The priest is still in shock and in intensive care suffering from head injuries. Hindu radicals suspected of attack in attempt to publicize today’s visit by Narendra Modi to Coimbatore. The police fail to help the victims. The "Assisi Snehalaya center ", founded by the Franciscans 12 years ago, praised for his service. Card. Gracias: The Catholic Church in India offers the largest health service, after the government, without distinction of race or creed.
Coimbatore (AsiaNews) - A Catholic priest and three lay people were hospitalized after an attack by a group of young people near Coimbatore, an industrial city of Tamil Nadu. The incident occurred on January 28, but the Syro-Malabar diocese of Ramanathapuram only decided to make public the attack and file a complaint yesterday.
The Minister for Rural Development of Tamil Nadu, S.P. Velumani, said the attack has aspects of religious persecution. The young thugs were Hindu radicals who sought to incite and unite the Hindus around the premier Neredra Modi who is on a visit to Coimbatore today.
Diocesan spokesman Fr. Johnson Veeppattuparambil, said that on January 28 a group of 35 young Hindu radicals, beat and wounded Fr. Kannumkuzhy Jose, 49, and three members of the Diocesan Pastoral Council, employees at the "Assisi Snehalaya" (place of love) in Ettimada, 20 km south of Coimbatore.
The group of Hindu radicals had reached Ettimada to investigate the death of a child at the center, which takes care of AIDS patients. The child's death had sparked protests among the local population that the center staff do not take enough care of their patients.
Fr. Kannumkuzhy (see photo), Fr Kannumkuzhy, who is the diocese’s procurator, and the lay people who were identified only as Lijo, Joseph and Stanley, were admitted to K G Hospital on the same day of the attack. The 49-year-old priest continues to be in the intensive care unit. The three other people were discharged on January 31. The priest, who has deep head wounds, is still in intensive care. " He is still unconscious and often cries not to attack him. It will take time for him to recover,” Fr Veeppattuparambil.
The priest and the three lay Ettimada had gone to the police station to witness the death of the child, after allegations ventilated on their carelessness. As they waited in their car outside, they were surrounded by thugs who assaulted them. They fled in their car and were chased up the highway. The four Catholics stopped near a police jeep for help, but the police refused to intervene.
The group of thugs then assaulted the priest and his friends with stones found. They tore the priest’s cassock and punched him. As he fell down they kicked them viciously. “They were made to walk nearly 2.5 kilometers. The attackers asked the Church team to call on their Jesus to protect them”.
The center Assisi Snehalaya was founded by the Conventual Franciscans in 2004 and serves as a center of research and support for AIDS patients.
The priests also claimed that there was no “black mark” on their management of the center for the past 12 years. “Rather the testimony of the people, who visited us, made their sincere impressions in out visitors dairy. It is indeed quite unfortunate to see the evil minds behind this baseless allegations. We still do believe in the truth and time will prove the sincere and selfless efforts of those who are involved in this mission”.
Speaking to AsiaNews, Card. Oswald Gracias, President of the Bishops' Conference of India, condemned the assault on Fr. Kannumkuzhy, reiterating that the Catholic Church will continue to serve selflessly all suffering from AIDS in all centers of its responsibilities, "inspired by the love of compassion" of Jesus.
He also expressed "sadness and sorrow" at the death of the child at Assisi Snehalaya, ensuring the prayer for the family of the deceased.
The cardinal, who is also archbishop of Mumbai, said that "the Catholic Church in India is the second largest healthcare provider in India after the Government of India and has tirelessly served the people through our Apostolate of Health Care without any discrimination of caste and creed and has for tens of decades been selflessly providing health services which are accessible to all. More than 85 per cent of the Catholic Church’s 3000 health-care institutions serve rural populations, with 64 centres caring specifically for advanced AIDS sufferers”.