Kochy (Agenzia Fides) - A priest from Kerala, South India, was stabbed to death while he was going to the Kurisumudi pilgrim center in Malayattoor in Ernakulam-Ankamaly Archdiocese today, 1 March. As confirmed to Agenzia Fides by local ecclesial sources, Fr. Xavier Thelakkat, 52, was stabbed with a sharp-edged weapon by the former sacristan of the parish church at the Malayattoor church.
The police have launched a manhunt to trace down the man, named Johnny, who is believed to have holed up in a forest near Malayattoor after committing the crime. The man had been dismissed from services three months ago and, according to the police, he had had an altercation with the priest on February 28th.
Fr. Thelakkat had taken disciplinary action against Johnny over some issues concerning the functioning of the Pilgrim Center of which Fr. Thelakkat had been a rector for seven years. After the altercation, the priest was stabbed in the leg around noon. Although he was rushed to the Little Flower Hospital in Angamally, he died due to the deep wounds and severe blood loss. Fr. Thelakkat was ordained priest on December 27, 1993 and was also a practicing lawyer and a social activist who fought against local mafias.
The church of Malayattoor, located 52 kilometers from Kochi and situated on the homonymous hill, is dedicated to St. Thomas, the apostle who is believed to have prayed at this shrine around 52 AD. It is flocked by thousands of pilgrims throughout the year. The Church is one of the oldest Catholic shrines in the world. In 2004, the Vatican gave it the international pilgrim centre status, the first in India.
According to tradition, St. Thomas visited Kerala in 52 AD. as part of his mission to spread the Word of God. The church falls under the Ernakulam Archdiocese of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. (SD) (Agenzia Fides, 1/3/2018)