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Kerala church takes flak for ban on rape victim

A misunderstanding, says parish priest reporter, Thiruvananthapuram

March 8, 2013

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Media in Kerala have accused the Catholic Church of banning the family of a rape victim from Sunday Mass after a parish priest allegedly asked the victim's mother to keep away from services to avoid unnecessary public attention.

Xavier Church in Vijayapuram diocese told the victim three weeks ago not to come for Sunday Mass to avoid the public gaze until the controversial case is settled, said the victim’s mother Eathamma Markose.

The controversy surrounds a complaint by Markose's daughter that she was abducted and raped by 42 people over 40 days while held in captivity in the Idukki district of Kerala in early 1996. The girl was 16 at the time of the alleged incident.

Last month, Markose named PJ Kurien, a Kerala Christian and deputy speaker of the Upper House of the Indian parliament, as one of the attackers of her daughter. It triggered mass protests and national headlines.

On February 3, Markose said the priest dedicated Sunday Mass to her family because they were "struggling for justice."

When she met the priest later to thank him, he told her: "’It is better we avoid Sunday Mass until the issues die down,’" she said.

Her family did not attend masses on the following Sundays, she added.

“We are God-fearing people. We have nothing against the Church. But we are pained to see another controversy," said Markose.

Parish priest Father Xavier Mammottil said that the controversy stems from a misunderstanding.

“We are with the victim’s family and are sympathetic to her cause," he said.

The priest added that he will take legal action against the television channels and media for spreading "false stories to defame the Church.”

Opposition parties have demanded the resignation of Kurien but Congress leaders have defended him, saying three separate police investigations and the Supreme Court in 2007 had cleared his name.

The Kerala High Court in 2005 tried 35 men in the case and convicted only one – a lawyer named Dharmarajan. 

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