KCF asks state& central govts to act
against 3 prelates
Courtesy: http://thefirstmail.in/news/news-details/7780 kfc_asks_state_central_govts_to_act_against_3_prelates Posted On : 27 Nov, 2013 Source : PTI Place : Thrissur
It is learnt that ‘Catholic diplomacy’ might have played a decisive role in the ‘home delivery’ of the two Italian marines the first time and is now engaged in bringing out an amicable end to the contested issue that has affected diplomatic relations between both countries.
It may have been a sheer coincidence that Syro-Malabar Church Major Archbishop Cardinal George Alencherry was in Rome on February 25 when the Italian Government went back on its ambassador’s promise to the Indian Government on the return of the marines for trial. He was there to select the new Pope, but his presence there brought some old memories back—ones that the Catholic Church would prefer to forget.
It was Alencherry, head of Kerala-based Syro-Malabar Church—India’s largest and richest Catholic Church—who had made the controversial statement that he would try his best to “pacify the situation’’. “I am and will remain in close contact with the Catholic ministers of Kerala and I hope that they will help to pacify the situation… I guarantee, in the next few days, my constant involvement with the Indian authorities on the matter,” Agenzia Fides, a Vatican News agency, had quoted him on February 18.
Agenzia Fides subsequently withdrew its report without giving any explanation. However, Alencherry’s words generated a storm and the Indian Catholic establishment was initially at sea to suppress the backlash. After denying Alencherry’s statement outright—though he was on record—the Indian Catholic Church did its best to prove that its loyalty to Rome was “merely spiritual’’.
Despite its best efforts, the interplay of faith and loyalty to Rome in this particular case became more apparent when two Italian priests flew down to Kerala on a secret visit to meet the families of the victims in the first week of March. Details of the visit became public, when one of the family members accidentally blurted out the details to regional media. Strangely, the Indian church feigned ignorance about the visit and even went to the extent of saying that it is common for a Catholic priest to pray for the deceased. Later, it denied any deals being brokered and said that the priests were as a “spiritual exercise.”
The Catholic Bishops Council of India (CBCI), the decision-making body of the Indian Catholics, denies that it has any role to play in the case. “The Indian Catholic Church has no way got involved in this case. How can we, since both the killed and the accused are Catholics? It is wrong to suspect our loyalty just because our spiritual head belongs to Rome,’’ said a senior priest with the CBCI.
Yet, the family of the victims signed an agreement with the Italian government and settled the case for compensation following the visit of the curates. They even wrote a separate legal letter addressed to the Italian Consul General saying they do not want the Italian marines, whom they have addressed as “brothers’’ to be prosecuted. The letter also says that they are forgiving the Italian brothers in the name of Jesus Christ.
A report dated April 30 in an Italian website called Italy Defence, and titled ‘Italian marines to be freed soon’, says that “the situation changed for the better, when Catholic priests arrived in Kerala from Rome, to mediate with the slain fishermen’s families (Both the fishermen belonged to Roman Catholic congregations). Mar George Alencherry, the Cardinal of the Catholic Church in Kerala, also agreed to mediate between the two sides. Finally, on April 24, 2012 the Italian government agreed to pay a compensation of €150,000 to each of the two families and the Indian side agreed to drop all the charges against the marines.’’
Strangely, the Catholic community in Kerala is largely silent on the issue except for some lone voices like the Left-leaning Kerala Catholic Federation, which has urged the Union Government to view Italy’s decision not to send back the two Italian marines “seriously’’. V K Joy, federation general secretary, had alleged that Alencherry and Latin Catholic Church Major Archbishop M Susaipakiam had worked in favour of the Italian marines. The organisation has also demanded that the activities of the Major Archbishop and the Cardinal should be investigated.
The repercussions of this case on Kerala’s political terrain are yet to be seen. The Latin Catholic Community is a traditional solid vote base of Congress, and the Left parties led by the CPI(M) are trying their best to fish in the troubled waters.
The Sunday Standard