Police in southern India's Andhra Pradesh state have begun an investigation into the alleged suicide of a Catholic priest whose wounded body was found hanging inside his parish house.
The body of 50-year-old Father Yeruva Bala Shoury Reddy was found hanging from the ceiling fan of his bedroom in Kolakalur parish in Guntur Diocese on June 20.
Before hanging himself, the priest had tried to kill himself by stabbing himself in his stomach, said diocesan chancellor Father Madhu Balaswamy.
The police recovered a knife from the room and there was an injury to his stomach, he told UCA News on June 23.
Church officials said they believe the priest committed suicide because of depression.
"We feel that he took the extreme step under loneliness or depression, and nobody in the diocese knew about it," Father Balaswamy said.
A suicide note police recovered written in his native Telugu language "explains the pains of loneliness," the priest said.
However, he said, only a police investigation could ascertain the exact reasons for the death.
Some people in the diocese suspect it to be a case of murder. A note circulating on social media said the door of the parish house was open and the priest's legs were touching the floor.
The note also raised suspicions about the rush to project the death as a case of suicide even before a police investigation.
Bishop Bhagaiah Chinnabathini of Guntur has promised full cooperation with the police in the investigation and asked his priests and family members of the deceased to provide all information the police might seek.
Some priests who did not want to be named said Father Reddy had no enemies and was a good pastor, social worker and retreat preacher.
Bishop Chinnabathini led his funeral service with some 50 priests of the diocese, family members and other local people adhering to Covid-19 protocols including social distancing.
Father Reddy had celebrated his priestly jubilee this year, said Father Balaswamy. He stayed at his home for two months during the Covid-lockdown and returned to his parish after the government relaxed lockdown rules and allowed regular Masses to resume on June 8.
His body was first seen by the parish's catechist as he prepared for Sunday Mass. He informed diocesan officials and police.
Police have now sealed the parish house and collected blood samples, a knife and other evidence available from his room.
The body of another Catholic priest, 51-year-old Father George Ettupara, was fished out of a well near his parish in Punnathura village in Kerala state on June 22. He is also suspected of committing suicide following depression.
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