Supreme Court bars further probes into Divine Retreat Centre
Hindus joined Christians today in welcoming a Supreme Court decision quashing all cases against a Catholic charismatic center in Kerala, southern India. “I know many priests and volunteers at the center. All the allegations against it are wild and based on fantasies,” said Manikian Unnikrishnan, a Hindu who stays near the Divine Retreat Centre, Asia’s largest charismatic prayer center in Muringoor. Unnikrishnan was reacting to a Supreme Court order yesterday instructing Kerala police to end all investigations into the conduct of the center. The Vincentian Congregation manages the center that offers weekly retreats in seven languages attended by more than 12,000 people. It also manages with the help of around 1,200 volunteers several charity homes, including a home for people with AIDS. It has been plagued in recent years by allegations of murder, rape and foreign exchange violations. Unnikrishnan said he knows many priests and volunteers at the center and never believed the allegations. “One was that more than 900 people had died at the center over the past 10 years. That’s not surprising since the center cares for people with HIV/AIDS and other terminal illness,” he explained. Sudha Narayanan, another Hindu, said the court order was right. “I have visited the center many times. The allegations were all false,” she said. Father George Panackal, who directs the center, said the court order means all charges have been dropped. “Finally God has rewarded us for our pain and prayers. It’s a happy moment for all of us,” he said. According to the priest, the continual controversies were hindering the center’s work. “We have lost precious time and resources fighting against the forces of darkness,” he lamented. He also criticized a section of the media for running “motivated campaigns” that “tarnished the center’s image.” Father Panackal also said the controversies had hurt thousands of their admirers all over the world who have offered prayers and support through emails and phone calls. IA13798.1647
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