeastern India, Mysore is near the city of Bangalore. It numbers about 113,000 Catholics, divided into roughly 80 parishes.
In 2019, a group of 37 priests in the Mysore diocese wrote to the Vatican demanding Antony’s resignation on the grounds that he had fathered children from various affairs with at least four different mistresses, that he had strong connections with corrupt police officials and local bureaucrats as well as politicians, and that he had ties to organized crime.
That letter, coupled with other charges, led to a Vatican-sponsored investigation carried out by three Indian prelates that began in February 2021. Later that year, a group of 113 people, including 22 priests, calling themselves the “Save Mysore Diocese Action Committee” wrote to Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Evangelization demanding that Antony be removed.
Another Mysore priest, Father Gnana Prakash, wrote to the pope’s ambassador in India in July 2022 to lodge additional charges against Antony, including complicity in the death of four priests who had signed the 2019 letter and who later died under mysterious circumstances. Praksah also asserted that Antony was guilty of rape, sodomy and embezzlement.
In August 2022, Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai was forced to deny charges that he had attempted to help Antony cover up his misdeeds, after a recording of a conversation between the two men surfaced in which a paternity test was discussed. Gracias insisted the recording had been selectively edited, and that he had encouraged Antony to take the test but never offered to influence its results.
From the beginning Antony has denied all wrongdoing, and he has a base of support in the diocese.
On Jan. 9, a group of community leaders in Mysore met with Moras at the bishop’s residence in order to allege that there’s a conspiracy to kill Antony, hatched, according to the group, by some of the priests involved in lodging charges against the bishops.
The group requested that action be taken against the alleged conspirators, including removal from the priesthood.
The community leaders also demanded to know the whereabouts of Antony, claiming he’s not been seen or heard from since his leave of absence and they wanted proof that he’s still alive and in good condition.
“We don’t know the whereabouts of the bishop. We want him here (in Mysore). His safety is of prime concern. He is a religious head,” said the president of the group, called the “Catholic Association of Mysore,” Mathew B. Suresh, while speaking to The Hindu.
In addition, the group complained about breaches of confidentiality during the 2021 Vatican-sponsored investigation, claiming that one of the members of the team had leaked confidential information as part of an effort to smear Antony.
Neither the Vatican announcement nor the statement from Machado indicated what Antony’s future may hold, aside from Machado that his title is now “bishop emeritus of Mysore” and that there are no restrictions on his ministry, meaning he’s free to say Mass, celebrate the other sacraments, and conduct routine priestly and episcopal activity.