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Four more priests charged in murder of seminary rector in India

Victim's family demands laicization of accused clergy

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Four more priests charged in murder of seminary rector in India
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Police in southern India have accused four more priests in the murder of a major seminary rector, while the family of the victim have demanded church officials remove the accused from the priesthood.

Police filed additional charges Nov. 27 in a Bangalore court naming seven people including Fathers I. Anthappa, A. Thomas, Anbu John and Chowrappa Selvaraj, said police officer Victor D'Souza, who is coordinating the investigation.

Three lay people also were newly charged in the murder of Father K.J. Thomas, whose body was found inside St. Peter's Pontifical Seminary on April 1, 2013.

"The court will issue nonbailable warrants and they will be arrested soon. But that's the court’s decision. We do not know when," D'Souza told Dec. 2.

Two priests — Fathers Elias Daniel and Father William Patrick and a layperson only named as Peter — were arrested in June 2014. A total of 10 people, including six priests, now stand accused.

According to the police investigation, Father Thomas was killed because of an ethnic rivalry between the Kannada-speaking minority and Tamil-speaking migrant majority. 

The immediate motive for the murder and how the alleged conspirators conceived the crime as beneficial to them was unclear, police said.

D'Souza said police "have a fool-proof case" but declined to elaborate, saying the case was "quite complicated."


Priests not defrocked

Archbishop Bernard Moras of Bangalore told that he "knows nothing" about the progress of the case against the priests and laymen other than what he has read in the media.

"I know from the media that they are named as accused. I do not have any other information," he said.

However the priests are not defrocked or suspended. "We will have to wait" before seeing any canonical action against the accused priests, the prelate said.

"Of course, they continue to be priests, and celebrate Mass," Archbishop Moras said.

The victim's brother K.J. Mathew has written to the papal nuncio to India, Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, and Cardinal Beniamino Stella, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, pleading for them to "laicize" clergy accused in the case.

The letter said the "continued status as priests" of active suspects "is creating great scandal among the people and giving them the undue benefit of doubt."

The letter was released to media Dec. 3

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