Kerala Nun Rape: Priest Who Testified Against Bishop Found Dead
Father Kuriakose Kattuthara had earlier alleged threats from the Church for speaking against Bishop Mulakkal.
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Father Kuriakose Kattuthara, one of the prime witnesses who had testified against rape accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal, was found dead in Jalandhar on Monday, 22 October.
According to TNM, Father Kuriakose had given a statement against Mulakkal to the Kerala police in the rape case of a nun from Missionaries of Jesus. His fellow brother-priests and family have alleged that he was killed for speaking against Mulakkal.
The cause of death is yet unknown.
“The sisters of the convent school came and knocked on his door but he wasn’t opening the door. Immediately we informed the nearby neighbours and then we broke open the door,” Father Peter told CNN-News18.
Father Kuriakose's family reached Alappuzha police station on Monday to file an FIR.
No Injury Marks Found on Body: Police
No injury marks were found on Father Kuriakose’s body, Dasuya DSP AR Sharma told ANI.
“[It is] difficult to say if it was a murder. There are no injury marks on the body. There was vomit on the bed. We have also recovered blood pressure tablets from the scene. Investigation is on. He wasn’t given any security as we weren't informed of his presence in our area. Post-mortem will be done once the primary investigation is over,” Sharma said.
Priests and Nuns Allege Foul Play
Sister Anupama, who had led the protests against Bishop Franco, told The News Minute (TNM) that the circumstances of his death are suspicious.
“We are very shocked to hear this news. Father Kuriakose has taught me and he was part of our parish as well. He was a crucial witness in our case as he had given statements against Bishop Franco to police. I haven’t been in touch with him but I had heard from other priests that he had been facing a lot of pressure of late, with many in the Church pointing fingers at him. We feel the circumstances of his death are suspicious and may affect our case against Bishop Franco,” said Sister Anupama.
“It’s not about fear. We are sad that who we see today we may not see tomorrow. We don’t fear death but we fear that justice will not be given,” said Sister Anupama.
Elsamma, Father Kuraikose’s sister-in-law, while speaking to The Quint, said that he did suffer from high blood sugar, but the family does not believe that’s the cause of death.
“He called us and told us he was receiving threats to his life. He kept getting calls and other threats apparently. His car was also pelted with stones and his house as well was attacked by unknown people. While we don't know exactly who they were, we suspect they were Bishop Mulakkal's people,” she said.
“The post mortem is being conducted right now. We've never been threatened personally. He was the one who received threats often for speaking out. We want his body returned and want the CM to ensure this is investigated properly,” Elsamma told The Quint.
Father Sebastian, friend of Father Kuriakose and cousin of rape survivor told The Quint that Father Kuriokose was terrified since Mulakkal was out on bail.
“Father Kuraikose was terrified after Mulakkal was out on bail. He used to tell us that his life was under threat. We cannot confirm if his death was related to the case but there is definitely suspicion. When I had talked to him while the interrogation was going on, Father Kuriokose had told me that he is really scared that Franco could harm him,” he told The Quint.
Sister Indulekha Joseph, one of the leaders of the Kerala Catholic Church Reformation movement, while speaking to The Quint said that the death needed to be probed.
“Father Kuriakose's death definitely raises suspicion since there were no medical conditions till yesterday. The matter should be probed,” she told The Quint.
Johny Kattuthara, Father Kuriakose’s cousin, while speaking to CNN-News18 said that Bishop Mulakkal was afraid of him since he knew everything.
“Father Kuriakose knew everything. That is why Bishop was afraid of him. He had explained to me that he was getting threats,” he said.
Scared, But Shall Keep The Fight On: Survivor’s Sister
The survivor’s sister, shocked by Father Kuriakose’s death, said that this was an effort to scare the ones who are speaking out, but she will continue with the fight.
“We all knew him very well. He was our teacher. He was one of the first people we confided in and since he has been part of Jalandhar diocese, he knew Franco was not a good person. He had supported us. My sister used to speak to him at all times and used to get advice from him,” she told The News Minute (TNM).
“He has said many times he has received threats. He was attacked once we heard. The threats got worse after Franco came out on bail. Franco is anyway so powerful there (in Jalandhar) that people are afraid of him,” she added.
“We feel that his death is a message to us to keep quiet and not to take Franco on. We are scared but we will not stop speaking against Franco or fight for justice,” she said.
Jalandhar Diocese, Bishop Mulakkal Express Condolences
The Jalandhar Diocese issued a statement in which Bishop Franco Mulakkal and Bishop Agnelo Gracias expressed sadness over the sudden demise of Father Kuriakose Kattuthara.
Here’s the Full Statement:
“Bishop Franco Mulakkal and Bishop Agnelo Gracias have expressed sadness over the sudden demise of Fr. Kuriakose Kattuthara. He was found dead in his personal room in the morning of 22nd October 2018. He was staying in the priest house of Dasuya, Tanda Deanery, Hoshiarpur District. He was born on 9th July 1957. He was ordained on 29th March 1983. He has served in the Diocese of Jalandhar in various capacities as Parish Priest, Professor, Director, Chaplin to convents etc. He was instrumental in preparing the Punjabi Missal for the locdaal Church. His sudden death has left a big sorrow to the Jalandhar Presbyterium and Religious Men and Women and People of God. Hearty Condolences.”
Father Had Alleged Threats From Church
Father Kuriakose had earlier alleged threats from the Church for speaking against Mulakkal.
“The sisters had approached me complaining about Bishop Franco. They did not approach the Kerala police fearing the bishop. In fact, I fear what will happen to me for speaking out against him,” he had told Matrubhumi News, as quoted by TNM.
Mulakkal was arrested on 21 September after being accused of repeatedly raping and sexually abusing a nun between 2014 and 2016.
As the demands for his arrest grew, the Vatican temporarily relieved him of all pastoral responsibilities as the bishop of the Jalandhar Diocese of the Missionaries of Jesus.
While granting bail, the court had directed him to surrender his passport and not to enter home state Kerala except for appearing before the probe officer once in two weeks.
(With inputs from The News Minute)
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