MUMBAI, India – Bishops from the Syro-Malabar Church in Northeast India have called for peace and unity in the Eastern-rite Church as it faces a series of scandals in its home base in the state of Kerala.

The Syro-Malabar Church is the largest Eastern-rite Church in India, with over 4 million members. The Church also provides many priests and religious for outside its home territory.

Two recent scandals have hit the Church in Kerala, where it is based. A nun belonging to the rite has accused the Kerala-born Latin Rite Bishop Franco Mulakkal of raping her several times at a convent in the state.

Meanwhile, the head of the Church, Cardinal George Alencherry, has been accused of illegally transferring land belonging to the Church. He was temporarily relieved of administrative responsibility by the Vatican.

The cardinal has come into conflict with a large proportion of his clergy, who continue to complain about his decision-making and leadership style.

The missionary bishops of the Church serving in the northeast of the country issued a statement on July 12, saying “the recent incidents have threatened the Unity of the Church which they love so much.”

“Human needs are growing, and Christian anxieties are multiplying over the face of the earth,” said Archbishop John Moolachira of Guwahati. “This is not the time to allow little differences to divide us and make our work ineffective.”

He added that he foresees “common enemies” taking advantage of the crisis of unity in the Church.

The bishops said they “did not want to be judgmental” about issues where there are differences in opinion within the Church.

“All we want,” said Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil, the retired archbishop of Guwahati, “is that the Church that gave spiritual nourishment and missionary motivation to us in our young days should lose none of its glory, nor miss any opportunity for making further contribution to the common future of the Universal Church.”

The bishops also appealed to all the missionaries of Syro-Malabar origin scattered throughout the world to “join them in prayer for the speedy healing of all hurt sentiments related to the recent painful happenings in their Church that kept the entire body of the faithful in agonizing anxiety.”

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