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Catholic priest found hanging in Indian diocese

Father Anil Francis from Sagar diocese in Madhya Pradesh faced a criminal case for sharing a video on strife-torn Manipur
A photograph of Father Anil Francis, 40, of Sagar diocese in central India, whose body was found hanging from a tree in the compound of his bishop's house

A photograph of Father Anil Francis, 40, of Sagar diocese in central India, whose body was found hanging from a tree in the compound of his bishop's house. (Photo: Supplied)

Published: September 15, 2023 11:27 AM GMT
Updated: September 15, 2023 12:13 PM GMT

A Catholic priest in a central Indian diocese, facing a criminal case over sharing a video on strife-torn Manipur, was found hanging from a tree on Sept. 14, church officials said. 

The body of Father Anil Francis, 40, was found a day after he arrived at the bishop's house to attend the two-day retreat, said Father Sabu Puthenpurackal, public relations officer of Sagar diocese.

When he was found missing, a search was carried out and the body was found hanging from a tree, said the Sagar diocesan priest, which functions under the Eastern rite Syro-Malabar Church in Madhya Pradesh state.

Police brought down the body and sent it for a post-mortem.

Puthenpurackal's Sept 15 statement said the diocese is yet to get the autopsy report from the police.

“We do not know what made him take such an extreme step,” said Bishop James Athikalam of Sagar.

“We are still in shock,” the prelate told UCA News on Sept. 15. 

In a suicide note, Francis wanted his body to be cremated instead of buried.

“We respect his last wish,” Athikalam said and added that the body will be handed over to the family for cremation instead of the normal practice of burial 

Francis was ordained a priest in April 2013.

Francis was known for his commitment, observed Father Puthenpurackal.

One of Francis' colleagues said he was under tremendous pressure after police in Madhya Pradesh registered a criminal defamation case against him for sharing a social media post on the strife-torn Manipur state, where ethnic Hindus and Christians are fighting a sectarian battle.

Close to 200 people were killed, more than 50,000 displaced and two Christian women were paraded naked in the violence that began in the north-eastern hilly state on May 3.

"This could not be a reason to take such a step,” a diocesan priest, who did not want to be named, told UCA News.

Madhya Pradesh is ruled by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and is among 11 Indian states that have enacted a draconian anti-conversion law which is often used against Christians and Church-run institutions.

Christians make up a mere 0.29 percent of the 72 million population in Madhya Pradesh and over 80 percent of them are Hindus. The state goes to the polls this year.

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4 Comments on this Story
HYACINTH
JUSTICE SHALL PREVAIL IN THE HOUSE OF GOD. RIP FATHER & STRENGTH TO HIS FAMILY FR THEIR LOSS KARMA IS NEAR FR THOSE WHO SINNED IN THIS GRUESOME ACT OF CRIME
ROSY PEARL
It wouldn't have been a sucide it would have been a murder. People all over India are suffering by the BJP government rule.. Only North side modi n BJP can fool around.. Because most of then do nit not know what's happening.. Definitely gods punishment will be.. And will not be spared... If modi Or BJP loves only hindus.. They should not seek.. Catholic n muslim countries for.. Help.. He should not go n mingle. Country is going worse to worst.. With modi n bjp
SEBASTIAN FERNANDES
Seek a proper justice to Father
JOHN MASCARENHAS
by sharing a social media post of FACT that took place in manipur, how does that become a CRIMINAL DEFAMATION CASE? should the court investigate the police for abetting to his suicide? IT MUST!
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