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Kerala priest's body found in well in suspected suicide

The priest was reportedly depressed after four people were injured in a fire in the parish

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Updated: June 22, 2020 11:18 AM GMT
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Kerala priest's body found in well in suspected suicide

Father George Ettupara was the parish priest of St. Thomas Church in Punnathura village. (Photo: Facebook)

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The body of a Catholic priest was found in a well close to his parish house in India's Kerala state. Officials suspect it to be a case of suicide.

Police fished out the body of 51-year-old Father George Ettupara on June 22, a day after he went missing from Punnathura village in Alappuzha district of the southern state.

He was the parish priest of St. Thomas Church that functions under the Eastern-rite Syro-Malabar Archdiocese of Changanassery.

A search for the priest began after he failed to arrive at the bishop's house at 4pm on June 21 for a meeting scheduled with the bishop. Suspicion grew when calls to his mobile phone received no response.

"The priest had also told the bishop that he might go to his sister's house. But when contacted, we were told that he did not reach there too," said Father Joseph Vaniapurackal, the archdiocese's vicar general.

"We enquired about him in all possible places," and when that failed informed the police, Father Vaniapurackal told UCA News on June 22.

The search continued on the morning of June 22 and searchers stumbled on a small portion of mud from the wall of the well. They summoned fire personnel, who entered the well and found his body there, the priest said.

The priest was depressed following a fire accident in the parish house two weeks ago in which four persons sustained burn injuries, one of them critically, Father Vaniapurackal said.

Workers sustained injuries when the fire spread while they were repairing a shed near the parish house. The fire also reportedly destroyed some documents in the parish house.

"The priest took over the parish only a couple of months ago following his return from the United States, where he had worked for the past five years," the vicar general said.

Father Vaniapurackal suspected it to be a case of suicide. However, he said, the police will establish the cause of death and its circumstances after their probe.

The parish house's door was not locked and the priest's mobile phone was on the table in silent mode. The CCTV in the parish was also turned off, media reports said.

The synod of the Syro-Malabar Church, its highest decision-making body, has expressed its deepest condolences to parishioners and the diocese.

The priest's death comes after a 21-year-student nun's body was found in the well of her convent on May 7. The nun belonged to the convent of the Basilian congregation in Kerala's Pathanamthitta district.

Last week a group of priests and nuns asked church officials to hold an impartial inquiry into the case, saying there have been around 20 such unnatural deaths of nuns in India over the last 33 years.

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