From August 23rd , 2007
1. G. Alex Benziger
No.18, Pidariyar Koil Lane,
Chennai – 600 001.
St. Francis Xavier’s Church, Broadway Parish,
2. Michael Amalraj Edward
5, 2nd Street, 3rd Main Road,
C.I.T. Nagar Extension,
Chennai – 600 035.
Church of Our Lady of Health, Little Mount Parish.
3. Dr. S.Leonard Vasanth Ph.D.,
23, F2, Moshin Regency
Wahab Street, Choolaimedu,
Chennai – 600 094.
St. Fatima Church, Kodambakkam Parish.
4. J. John Bosco
64/38, Annai Sivakami Nagar,
Ennore, Chennai – 600 057.
Sahayamatha Church, Bharathiar Nagar Parish.
His Eminence Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, SDB.,
Secretariate of State
Palazzo Apostolico Vaticano
Citta del vaticano 00120
His Grace Pedro Lopez Quintana
Apostolic Nunciature in India
50-C, Niti Marg,
Chanakyapuri, New Delhi - 110 021.
May it please Your Eminence,
Sub : Illegal alienation of immovable properties belonging to the Catholic Church - without any legal necessity and abusing the funds – immediate intervention to stop the illegal sales – requested – regarding.
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1. We are pious Roman Catholic lawyers, practicing in the Madras High Court, South India. We are engaged in the Social Service and keenly engaged in the Mission work of the Catholic Church. Mr. Alex Benziger had participated and actively involved in various Catholic Movements and had made many representations to the Holy See through His Grace George Zur, the then Apostolic Nunciature in India on issues concerning the Church.
2. In India, out of great sacrifice, dedication and hard earned savings, catholic lay people have dedicated a number of valuable properties to the Catholic Church with a specific vow to Charity and Religious activities of the church. Further very many Catholics have donated lot of properties to the Church and Diocese with a specific vow for religious and charitable purpose. The said properties are situated in the prime location of the heart of the City of Madras and under the administration of Church Authorities.
3. In Western Countries, i.e. Europe, U.S.A, and Canada, the Church properties are sold for purposes in particular to meet out the legal liabilities of the Church and to pay damages ordered by the courts.
4. In India, no such said Western atmosphere exists. It is pertinent to note the following aspects in the Catholic Church in Tamilnadu, South India.
a. Almost all the lay Catholics attend the Liturgy regularly.
b. All the Lay Catholics generously donate their offerings to the Church regularly.
c. Lot of income also accrue out of church properties periodically.
d. Any request made by the Church Authorities for the necessary commitment are immediately compensated by the Lay Catholics.
5. Hence there is no paucity of funds for the church purposes and their administration. In fact the church Authorities do not suffer from any financial crunch at any point of time.
6. Inspite of that the church authorities in India have sold away the following immovable properties for throw away prices or no price at all. Thus they have frittered away with the properties. The Church properties are allowed to be lost, wasted or frittered away as follows : -
Events of illegal sale :
A. Between 1950 and 1960 nearly 400 acres of immovable property in and around Thiruvanmiyur area of the Madras–Mylapore diocese has been sold away for no price and for no necessity. The present value of the said property is Rupees Ten Thousand crores – equivalent to 100 Billion U.S Dollars. This sale is against the intent of the gift of the said property.
B. Sir. John De Monte a Portuguese decendant who had settled down at Madras in 1790, in his last Will and Testament dated July 17, 1820 had bequeathed 105 acres of landed property with a specific vow to the Madras-Mylapore Archdiocese to administer the said properties to the benefit of the Charitable and Religious purposes, without alienating or parting out the same. But the said diocese had sold away almost all the said properties which were under the specific vow against alienation. The specific vow of Sir John De Monte has been defeated by the Madras – Mylapore Archdiocese. The total value of the said properties at present is Rupees Five Thousand Crores – equivalent to 50 Billion US Dollars.
C. The property belonging to Diocese coming under the Parish of Our Lady of Health, Little Mount church, Madras measuring 20 acres of invaluable landed property has been illegally sold by Church authorities during 1985 – 1995 for no necessity and nor for any purpose. The property sold out is worth about nearly Rupees 200 crores- equivalent to 2 Billion U.S. Dollars. It is pertinent to note that people of other faith are in occupation of the said properties It is ironical that a church (coming under Assemblies of God) is to be housed in a diocesan property. It is interesting to note that there is no room to bury the dead in this Parish.
D. In 1982, the famous immovable property by name “La Providence” of Kodaikanal, South India which belonged to Jesuit Society (comes under Thiruchirappalli Diocese) has been illegally sold away for meagre price. The value of the said immovable property is in Rupees 250 Crores – equivalent to 2.5. Billion U.S. Dollars.
