Ceylon bishop resigns under pressure from Canterbury

The Bishop of Kurunegala of the Church of Ceylon has resigned his see following a meeting in London last week with the Archbishop of Canterbury. On 6 January 2015 the Lambeth Palace Press Office announced the Rt. Rev. Shanta Francis had met with his metropolitan, Dr. Welby, “to consider with him the various options for dealing with his position as a bishop who had voluntarily stood down following numerous complaints that he brought his Church and ministry into disrepute. A particular cause of concern was his involvement in unresolved criminal proceedings relating to misappropriated pension funds. Members of his own Diocesan Standing Committee had requested that he should resign, and he agreed to do so.” In 2013 Bishop Francis’ predecessor, the Rt. Rev. Kumara Illangasinghe filed a complaint against the bishop alleging he had unlawfully collected his mother-in-law’s state pension for several years after her death, and had compelled diocesan officials to assist him with the fraud. The bishop had also taken an active role in the political life of Sri Lanka, denouncing calls to investigate the government for human rights abuses. Dr. Welby’s statement noted the pressure brought to bear against the bishop to resign had nothing to do with his politics. “Any suggestion that the Church of Ceylon or Archbishop of Canterbury is seeking to influence the outcome of the forthcoming presidential election is categorically untrue,” the statement said. In an interview with the media in Sri Lanka last week, the bishop said he had resigned after having received death threats from Tamil expatriates who opposed his pro-government stance. “My spiritual fathers told me to stay away from making statement against Tamil Diaspora. However, I cannot act against my conscience. That is why I decided to disclose this to media,” he said.

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