A charity supporting disabled children in India has welcomed the "long overdue" suspension of a priest awaiting trial on charges relating to the embezzlement of one million pounds.
Enable (Working in India) supported disabled children in India after responding to an appeal for help in 1995 from a Catholic priest, Gali Arulraj, of the Diocese of Nellore, Andhra Pradesh, in south India. After ten years of support, the charity discovered in 2006 that over that period Arulraj had embezzled about one million pounds from Enable and other agencies.
Enable (Working in India) supported disabled children in India after responding to an appeal for help in 1995 from a Catholic priest, Gali Arulraj, of the Diocese of Nellore, Andhra Pradesh, in south India. After ten years of support, the charity discovered in 2006 that over that period Arulraj had embezzled about one million pounds from Enable and other agencies. In 2007, Arulraj and three accomplices were charged with a range of crimes, including fraud and theft. The case has not yet come to trial.
Enable's General Secretary, Colin Harte said: "Arulraj received donations from several agencies but covered up the amount he received from each by producing fraudulent accounts. He declared only about half of the income, which was used to benefit disabled children, and pocketed the rest - about a million pounds."
When Enable discovered Arulraj's crimes in 2006 and approached the Bishop of Nellore, it was informed that for several years Arulraj had separated himself from his bishop, and that he was living as a married man, with at least two young children. "During the years he had been separated from his bishop," said Mr Harte, "Arulraj continued to present himself as a bona fide priest, celebrating Mass, and giving the impression - with the assistance of his nephew, Vatakili Paulinraj, who is also a priest - that he was in good standing with the diocese."
A few months after Arulraj's deception was discovered a new bishop, Most Rev. Moses Prakasam, was appointed Bishop of Nellore.
Mr Harte said: "I met Bishop Prakasam first of all in January 2007, and it seemed that he was concerned to address the scandal of Arulraj in a proper manner. Yet weeks turned into months and into years while he resolutely did nothing in spite of my repeated and urgent requests. He would not even suspend Arulraj from functioning as a priest in spite of the scandal he had caused and was continuing to cause. Earlier this year, in March, I discovered that Arulraj was appealing for funds as Director of a new bogus charity, while still presenting himself as a priest. As Bishop Prakasam was doing nothing about it I set up a blog "Gali Arulraj - the Scamming Priest," to warn others against supporting him."
The blog also asked why Bishop Prakasam was allowing Arulraj to continue functioning as a Catholic priest.
At length, Bishop Prakasam issued a "Notice of Suspension" dated 10 September 2012 - which has today been circulated - which states that Arulraj was placed under suspension with effect from 6 September 2012. The Notice acknowledges that Arulraj "voluntarily and deliberately" violated various church laws for fifteen years, and notes the "public scandal in the Church" arising from Arulraj's actions. He is "prohibited from exercising all the acts of the power of Orders, power of governance and exercise of all rights and functions attached to the office of Priesthood."
Colin Harte said: "The long overdue suspension is very welcome, even though there remain serious questions to be answered about the amount of effort and the length of time it has taken for it to be imposed. It is a cause for concern that it has taken Bishop Prakasam nearly six years to impose this simple, obviously necessary, disciplinary measure. It doesn't make sense why it should have taken so long."
For more information see: http://gali-arulraj.blogspot.com
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