CHURCH IN KERALA … Caught on wrong foot, three priests removed from duties after sexual abuse cases raise stink

NEWS CHRISTIANS PRIESTS
KOCHI: The highly venerated church in Kerala faced a new embarrassment as three priests of a prominent denomination were divested of their responsibilities after allegations of sexual misconduct were raised against them. The issue got more serious after one of the woman victims committed suicide and her husband filed a police complaint against one of these priests.

The three are Father Varghese M Vaghese of Meenadom, Father Rony Varghese of Pakkil and Father Varghese Markose of Kooropara. All the three are from the Kottayam Diocese of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. The removal from responsibilities is a temporary step, subject to the outcome of an inquiry that is currently on into these allegations. Rubber-rich expanses of Kottayam in southern Kerala has been the epi-centre of Christianity in the state, though Christians have now been a dominant presence in the commercial hub city of Kochi too.

Another case of sexual abuse had recently hogged headlines and a court case after Bishop Franco Idamulakkal, a Keralite priest at the Jalandhar diocese in Punjab, was accused by a nun of sexually exploiting her.

In 2018, five Christian priests in the state had been arrested for sexual misconduct.

The church in Kerala occupies a prominent space in the history of Christianity in India. It conducted itself in highly laudatory manners, extending services to the laity and people at large in fields like education and health, making Kerala’s social development a big story of success. Christianity helped Kerala’s social growth in immense manners for several decades, and all communities across the social spectrum had benefited from its institutions in the fields of health and education. However, the new generation of priests is known for two major indulgences…namely, sexual misconduct and corruption. The church in the state has huge wealth in terms of real estate etc, and the income is also of a high order.

Christianity, the religion of universal brotherhood, came to India through the shores of Kerala along the Arabian Sea. It started with the arrival of Saint Thomas, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ, at the ancient seaport town of Muziris in AD 52. He is credited with bringing Christianity to India. He founded seven churches in the state after arriving at Malainkara. 

India now has over 6million Christians, as per the last census in 2011. Christians account form 18 per cent of the state’s population, whereas Muslims form a quarter of the state’s population. –IHN-NN


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