By Kirk Petersen
Despite disputed criminal charges against him, the Bishop of South Kerala was elected January 11 to a three-year term as the new Moderator and Primate of the Church of South India (CSI). The Anglican Communion News Service reports that A. Dharmaraj Rasalam succeeds Thomas Oommen, the Bishop of Madhya Kerala, who has served as primate since 2017. Anglican Ink reports that the new moderator was elected unanimously.
The Hindu, an English-language publication in India, reports that Rasalam and others have been accused of “allegedly collecting huge sums of money from medical aspirants after promising admission to Dr. Somerwell Memorial CSI Medical College, Karakkonam.”
The paper subsequently published a “clarification” from CSI asserting that the charges against Rasalam were raised to tarnish his image in advance of the election.
Charges initially were filed in August, and there has been little coverage in the English-language media since then. The New Indian Express reported in August that Rasalam and others allegedly forged certificates to help aspirants gain admission to the medical school. The ACNS has not mentioned the charges, either in the election announcement or in earlier coverage. The CSI English-language website apparently has not been updated for months, and has not reported either Rasalam’s election or the charges against him.
The Church of South India is one of the largest provinces in the Anglican Communion, with a self-reported 4 million members, more than twice the size of the Episcopal Church. The Church of North India adds 1.5 million more members. Both churches are amalgamations of a variety of Christian denominations. But despite the seemingly large numbers, Christians are a tiny minority of less than 3% of the country’s total population of 1.2 billion people, 75% of whom are Hindu.
Rasalam was born in Kalluvettankuzhy, Kerala, in May 1956, and was consecrated as the sixth Bishop of South Kerala in 2011, succeeding Bishop J.W. Gladstone.