Discord grows in Juhu parish as Father reinstates peon and refuses to register FIR against him for 'stealing' Lent money
The protesters will stand with placards outside St Joseph's Church in Juhu after Sunday mass. Pic/Nimesh Dave
Members of the Juhu Parish Council won't let their parish father forget his act of forgiveness. After mass coming Sunday at the St Joseph's Church, some parishioners are going to protest against Father Joseph Pareira for forgiving the church peon after he stole Rs 66,000 from Lent proceedings, even though he returned the money, sought forgiveness and wrote a letter for the same.
The parishioners are livid that Pareira refuses to lodge an FIR against peon Keshav Ghatad. As per some members of the parish council, Pareira did not lodge an FIR even after a majority of the council voted in favour of it, and instead, reinstated Ghatad.
On May 5, Rs 1.66 lakh was collected as part of Lent proceedings. Ghatad was trusted with the responsibility of depositing it in the church's bank account. He allegedly transferred only Rs 1 lakh and kept the remaining Rs 66,000. At the end of the month, he came forward with the remaining money and apologised to Father Pareira for his act.
Valentine Creado, a member of St Joseph's confraternity, an organisation that has around 180 members of the parish and that looks after the church's activities, said: "After mass, around 11 am, we are going to display our resentment for the church administration. There will be over 50 members standing with placards outside the church." The confraternity collects proceedings from parishioners during Lent.
"When money goes missing, it is the Father who is held responsible. Why was there a delay in it being deposited into the account? It's parishioners' money. The money has been returned now, but why is the head body not lodging an FIR even though the parish council is ready to?" said Creado.
Also joining the protest will be Association of Concerned Catholics (AOCC) members. "The only reason no FIR has been lodged is because the priest is afraid that Keshav may spill the beans on bigger scams," said Melwyn Fernandes, secretary, AOCC.
Vote not taken into account
As per Baldwin Pereira, a member of parish council and executive committee, the council, in the presence of Father Pareira, had even put the matter to a vote in the first week of June. "Everybody raised their hand in favour of lodging an FIR as well as sacking Ghatad, and yet, no FIR has been filed. Father is the sole trustee, he should file it," he said.
'Justice has been done'
When mid-day reached out to Ghatad, he confirmed he had received the money on May 5, and transferred Rs 1 lakh the very next day. "I kept the rest for myself as I had some work. I had told Father about it and even written a letter of apology. I have returned each and every rupee," he said.
Father Pareira said, "The decision to not sack the peon came after consultation with members of the church's executive and finance committees. He has been reinstated but with conditions. How is it robbery if he returned the money? We have solved the problem and justice has been done."
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