Rector-murder case: 86-year old priest gets bail

Rector Father K. J. Thomas was found murdered at St. Peter’s Pontifical Seminary on April 1, 2013.

 

File photo: Father K. J. Thomas

Bangalore: The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday granted anticipatory bail to an 86-year-old Catholic priest, who is among the 12 people the police accused of conspiring and murdering Father K J Thomas, the then rector of St Peter’s Pontifical Seminary almost three years ago.

The single judge bench of Justice A. V. Chandrashekar, that granted anticipatory bail to Father I Anthappa, said the decision considers the age and health of the applicant, and asked him to cooperate with police investigation.

The court also directed the priest to surrender before the police within 20 days and furnish a bail bond of 200,000 rupees.

The same court also rejected the bail application of Ms Rita Rini, editor of a Kannada journal. She, Father Anthappa and three other priests and two lay men make up the seven people police named in the second charge sheet filed last November.

Almost a year after the murder, police arrested three people—two priests and a layperson—as prime accused in the March 31, 2013 murder that shook the Church in India. Two people accused in the first charge sheet are still absconding.

Besides Father Anthappa and Rini, the seven accused include Fathers A Thomas, Chowrappa Selvaraj, Anbu John and lay people Raphael Raj and Anthony Prasad.

Reports say police had obtained non-bailable warrants to arrest all the seven but did not execute it because of the pending bail applications. The court decision on bail application removes a hurdle in police proceeding with arrests.

Three people—Fathers Elias Daniel, William Patrick and a lay person Carmel Peter—are already in jail as the prime suspects in the murder case of the 62-year old rector. The priest’s brutally attacked body was found outside his room in the St. Peter’s Pontifical Seminary on April 1, 2013.

Media reports quoting police sources say the murder is linked to a simmering language-based ethnic rivalry in the archdiocese, in which local Kannada-speaking Catholics fight for their supremacy in the affairs of the Church.

Courtesy: UCAN News

Fr. Cedric Prakash, SJ; assigned a new task.

 

Relentless Modi critic, Fr Cedric moves to Beirut

Fr. Cedric Prakash founded PRASHANT, the Jesuit centre for human rights in Ahmedabad in 2001.

TNN | Jan 20, 2016, 08.30 AM IST

 

 

Fr. Cedric Prakash
Fr. Cedric Prakash, SJ;

Ahmedabad: Wednesday will be the last day for human rights and peace activist Fr Cedric Prakash (65) as director of PRASHANT-the Jesuit centre for human rights – which he founded in Ahmedabad in 2001. Fr Cedric, after a 42-year stint in Gujarat, is leaving for Beirut, the largest city in Lebanon, where the middle-east crisis is an unfolding tragedy . He will work among the thousands of internally displaced people.

Since the 2002 Gujarat riots, this Jesuit activist has been a relentless critic of the then chief minister Narendra Modi, over his alleged role in the riots. Even Modi believed that the denial of the US diplomatic visa to him in March 2005 was because of Fr Cedric’s testimony in June 2002 before the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in Washington. He had spearheaded the campaign against Gujarat’s new anticonversion law The Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act 2003, which he later challenged in 2009 in the high court.

In his new mission, Fr Cedric will be coordinating the `universal mission’ of the Jesuit Refugee Fr Cedric Pr Service (JRS) for Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Palestine, Israel, Sudan and Chad. His work involves ensuring that refugees are accorded the rights guaranteed by the 1951 Geneva Convention.

“Our fight here in Gujarat is not over. We will fight for the values enshrined in our Constitution and will carry on the struggle for the marginalized and victims of violence,” sa id Fr Cedric whose institu tion Prashant has been a crucible for activism.

Fr Prakash has been the re cipient of se veral natio nal and in ternational awards which in clude the Kabir Puraskar by the President of India in 1995 for harmony , Chevalier de la Legion Honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honour) by the French President in 2006 for human rights causes as well as the central government’s Minority Rights Award.

It was during his visit to Lebanon in July 2015 that he had finally made up his mind about Beirut.

“In 1974, I was inspired by Pedro Arrupe, a Jesuit who worked among Vietnamese boat refugees. Arrupe founded the JRS.”

On his new mission to JRS Fr Prakash says, “The refugee crisis in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA), especially in the light of ISIS today cannot be seen in isolation of powerful lobbies and other vested interests.There is very little political will. The arms and ammunition industry plays a crucial role in MENA and so do mer cenaries of every hue.”

SAYING “GOOD-BYE!” FOR NOW!!!

-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*

 Today, January 17th 2016 – is being observed as the ‘World Day of Migrants and Refugees’ – it’s an appropriate day, I feel, to share with you a NEW CHAPTER in my life!

