Church Defends Arrested Nun and Priests in Pastoral Letter

By Don Sebastian
Daily News & Analysis
November 24, 2008

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Barely a week after the CBI arrested two priests and a nun in the sensational sister Abhaya murder case, the Church responded with a pastoral letter on Sunday. The letter, read out in all churches under the Kottayam archeparchy, sought to come clean in the case that has been plaguing the Knanaya Catholic Church for the past 16 years. It hopes the 'real killers' of sister Abhaya are caught.

Expressing pain over the "unnatural death" of sister Abhaya, the letter said, "Whoever worked behind the death of sister Abhaya should be brought before the law. Whoever it is, the Church is not concerned. It's an obligation we owe to sister Abhaya," the letter, signed by archbishop Mathew Moolekkatt, said.

"The truth is yet to come out. Two priests and a nun, who we believe are innocent, have been arrested," the Church, in its first official reaction to the arrests, said.

The CBI, meanwhile, examined the archeparchy office in Kottayam on Sunday. The central investigating agency, which questioned former archbishop Kuriakose Kunnassery, has sought to interrogate Moolekkatt on Monday. The agency has named father Thomas Kottoor, father Jose Puthrukkayil and sister Sephi as the first, second and third accused respectively, in the case. The trio was remanded to CBI custody by the court on Wednesday.

"The Church never tried to influence anyone in the case. Moreover, it has demanded that those who had influenced the probe should be exposed by the CBI itself," the pastoral letter said.

"Let us pray intensely for them to come out of all the allegations and also bring out the whole truth. They (the accused) are not alone in their trials and tribulations and the Church stands by them," the letter added.

The church has been in the dock ever since sister Abhaya, an inmate of Pius X Convent, was found dead in a well on the premises of the convent on March 27, 1992. The Crime Branch, which investigated the case, submitted before the sub-divisional magistrate's court in Kottayam that it was a case of "suicide by drowning".

The government had to request the service of CBI after the victim's parents and a citizens' group campaigned for justice.

The CBI, which filed three closure reports in the case saying sister Abhaya's death was a homicide that remains "untraced", was again put on the job each time by the court.

The agency got a breakthrough after 16 years with the arrest of the three accused.

The Church hints that the present arrest, spurred by the statement of a youth residing next to the crime of scene, was "mysterious".



Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.