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Adoption glare on bishop

Thiruvananthapuram, Oct. 20: A Kerala bishop who adopted an unmarried woman as his spiritual daughter today said he regretted misleading the flock but would revoke the special relationship only if the Vatican convinced him it was illegal.

Bishop John Thattungal of the Kochi Latin diocese adopted 26-year-old Sonia at the office of the sub-registrar in Mattancherry on September 15.

The woman then spent a few days in a guesthouse on the Bishop’s House premises. A priest of the Protestant Orthodox Church, who had adopted Sonia when she was a child, also stayed with her.

There is no precedent of a Catholic priest or bishop adopting a believer because the Church treats all as its spiritual children.

The bishop, who holds a doctorate in canon law, first spoke about the adoption at a monthly recollection of priests under the Kochi diocese. He reportedly said he enjoyed a special relationship with the woman who had extraordinary spiritual powers. He is believed to have told the meeting he was convinced of Sonia’s powers to cure.

The 58-year-old bishop had come close to Sonia during a foreign tour. Later, back in Kerala, they had travelled in his car, he reportedly said.

The priests at the meeting were scandalised. Some of them wanted him to give up charge of the congregation.

The Vatican sought a report from its representative in Delhi, Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana.

It was in this context that Bishop Thattungal convened a meeting of priests today. He said he regretted disclosing his special experiences at the monthly recollection that had spawned misunderstanding and a crisis of faith among the clergy and the laity.

He is also believed to have blessed the Bishop’s House with the wine symbolising the blood of Christ — seen as an unusual practice. On this, the bishop said he was not averse to a priest undoing the act through a routine blessing followed by the Catholic Church.

He regretted offering Mass at St Lawrence Church in Kochi on October 19 along with the priest of the Protestant Orthodox Church. Catholic priests are barred from conducting Mass with Protestant priests.

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