Relatives of Father Kuriakose Kattuthara, a senior Catholic priest who was found dead under mysterious circumstances after issuing a statement against Bishop Franco Mulakkal in the alleged rape of a nun, have claimed that he was harassed by his superior in the days preceding his death. In a complaint filed with the police, they said Bishop Mulakkal had reportedly ordered that the priest's monthly compensation be reduced to Rs 500 and divested him of all powers in retaliation for supporting the nun's charges.
Father Kattuthara was found dead on Monday, months after the nun alleged that Bishop Mulakkal had raped her 13 times between 2014 and 2016 during his visits to a convent in Kerala's Kottayam district. Police said the final post-mortem report will provide some clarity on the clergyman's death. The 54-year-old bishop, who was arrested in the rape case last month, is now out on conditional bail.
"We will accept the body after the post-mortem examination is done. They have taken our requests under consideration, and we are happy with the investigation," said Jose Kurien, a relative.
However, Deputy Superintendent of Police (Dasua) AR Sharma seemed to have his doubts on the matter. "The family members have registered a case of suspected foul play, but it prima facie appears to be a natural death. The victim had been a heart patient for many years, and was on medication," he said.
Bishop Mulakkal had returned to a grand reception in Jalandhar after his release from custody on October 17, with a large number of people turning up to show their support.
The Catholic Church, stung by a number of scandals over the last few months, has asked Father Kattuthara's relatives to not issue statements that would dent the institution's reputation. "It would be better for all, including Jose Kurien, to spend time in prayer instead of making statements. This is not the time to be making statements -- we should be in a state of faith and prayer. I hope he will come and join us in prayer," said Bishop Agnelo Gracias.
Doctors involved in the autopsy said they found no external or internal injuries on Father Kattuthara's body, and the cause of death will be revealed once the visceral report comes out. "The chemical analysis report will take around three months arriving, and the histopathology report will come in a month and a half. Only then will we have complete clarity on the cause of death," said Dr Jaswinder Singh with the Dasua Civil Hospital.
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