Cardinal's remark rakes up fresh controversy

The Enrica Lexie episode has touched off a controversy involving the Catholic church, with an Italian news agency, Agenzia Fides quoting the recently-elected Cardinal George Alancherry of Syro-Malabar Church in Kerala as asking the Indian authorities not to take ‘precipitate action’ in the issue of Italian marines killing two Indian fishermen.

The Italian cargo ship Enrica Lexie from which Indian fishermen were fired upon.

The report filed by the news agency on Tuesday, which subsequently appeared in other news agencies also pointed to Cardinal directing Catholic ministers in India to solve the issue amicably. The report came amid Italy exerting diplomatic pressure on India to save the two marines accused of murder by the Kerala Police. The mishap occurred while the Indian fishing boat was trawling in Indian waters on February 15.

Though the Cardinal issued a statement on Wednesday that he had been misquoted and that the agency has apologised, however, absence of such an apology in the website of the agency has complicated matter more.

Archbishop of Thiruvananthapuram Latin Diocese, Rev Susaipakyam said he did not believe that the Cardinal had actually issued a statement asking Indian authorities to go slow on the issue. However, he noted that the Vatican has no business to intervene in the issue. “Even if the Vatican is interested in intervening in the issue, we won’t yield,” said Susaipakyam. He said the Kerala Latin Catholic church would accept orders from the Pope in issues related to religion and belief. however, the present issue is different and Italy is trying to complicate matters.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said Kerala government would take strong action against culprits who killed Indian fishermen and added that ministers in his cabinet have denied reports that Cardinal Alancherry had tried to influence them in the issue.

Opposition leader in Kerala Assembly V S Achuthanandan said, “If true, the reported statement of Alancherry is deplorable”. Commenting on the reported opinion of Alancherry that Kerala Opposition was trying to politically exploit the issue, he  wondered from where the Cardinal got the idea.  “The Cardinal’s statement proves that he is siding with the killers and not with the aggrieved poor fishermen of Kerala,” Achuthanandan added.

Meanwhile, Fr Paul Thelakkad, spokesperson of Syro-Malabar Church said since Cardinal Alancherry has made it clear that he had been misquoted, “his words need to be believed”. Thelakkad quoted the Cardinal’s statement which says, “The event has to be investigated and if there is a culpable action, it has to be dealt legally, and the culprit has to be punished. Truth and justice have to be established.”

Responding to a volley of questions from the media about the absence of an apology in the agency’s website as said by the Cardinal, Thelakkad said the reporter had personally met Alancherry and tendered his apology.

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