Kerala: Accused arrested in priest murder case

On Thursday, a 52-year-old Catholic priest and rector of a Christian pilgrim Centre was allegedly stabbed to death by an assistant.

Kerala: Accused arrested in priest murder case
Pic courtesy: ANI

KOCHI: Police on Friday arrested Johny Vattekkadan, the accused in the priest murder case in Kerala's Ernakulam.

On Thursday, a 52-year-old Catholic priest and rector of a Christian pilgrim Centre was allegedly stabbed to death by an assistant, whom he had recently suspended for "misconduct".

Fr Xavier Thelakkatt of the St Thomas International hill shrine 'Kurisumudi' in Malayattoor was attacked by sacristan (one who assists the parish priest) Johnny Vattekkadan with a knife on the footsteps of the hills.

Following the incident, a search was on to nab the assailant, who had fled soon after the incident.

Thelakkatt, who suffered grievous injuries, died while being rushed to a hospital in nearby Angamaly.

A statement by the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church said the priest was attacked while he was climbing down Kurisumudy, a hilltop believed to have footprints of St Thomas, one of the Apostles of Jesus Christ.

Johnny was suspended from the post of sacristan some weeks ago for his alleged misconduct, it said.

The priest had directed Johnny to come for a meeting today to discuss his suspension issue, the statement said.

The body of the priest, handed over to the Church authorities after the autopsy, will be kept in Malayattoor tomorrow for the public to pay their last respects.

The funeral would be held on Saturday, it said. Police said they have launched a manhunt to trace Johnny, who is believed to have holed up in a forest near Malayattoor.

A Church spokesman said the "unfortunate incident" occurred at a time when the priest was overseeing the preparations for the famous Kurisumudy pilgrimage to be commenced later this month.

According to Syrian Christians in Kerala, St Thomas had visited Kurisumudy after landing at Kodungalloor in AD 52.

(With inputs from agencies)

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