 

I am really not sure where to begin! What I want to share – has many different dimensions; it’s like a multi-coloured tapestry – delicately but exquisitely inter-woven into a unique design! The creativity and the dexterity involved can be appreciated and understood – only by those who can watch it’s unfolding from a distance! Somehow, I feel myself in that situation: looking into, about to leap into something I did not even think was possible – some months ago!

 

Fr. Pedro Arrupe is for me and for several of my brother Jesuits and others one of the great Saints of the post-Vatican II period. He was the Superior General of the Society of Jesus from 1965, a time when the Church and the world at large was going through a historical transformation.  I joined the novitiate in Ahmedabad, Gujarat in 1974. About a year later, in December 1975, Fr. Pedro Arrupe presided over the 32nd General Congregation which left a deep impression on the universal Society of Jesus which mandated every Jesuit to the service of faith and the promotion of justice. This thrust became the defining direction for Jesuits all over the world.

 

In keeping with the vision he had for a world which is inclusive and all-embracing which had faith-justice as its cornerstone, Fr. Arrupe launched in November 1980 the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) (www.jrs.net) ‘with the mission to accompany, serve and advocateon behalf of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons’. Ever since the JRS has been responding to the cries of millions of people all over the world!

Jesuit Refugee Service is an international NGO which serves, accompanies and advocates on behalf of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons.

 

 

One of the first Jesuits to work with the JRS from India was Fr. Pierre Ceyrac, someone who has been a great inspiration in my life. He worked in Bangkok, Cambodia and other parts of South-East Asia; Fr. Jose Changanacherry (on demitting office as the Provincial of Gujarat) also went to work with JRS in Africa.  Fr. Varkey Parekkatt (who was also the Provincial of South Asia) also had a stint with JRS in Nepal; listening to their moving testimonies and the fact that Fr. Arrupe has always been my hero, I always dreamt that I would one day at least “spend a little time with JRS”.

 

It came rather suddenly and spontaneously, in November 2014.  In a conversation with Fr. Stanny Fernandes, the Director of JRS, South Asia expressed this desire. A young Jesuit Priest Fr. Prem Kumar had been abducted by some Taliban outfit in Afghanistan and all efforts were being made to secure his release. My thoughts at that time was to serve for a couple of weeks or a month in Afghanistan, Nepal or elsewhere. Little did I realise that in a skype conversation later that evening with my friend Fr. Peter Balleis (the Director of JRS International) that Fr. Stanny would tell him of this desire.  There were immediate communications from Fr. Peter literally asking as to when I would be ready to join the JRS; well, my response at that time was “it’s only for a short time and we will see”.

 

Early in April, I made my annual Spiritual Exercises (retreat) in the Jesuit residence of Gandhinagar. It was a troubling retreat with my thoughts constantly going back to the JRS. On Good Friday, there was this urge as never before to say “yes” and on Holy Saturday, I wrote to Fr. Peter Balleis that I think I hear the Lord calling me to serve in JRS.  Peter’s immediate response was “come immediately. We are waiting for you”.

 

In May 2015, I had to go to Rome to speak at the Caritas Internationalis Assembly. I had some prolonged meetings with Fr. Peter and some others concerned there. They were certainly keen on me joining JRS as soon as possible and offered me some possibilities; the topmost, one being to work in the Middle East. I agreed to going to Beirut for a few days in July to see things for myself. My visit there was extremely positive but after the stay, I still felt that I needed more time to reflect and pray over things.

 

On my return to India I went through a long but difficult process of Ignatian discernment.  During this process of discernment, I must have put down at least a hundred reasons why I should continue to be where I am and particularly in Gujarat. On the other side, there seemed to be just one voice saying to me to “let go” and to “let God”.

 

In the early hours of August 22nd, the Feast of the Queenship of Mary I finally said “yes” totally, willingly and cheerfully to go and to work in the Lebanon. It was certainly an important decision in my life, a very difficult one in every sense of the word.

 

I have been assigned the responsibility of doing Advocacy work with JRS in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA). I will be based in Beirut, Lebanon and while this responsibility is for the next two or three years, it is in fact open ended. My responsibilities sounded to me are challenging indeed!

 

I enjoyed being here in Gujarat and particularly for the last fourteen years working on issues related to human rights, justice and peace.  Ever since friends and colleagues heart of my imminent departure, there has been no end of visits, phone calls, emails and messages. I truly value and feel good with all the appreciative things being said.  Many have expressed feelings that I will be missed.  I too will miss each one of you….!

 

Many also say how ‘shocked and surprised’ they are about my going wondering whether it was an overnight decision. Well it was not! It was kept under-wraps: very few knowing about it till very recently.  Above all, no one is forcing me to go away…!

 

I humbly request your prayers for me, for my new responsibility and very particularly for those whom I have been called to serve.

 

I promise to be in touch and till we meet again, its “aavjo” (see you again) as we say in Gujarati!

