09/15/2023, 11.00
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A priest's suicide shakes Madhya Pradesh

by Nirmala Carvalho

Fr. Anil Francis, 40, was found hanged from a tree. In a note, the diocese of Sagar - while not speculating on the motive and offering full cooperation in the investigation - said that he had been denounced for a post on social networks against violence in Manipur. He was the director of a Catholic school in an Indian state at the centre of intimidation against Christians by Hindu fundamentalists for months.

Sagar (AsiaNews) – The Indian Catholic Church is shaken today by the extreme gesture of Fr. Anil Francis, a priest from the diocese of Sagar in Madhya Pradesh, who committed suicide.

The priest - who was 40 years old and the head of St Alphonsa Academy, a primary school in the village of Garhakota - was found hanging yesterday from a tree on the outskirts of Sagar where he had gone the evening before for the monthly meeting of clergy. However, in the morning he had disappeared until the tragic discovery occurred in the afternoon.

With a gift spread by his spokesperson, Fr. Sabu Puthenpurackal, the diocese of Sagar confirmed the news this morning. “The police - reads the statement - are investigating the case and the diocese is cooperating fully”.

But Fr. Puthenpurackal also adds that “Fr. Anil Francis was under tension and pressure due to a complaint filed against him over a post he had shared on social media about violence in Manipur.”

The post in question was simply a protest against the lack of measures by the Indian government to stop the clashes which have continued for months in the north-eastern region and often see the local Christian minority as victims. The image referred to the two raped and humiliated women from Manipur who ended up at the center of a video that went viral in Mother India.

In a context like that of Madhya Pradesh - where the pressure from Hindu fundamentalists against Christians has been particularly harsh in recent times - someone had felt the need to file a complaint against him.

Furthermore, there are also rumors of threats that he received as head of the school. And even in this case we cannot fail to remember that in Madhya Pradesh itself, Catholic schools are the object of a harsh intimidation campaign, which has even seen a threat of arrest for one of its bishops, Msgr. Gerald Almeida, of the diocese of Jabalpur.

The reason for Fr.'s suicide must really be sought in this heavy climate. Anil Francis? In the note, the diocese maintains a prudent attitude, postponing the police investigations and reiterating its collaboration. He also explains that in a note the priest expressed the desire that his body be cremated.

“We are extremely saddened by the death of Fr. Anil Francis, who was known for his commitment to the works that had been entrusted to him and for his dedication to the values he preached," concludes the note from Fr. Puthenpurackal.

"We share the pain of Fr.'s family. Anil Francis and we extend our deepest condolences to them on this occasion. We pray to the Almighty to give them the strength to overcome this heartbreaking moment they are experiencing."


Photo taken from the Matter India website

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