E. In 1997 the famous Madras Loyola College, Staff Quarters, belonged to Jesuit society, situated at Nungambakkam, Madras about 2 acres of property situated in the heart of the city of Madras had been illegally sold away by the Jesuit Society for no necessity nor purpose. The worth of the immovable property is Rupees 100 Crores - equivalent to 1 Billion U.S. Dollars.
7. Your Eminence may be aware of the fact that it is mandatory that the sale of immovable properties, are to be registered with the Government. For any sale transaction Black money, namely, unaccounted money is involved. In almost all the sale considerations the market value of the property is three fold more than the guideline value (the value fixed by the Government). This is done to evade registration fee, Capital gain and Income Tax and partly to launch black money. In similar way the properties belonging to the diocese are registered at the guideline value which is very much lower than the market sale price. Where has the differential money gone? It is almost certain that the differential amount should be accounted in the diocesan accounts. But the same has not been accounted by the Authorities who had sold away the said property. Then who had siphoned the differential amount? This explains the reasons for the Priests slipping into Worldliness. The Diocese cannot fall in line with the corrupt ways of the world.
8. A right to administer does not include a right to mal administer
9. In fact the sales of the church properties are made secretly without any publicity with the object of siphoning funds and securing unjust enrichment at the cost of Mission. Corrupt practices in handling funds and illegal sale of church properties have pumped ill gotten money into the pockets of quite a number of clerics and the concerned bishops who naturally slip into Worldliness. Thus the mission of Church suffers.
10. To cap it, all the sale consideration amount received by the Church authorities are :
a. Not accounted
b. Not disclosed
c. Not used for the Church purpose
Then where does the said money go?
11. The reasons adduced for the said sale of Church properties would be possible either for :
a. Church need funds
b. Inability to administer the church properties
12. The said questions can be answered readily :
a. Any little request for money for the necessity of the church are readily meted out by the lay Catholics at any time and every time.
b. If the Church Authorities are not able to administer the properties, they can entrust the job to the lay Catholics to manage and administer the same on behalf of the Church.
Hence there cannot any reason available for selling out the Church immovable properties indiscriminately for no necessity nor purpose.
13. The Present situation now arises :
i) The remaining unsold piece of property of Benz Garden has been leased out for 50 years in 2002 by the Madras-Mylapore Archdiocese by entering into a deed in favour of
(a) Holy Satellite Town Ltd.,
(b) M.G.M. Diamond Bench resorts.
The value quoted in the said two agreement altogether was Rupees .50 Crores.
The said two agreements were placed before the High Court of Judicature at Madras and for approval and the Hon’ble High Court of Madras has dismissed the said two agreements as illegal unjust and against the interests of the Charitable and Religious and church and the specific vow of Sir John De Monte. In deference to the High Court order when the above said property was offered for 50 years lease by the church and again called for public tender, the offer was made by the public was Rupees 550 Crores in 2007. In reality the property worth is about - 10 Billion U.S. Dollars. The above said facts would prove the illegal underhand, black dealings of the sale of the Church properties by the Madras-Mylapore Diocesan Authorities.
ii) 3246 square metres immovable property situated at Santhome, Madras (opp. to Madras- Mylapore Archbishop’s house) belongs to Tanjore Diocese. Church Authorities are preparing to sell /Lease out the same for no necessity nor purpose. The property is worth about Rupees 150 Crores- equivalent to 1.5 Billion U.S. Dollars
14. No necessity for the church Authorities for accumulating such huge amounts. Then why the church properties are sold away secretly? If the Church Authorities are really in need of money, the same may be disclosed to the Lay Catholics / to us who are readily awaiting to dedicate / donate / mete out the same immediately.
15. Therefore it is prayed that Your Eminence may :
i) Form an appropriate committee comprising of non Indian clergy who are sincere, honest, dedicated who command integrity and who uphold the mission of the Church. The said Committee may include lay Catholics to enquire into the irregularities in land dealings and to take appropriate measures to stop further alienation of the properties.
ii) The alarming situation requires the immediate intervention of Your Eminence to restrain the Archbishop/Bishops from alienating the Church properties under the names and styles of Sale, Lease, License, Promotion etc., etc.,
Yours Most Obediently
IN OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
(G. Alex Benziger)
(Michael Amalraj Edward )
(Dr. S.Leonard Vasanth)
Copy to :
1. His Eminence Cardinal Attilio Nicora
Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See
00120, Citta del Vaticano
Fax : 06.69.88.31.41
2. Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See
Palazzo della Congregazioni
Largo del Colonnato 3
Fax : 06.69.88.50.11