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Indian diocese denies discrimination against elderly couple

The couple was allegedly assaulted by a priest attached to Mangalore diocese during a pastoral visit
Priests in Mangalore diocese attend a meeting on March 20.

Priests in Mangalore diocese attend a meeting on March 20. (Photo: dioceseofmangalore.com)

Published: March 28, 2024 10:35 AM GMT
Updated: March 28, 2024 10:40 AM GMT

A diocesan official in a southern Indian state has denied discriminatory treatment of an elderly Catholic couple after they filed a police complaint against a priest for allegedly manhandling them last month.

Gregory Monteiro and his wife, Philomena Monteiro, have alleged the Catholic community in Mangalore diocese in Karnataka has stopped interacting with them after they filed a police complaint of assault against Father Nelson Olivera on Feb. 29.

The couple has claimed that they were removed from social media groups connected to the diocese.

They have also accused the diocese of shielding the accused priest by exerting pressure on the police to weaken the case.

“It is baseless and there is no truth in their statements. The Church has never asked them to stop coming for the services nor has any parishioner had any problems with them,” Ronald Castelino, public relations officer of Mangalore diocese, told UCA News.

Castelino said that “the matter is under investigation by police and the diocese.”

As far as their removal from social media groups, Castelino said the diocese does not run any social media group nor has “any control over it.”

The diocese had removed Father Olivera from the pastoral ministry temporarily following a quarrel with the elderly couple during a pastoral visit on Feb. 29. 

A video clip showed Father Olivera arguing with the couple and assaulting them.

The couple and the priest had a difference of opinion and the couple reportedly told the priest not to visit them again.

Meanwhile, two other persons -- Robert Rosario and Maurice Mascarenhas -- have alleged that they are facing discrimination for helping the couple file a police complaint

The diocesan official, however, denied the allegation.

Christianity has a strong presence in Mangaluru (formerly Mangalore). It has produced many zealous missionaries for the Church and has provided 41 bishops and 10 archbishops and thousands of priests and religious. Currently, the Indian Church has 29 bishops and three archbishops, hailing from Mangalore diocese.

Christianity arrived in the coastal region with Portuguese missionaries in 1521. Christians make up 1.87 percent of Karnataka’s population of 68.4 million.

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