Updated: June 20, 2020 03:50 AM GMT
Student nun Divya P. John, 21, whose body was found on May 7 in the well of her Basilian convent at Paliekkara in Pathanamthitta district of Kerala. (Photo: Asianetnews.com)
A group of Catholic nuns and priests in India has appealed to church leaders to have an independent inquiry into the death of a novice nun whose body was found in her convent well last month in Kerala state.
The death of Sister Divya P. John was "the latest in the occurrence of such unfortunate events," said a June 18 letter by the group of 95 priests and nuns. It is time the Conference of Religious India (CRI), the national body of Catholic religious, "woke up," the letter said.
The body of the 21-year-old student nun of the Basilian congregation was found on May 7 in the well of its convent at Paliekkara in Pathanamthitta district of the southern state.
Local police initially dismissed it as a case of suicide but Tomin J. Thachankary, additional director general of Kerala's Crime Branch, rejected that explanation and sought further investigation.
"The situation is extremely grave, given the fact" that the top official "has rejected his agency's report that there was no foul play in her death. In this context, we demand an independent and impartial inquiry into the cause of her death," the group said.
They demanded CRI officials and Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Church, conduct an "impartial" and "independent" inquiry to clear the doubts and find the truth.
The Basilian congregation of nuns in Kerala is part of the Syro-Malankara Church.
Even a month after the tragic death, many questions surrounding her death remain unanswered, the group said.
If it was an accident, "why has there been so much negligence that a young girl could fall into the well so easily in the middle of the day?" the letter asked.
They wanted to know the reasons for taking the body to a church-run hospital rather than the nearby government hospital.
If it was a case of a suicide, "who or what has caused it? The possibility of suicide raises more questions about convent life and formation that need to be addressed with a sense of greater urgency," they said.
The situation "is more alarming as it is reported that there have been around 20 such unnatural deaths of nuns over the last 33 years in India. Why do such deaths happen?"
The CRI needs to address the question "in all sincerity and objectivity. Indifference or silence out of fear in such situations would make us accomplices in the crime," the letter said.
….as we enter the last months of 2021, we are asking readers like you to help us keep UCA News free.
For the last 40 years, UCA News has remained the most trusted and independent Catholic news and information service from Asia. Every week, we publish nearly 100 news reports, feature stories, commentaries, podcasts and video broadcasts that are exclusive and in-depth, and developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes.
Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to – South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.
And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters who cover 23 countries in south, southeast, and east Asia. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don’t have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.
With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.