Protest against transfer of Kureepuzha vicar

The police fired teargas shells and swung batons to disperse a group of parishioners from the Saint Joseph’s Church, Kureepuzha, who tried to break the police cordon and enter the Bishop’s House at Tangasseri in the city on Sunday.

Over 40 people and 15 policemen, including Assistant Commissioner K. Lalji were injured in the commotion. Most of them were admitted to the District Hospital, Kollam. About 50 parishioners, including women, were arrested.

The parishioners said the police action was unprovoked.

The police said they resorted to the use of ‘mild force’ as the protestors tried to violently gatecrash into the Bishop’s House. They also threw stones, the police said. The police fired four rounds of teargas shells.

By 12 noon, over 500 parishioners, including women and children, carrying black flags, marched to the Bishop’s House from Kureepuzha in protest against Kollam Bishop Stanley Roman transferring their vicar Joseph Daniel.

The parishioners’ contention was that the vicar should not be transferred till the construction of their new parish church was over. In November, protests had erupted over the same issue, they said.

The issue was then settled on the assurance that the vicar would not be transferred. The fresh transfer order was in violation of that agreement, they said.

The order was read out at the Sunday mass. Subsequently, the parishioners decided to take out a march to the Bishop’s House.

The police cordoned off the area anticipating tension. The parishioners made several attempts to breach the cordon and rush into the campus. The police resisted without using force. Then, the protesters squatted on the road and raised slogans against the Bishop and the transfer order.

As there was no initiative on part of the Bishop to initiate talks, even after 45 minutes of protest, the parishioners started venting their ire on the police. Mr. Lalji got in touch with the Bishop’s House authorities and urged them to hold talks.

Bishop’s House spokesperson George Ribeiro said transferring vicars and priests under the Catholic Church was the prerogative of the Bishop and Fr. Daniel was transferred as part of a general transfer procedure. Fr. Daniel himself had explained it to the parishioners but they were not prepared to listen.

He said it was unfortunate that a group of parishioners resorted to violence after misreading a routine diocesan procedure.

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