Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, papal nuncio to India, warned bishops in the country’s Tamil Nadu state of the “tendency” among priests to set up and manage independent trusts, a violation of canon law.
“Even if the aim of such trusts may appear to be praiseworthy, all too often those trusts become financial and political power bases for the priests involved,” the papal nuncio said in a letter October 8 and addressed to the Catholic bishops of Tamil Nadu.
The existence of the trusts in Tamil Nadu came to his attention during his visit to the Diocese of Kottar in the southernmost tip of the country, said a report on Matters India.
The letter, shared widely in social media platforms, quotes various sections of the canon law to urge bishops of dioceses with such trusts to regulate it.
“Priests and religious should not be directly associated with any independent or standalone trusts or societies or For/Not-for-profit companies, unless their involvement has specifically been approved by” the local bishop, said the nuncio.
Archbishop Girelli urged bishops to follow the canon law and punish the offenders according “to the gravity of their offense.”
He recommended that the Tamil Nadu bishops’ conference formulate “clear guidelines on the subject,” if they are non-existent.
He said every bishop should ascertain the details of the personal trusts held by any of his priests and instruct holders of existing personal trusts to close them immediately.
The archbishop said bishops should ensure that no new trust is opened by his priests.
Bishop Thomas Aquinas of Coimbatore, one of the 18 dioceses in Tamil Nadu, has already written to his priests on October 16, telling them that he is aware of “a couple of priests” who have trusts.
“As per the instruction of the nuncio, the existing personal trusts are to be closed. After closing them, please inform me,” said the bishop, adding that the diocese “is not willing” to bring those trusts under its control.