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    » 07/30/2009, 00.00

    INDIA

    Priest killed in Karnataka

    Nirmala Carvalho

    The local bishop excludes the possibility that he was killed in a robbery. The priest is remembered as someone who helped people of every faith. The Global Council of Indian Christians wants an official inquiry into anti-Christian violence in Karnataka.
    New Delhi (AsiaNews) – The Syro-Malabar diocese of Belthangady (Karnataka, southern India) is distraught after one of its clergymen, Fr James Mukalel, was assassinated and left naked by the roadside in the village of Thottathady. At present the local bishop, Mgr Lawrence Mukkuzhy, has no clues as to who might have murdered the priest or why, but is certain that robbery was not the motive. The chancellor of the diocese, Fr Tomy Mattom, said that the killing was done in a “systematic way.”

    According to early results in the investigation, Father James, 39, met his death as he was making his way home after conducting a funeral in the village of Thottathady. His naked body was found on the side of a road, his motorcycle lying not far away. For Father Tomy, the body of the dead man showed no mark of injury but there were visible signs of suffocation.

    Father James was originally from the diocese of Tellichery but had moved to Belthangady to carry out his duties.

    “Father James was very much loved by the parishioners and people in this area,” Bishop Mukkuzhy told AsiaNews. “He was a good person, and did not have enemies; a zealous missionary, selflessly serving all people; he was inclusive in his mission, serving people of all faiths and creed,” he said.

    “We just cannot understand why anyone would kill him,’ the bishop said, but “one thing is sure is that this is not a case of robbery.

    The priest probably died around 9 pm last night, and was found around 7 am this morning. After that the body was taken away for a post mortem.

    The Global Council of Indian Christians has called on the Central Bureau of Investigation to launch a full investigation into the murder of Fr James Mukalel as well as into other attacks against Christians in the State of Karnataka.

    Last year when anti-Christian violence broke out in Orissa, similar attacks took place in Karnataka, causing the destruction of 20 churches and chapels.

    On 3 August the diocese of Belthangady will open its missionary congress.

    “The blood of Father James will not have been shed in vain. His blood will serve the Church and the mission in India. We pray God for justice and protection,” the bishop said.

    The diocese of Benthangady has 22,100 members, divided in 45 parishes, out of a total population of 3.25 million people.

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