Cover-up Suspected in Murder of Priest in India

Arrest of Hindu Nationalist Doesn’t Satisfy Church Officials

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BOMBAY, India, SEPT. 12, 2004 ( The arrest of a member of the nationalist Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party for the Aug. 28 murder of a priest hasn’t satisfied Church officials who suspect a cover-up.

Father Job Chittilappilly, who for 45 years carried out his pastoral work in the Catholic community of the Syro-Malabar rite, was found dead in the residence of Our Lady of Grace Parish, in the Diocese of Trichur, in the state of Kerala.

The priest had been praying the rosary before Mass when he was stabbed to death. «The first time a priest is killed in cold blood in Kerala,» is how Archbishop Jacob Thoomkuzhy of Trichur described it. Nothing was touched or taken from Father Chittilappilly’s residence.

The Missionary Service News Agency reported Friday that the man arrested in the case, Reghu Kamar, 25, has apparently confessed to the crime.

Preliminary investigations indicate that Kamar murdered the priest because he feared Father Chittilappilly would convert Hindus to Christianity.

The suspect also wanted to revive a Hindu temple, next to Our Lady of Grace in Thuruthiparambu, which has been closed for some 20 years.

It is alleged that the temple priest was killed some 25 years ago. Based on a local belief, the temple could be revived only by offering the blood of another priest.

On learning the news of the arrest of Kamar, the parish’s faithful surrounded the police for five hours, shouting slogans and accusing them of «attempting to cover up a conspiracy behind the crime and minimizing the situation by arresting only one individual.»

Bishop Percival Fernandez, secretary-general of India’s episcopal conference, said, «Christians in Kerala have been living in peace and harmony for centuries, and the murder of Father Job is an attempt by misguided people to create communal disharmony.»

The episcopal conference also urged the state government of Kerala to order a Criminal Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the murder.

The murdered priest had received a number of threatening calls, to prevent him from visiting Hindu families, although the latter were pleased to receive him.

Condemning Father Chittilappilly’s murder and the government’s apparent indifference to the case, Archbishop Thoomkuzhy of Trichur, capital of Kerala, told AsiaNews: «We will not stop until the real culprits are found and their motives revealed.»

The Archdiocese of Trichur organized a protest rally Saturday against Father Chittilappilly’s murder and the authorities’ indifference.

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