The arrest of two Catholic priests by the Bangalore police in connection with the murder of a senior priest at a seminary linked to the Vatican lat year has triggered a controversy within the Catholic church with a section priests alleging a conspiracy to target priests on linguistic lines.
A section of the Kannada speaking priests working under the banner of the Karnataka Kannada Priests Association have sought a CBI probe into the case accusing the police and Home minister K J George of meddling in the matter to target Kannada speaking priests.
The Kannada Priests Association have held a number of protests in Bangalore over the arrest of Father Elias Daniel and Fr William Patrick for the murder of the rector of St Peter’s Pontifical Seminary K J Thomas last year.
The police who arrested two priests for the murder of Fr Thomas, a Keralite, nearly a year after the incident, have said that an internal rivalry over control of assets of the seminaries was the motive behind the murder. Following the arrests the police said that two other priests involved in the case were at large.
The arrests have triggered a controversy within the church over alleged bid to to suppress the group that has been fighting for supremacy of the Kannada language in church services.
The association of Kannada priests sought a CBI probe in the murder stating that the arrested priests were victims of a conspiracy involving the Archbishop, the police and the Karnataka home minister. The Archbishop Bangalore Bernard Moras rejected the allegations made by the Kannada group and visited the two accused priests in prison. He also issued a statement that he had not influenced the state government in the arrests.
“We were as much sad and pained. It is really unfortunate that they are there,” Archbishop Bernard Moras said in a written communique to priests, sisters and brothers in the church after his visit to the prison. “I want the truth to come out in the interest of the Church, the Seminary and the archdiocese. Let the truth prevail and set us free,” he said.
Archbishop Moras stated in his letter that there had been pressure from the family of the dead priest and the seminary’s board of bishops to solve the murder case which has “wide implications, not only on the local church, but also on the universal Church and the community at large.”
“The main purpose of writing this letter is to appeal to all priests concerned to keep calm and to pray earnestly that all involved in the murder are nabbed and punished,’’ the letter to laity said.