 

With my love and prayers,

 

 

Fr. Cedric Prakash sj

20th January, 2016

 

 

Church leaders debunk Hindu group’s claims;

World Hindu council says it converted thousands of Christians and Muslims in the past 10 years.

 

An Indian participates in an alleged conversion ritual of some 200 Christians into Hinduism, at Aranai village in Valsad district, Gujarat state. (Photo by STR/AFP)

New Delhi: Church leaders in India want the government to investigate claims that a Hindu group converted 500,000 Christians and 250,000 Muslims to Hinduism in the past 10 years.

Pravin Togadia, leader of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (world Hindu council), recently claimed the conversions were part of his organization’s ghar wapsi (homecoming) campaign, aimed at claiming back Hindus who became Christians and Muslims.

The claim raises “serious questions” about the implementation of laws framed to stop forced conversions in the country, said Father Gyanprakash Topno, spokesman of the Indian Catholic bishops’ conference.

Father Topno said he was “not convinced” of the numbers but, he did say that the group has been engaged in converting Christians, particularly in the tribal areas of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh states.

This shows that “anti-conversion laws are selectively executed against religious minorities,” Father Topno said.

He wants the Indian government to investigate the group’s claim and take action if they are found to be violating the law.

Several Indian states have passed laws banning religious conversion through threat, fraud or inducement — a crime punishable with imprisonment. Christian leaders said the law aims at checking the church’s activities in health care and education, which can be interpreted as inducement.

Cardinal Telesphore Toppo of Ranchi, based in the capital of Jharkhand, has dismissed the Hindu group’s claims. “It is mere propaganda. I don’t believe in these (numbers),” he told ucanews.com.

“Even if some such conversions take place, they are not real” as they are done under threat and social boycotts, the cardinal said.

Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal, in the Madhya Pradesh state capital, said the Hindu council’s claims are part of a motivated public campaign to rouse religious sentiments for political gains.

“Those publically claiming of converting people should be punished as per the anti-conversion laws in the country,” he said.

Archbishop Victor Henry Thakur of Raipur in Chhattisgarh told ucanews.com that no Christians have left their religion and that this was just a false claim by the group.

“They cannot outdo our good work done among the poor and the needy. Therefore they want to tarnish our image and show our work in poor light. These false claims are also part of that attempt,” he said.

It is an irony that the government takes no action to a public claim made of converting thousands of people through intimidating campaigns, he said.

Source: UCAN

GOVANDI CHILD ABUSE CASE: CHURCH OPENS PROBE AGAINST PRIEST;

Archdiocese of Bombay.jpg 2

The Catholic community will be paying close attention to the legal and ecclesiastic proceedings—this is the first case to come to light after the Catholic Bishop Conference of India (CBCI) set a protocol to deal with child sexual abuse by the clergy, that was then approved by the Vatican.

The Shivaji Nagar police arrested Fr Lawrence Johnson on Nov 27 for allegedly abusing a 13-year-old boy at a church. Johnson, now in judicial custody, was arrested under Section 377 (Unnatural sex) and several sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.

“The charges are grave and we have taken the allegations seriously,” said Fr Nigel Barrett, spokesperson for the Archdiocese. As per the recently formulated protocol, the three-member committee appointed by the diocese will conduct a thorough investigation and submit a report to the cardinal. That report will be sent onward to Rome, and if the Vatican decides there is due cause, another line of investigation may be ordered. Based on final findings, the accused could be suspended or defrocked.

“The cardinal set up the investigation committee even before the priest was taken into custody,” said Barrett. The church’s investigation will only rule on Johnson’s fitness as a spiritual leader, and it will in no way interfere with the criminal proceedings. Johnson has served in the clergy for 15 years, at four churches in the city.

The Catholic community’s heightened interest in what transpires has much to do with His Holiness Pope Francis, who been very vocal about not sweeping sexual abuse under the vestaments. “Pope Francis has clearly outlined a zero tolerance policy towards sex abuse. Hence the Archdiocese of Bombay must follow to ensure that the set call is implemented,” said Dolphy D’souza, former president of Bombay Catholic Sabha. “It has to be handled sensitively and it should also set an example.”

Anil Joseph, another member of the community, also embraced the change, saying, “Such incidents of sexual crimes and paedophilia by priests, not just among the catholic clergy but other religions too, were often brushed under the carpet in the past. The community will not allow this to continue.”

Senior police inspector Balasaheb Jadhav said that the medical examination of the boy has confirmed injury due to sexual assault. “The case is still under investigation. The statement of the boy will be recorded before the magistrate next week. We have sent samples to the Forensic Science Laboratory and are awaiting conclusive reports.”

Indian Church denies rumours it supports Hindu nationalist party: RSS.

