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Christian organisation chief demands probe into death of Fr Kuriakose

New Delhi: October 22, 2018. (PCP) President of Poor Christian Liberation Movement (PCLM) R L Francis has demanded an inquiry into the mysterious death of Father Kuriakose Kattuthara, a key witness in the rape case against Bishop Franco Mulakkal. Father Kuriakose was found dead in Punjab's Jalandhar today.

In a statement issued here Francis demanded that the government should provide full security to the victimised nun who had made accusations of rape against Bishop Franco Mulakkal and the witness associated with this case.

He said that Father Kuriakose was receiving threats after the nun rape case was exposed involving Bishop Mulakkal of Jalandhar diocese. Recently, there was an attack on him. That has made his death a suspicious matter, he said. Father Kuriakose was a principal of a school.

Father Kuriakose, one of the people who has been vociferously speaking against Bishop Franco Mulakkal and has also given a statement to the police against him in the rape case of a nun, was found dead in St. Mary's Church in Dasuya in Jalandhar.

Father Kuriakose Kattuthara, who was 67 years old, was found dead on Monday morning. The exact cause of his death is not known yet. According to media reports, Father Kuriakose’s family suspects a conspiracy in his death. DySP K Subhash Vaikom said he believes he was in his late 60s.

Father Kuriakose had given a statement against Bishop Franco Mulakkal to the Kerala police in the rape case of a nun from Missionaries of Jesus. His brother, Jose Kattuthara, told Mathrubhumi news that he was suspicious about his brother’s death, and alleged that he had been killed for giving a statement against Bishop Franco Mulakkal.

Earlier, Father Kuriakose had alleged that he was under severe pressure by church officials for his support of the nun who has accused the bishop of rape. In an interview to Mathrubhumi, Fr Kuriakose had said, “The sisters had approached me complaining about Bishop Franco. They did not approach the Kerala police fearing the bishop. In fact, I fear what will happen to me for speaking out against him."

Father Kuriakose, who was a vocational teacher at the Jalandhar diocese, had also taught the survivor nun and the other nuns who protested for justice. SP Harishankar, who is investigating the rape case, confirmed to TNM that Father Kuriakose was a prosecution witness against Bishop Franco in the case.

Father Kuriakose had deposed in the nun rape case in Kerala against Bishop Mulakkal. His sudden death has spread sensation all over Kerala. He was found dead at Jalandhar on Monday. The sixty-year-old Father Kuriakose had deposed against Bishop Mulakkal in the nun rape case.

It may be mentioned that the Bishop was released on bail five days ago by the Kerala High Court. The nuns who supported the victim nun said that the Bishop was politically influential and his coming out of jail could lead to destruction of evidence in this case.

PCLM President R L Francis has demanded probe into the mysterious death of Father Kuriakose Kattuthara and protection to the victim nun, her suporters and witnesses in the case.

Dasuya DSP A R Sharma said that Father Kuriakose lived in the St Paul Church of Dasuya and was found dead on his bed here. Blood pressure tablets were found near his body. The matter is under investigation. However, there was no mark of any injury on the body. No security was given to him, the DSP said.

A nun of Kerala had accused the Bishop Franco Mulakkal of rape and sexual exploitation from 2014 to 2016. When the Bishop was not arrested after lodging the complaint against him, the nun and her supporters resorted to dharna and demonstration. They said that the Bishop was being spared because he is politically influential. Their protests had led to the arrest of the Bishop.

Bishop Mulakkal's arrogance: Meanwhile, the accused Bishop who spent 21 days in the jail said that his release on bail was nothing short of a ‘miracle’. Terming his incarceration as ’21-Day Retreat’ Bishop Franco Mulakkal said the bail he was granted on October 15 by the Kerala High Court was “something like a miracle”.

According to an Indian Express report Bishop Mulakkal has written a letter to other Catholic Church Bishops in India to inform them about the case against him. In the letter written on October 19, he has reportedly claimed: "After two days of interrogation before the police team at Trippunithara (Kerala), it became clear that police had no option but to arrest me due to pressure from the media and the scenario created by the sisters and their supporters at Vanchi Square in front of the high court at Kochi."

He wrote that he spent most of his 21-day time in the jail in prayers, reading the Holy Scriptures, meditation etc. … “It was a time of great blessing and graces” and that he faced no trouble in his cell, he wrote.

Bishop Mulakkal, to the surprise of all, received a rousing welcome and reception from his supporters after he reached Jalandhar soon after he was granted bail. He was arrested on September 21 and was released on bail on October 17.

Sisters shocked: Sister Anupana, a num who had led the protests against Bishop Mulakkal said that they were very shocked to hear the news of Father Kuriakose’s death. “We are very shocked to hear this news. Father Kuriakose has taught me and he was part of our parish as well. He was a crucial witness in our case as he had given statements against Bishop Franco to the police. I haven’t been in touch with him but I had heard from other priests that he had been facing a lot of pressure of late, with many in the church pointing fingers at him. We feel the circumstances of his death are suspicious and may affect our case against Bishop Franco.”

Father Peter, of the Jalandhar diocese, told news media that a few nuns had knocked on Father Kuriakose's door on Monday morning and when he didn't answer, they returned with another pastor from the parish. When they opened the door, they found Father Kuriakose lying on the floor. They rushed him to a government hospital where he was declared dead, Father Peter said.