Courtesy: Worldwide Monitor; Jan. 7, 2016 by Anto Akkara

“We deplore this deliberate attempt by the RSS to float a false news [story] to give the impression that church leaders were supporting them. Where are the 40 bishops from 11 states?” A C Michael, spokesperson for the United Christian Forum, told World Watch Monitor.

 

 


Indian church leaders have expressed shock and surprise after an article was published claiming dozens of bishops attended the launch of a Christian forum by a Hindu nationalist organisation.

The church leaders dismissed the report as propaganda, saying four bishops attended a Christmas gathering they did not know was an event led by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteer Corps), or RSS.

The RSS is a Hindu nationalist voluntary organisation and the ideological fountainhead of the Hindu nationalism espoused the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, which has a reputation for anti-minority rhetoric, including against India’s Christians, which comprise just 2% of the population.

“A senior RSS Pracharak [official], who is also the ‘Margarshak’ (guide) for the Muslim Rashtriya Manch [a national forum] since its inception, confirmed to ET that efforts are on to reach out to the Christians, and a meeting for the same was held on December 17,” the Economic Timesreported on 4 January.

“On December 17, 4-5 Archbishops, 40-50 Reverend Bishops from across 10 to 12 states met and it was decided to develop a movement. This is preparing the ground to lay the seeds for an organisation,” Indresh Kumar, a member of RSS’ National Executive, told ET.

The article hailed the meeting at the Constitution Club near the Parliament, titled “Christmas Message for Love, Peace and Harmony from Indian Soil”, as “the first such outreach to the clergy made through a Sangh [RSS]-backed initiative.”

“I am surprised by this news report,” Alwan Masih, General Secretary of the Church of North India Synod, told World Watch Monitor.

During the half an hour he spent at the Constitution Club, to which he was invited by a Christian lawyer, Masih said: “Neither did I see any meeting taking place there, nor participate in any such meeting whatsoever as reported in the ET.”

“When I reached there a little later than 5:15 p.m., a group was singing Christmas carols and some six leaders from different faiths, including Bishops, were sitting on the dais,” he said.

“The organisers later called me to the dais and asked me to bring Christmas greetings, which I did, specifically mentioning that Jesus came that we may have life and have it abundantly.” explained Masih, who was accompanied by CNI bishop Warris Masih of Delhi to the “Christmas meet”.

Catholic Archbishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara, head of the Faridadbad diocese of the Syro Malabar church in Kerala, told World Watch Monitor “the news reports have come as a shock to me”.

“I was invited for a Christmas gathering by some Hindu leaders. Since there were several incidents of attacks on churches prior to Christmas last year, I thought it was an occasion to promote harmony and goodwill, and accepted the invitation,” said Bharanikulangara, who attended the “Christmas meet” along with Catholic Bishop Jacob Mar Barnabas of the Syro Malankara Delhi diocese. “But I never knew that our presence would be used for such propaganda.”

Soon after delivering his greetings to the “meet”, Archbishop Bharanikulangara said he rushed out to attend a Christmas get-together hosted by the Catholic Bishops Conference of India the same evening. The annual CBCI Christmas gathering was attended by top church leaders, led by three of the four Cardinals in India, diplomats and other dignitaries, while Rajnath Singh, BJP leader and federal Home Minister of India, was the chief guest.

“We deplore this deliberate attempt by the RSS to float a false news [story] to give the impression that church leaders were supporting them. Where are the 40 bishops from 11 states?” A C Michael, spokesperson for the United Christian Forum, told World Watch Monitor.

Contrary to the RSS claim of 40-50 bishops, just four bishops attended: two Catholic, one Orthodox and one CNI.

“I was stunned by the news,” said Michael, who posted the link to the article to the UCF email group, leading to furious online debate from Christians across the nation.

“This is a political ploy. The RSS is desperate to create an impression that a section of the Christian community is supporting them ahead of state elections,” Michael added, saying that the media had “played into RSS propaganda. They should have checked the veracity of the RSS claim”.

Five states, including the Christian heartland of the southern state of Kerala, will go to the polls in the coming months.

“There is a clear attempt to divide the Christian community. Hence, we all need to be careful,” said Samuel Jayakumar, Delhi-based spokesperson for the National Council of Churches in India, in his response to the online debate.

He added that several Christians who attended the RSS event confirmed to him that they were not aware it was set up by the RSS.

RSS leader Kumar did not respond to World Watch Monitor’s repeated attempts to contact him.

Following the controversy, UCF has called for a national conference on 13 February.

The news of the purported attempt to launch the Christian forum came a day after Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS chief, in his address to a rally of over 100,000 RSS supporters in Pune city, discarded its usual Hindu nationalist and anti-minority rhetoric.

“Accept all the diversities and look at others with affection in all circumstances,” Bhagwat told the crowd. “Consider others in your place. They all are ours. The society gets its power from the social unity. A person behaves when he realises that all are equal”.

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