Staff Correspondent

The glass encasing of the grotto has been broken

Police have tightened security around the church

Katkere (Udupi district): A grotto at the Infant Jesus Church was found vandalised here on Sunday morning. Katkere is about 36 km. from Udupi.

The grotto is located at the entrance of the 12-year-old Catholic church. A seminary called Carmel Ashram also functions within the premises.

Over 175 Catholics from villages such as Kalavar, Katkere and Koteshwar and Catholic students from nearby nursing colleges attend mass at the church regularly. Three candidates are being trained to become priests at the ashram.

Noticed in the morning

Speaking to The Hindu, in-charge of Carmel Ashram Ligoury Crasta said the damage to the grotto was noticed when some devotees went to pray near the grotto at 8.30 a.m. after attending the Sunday mass.

The glass encasing of the grotto was broken and glass pieces were scattered around the place. The statue was also damaged.

“Since another mass was to be held at the church, we were busy and could not immediately inform the police,” he said.

Police investigate

Fr. Crasta said the police came on their own after getting information about the damage at around 11.30 a.m. The damaged statue and the broken glass pieces were taken away for investigation.

“The police asked us to put a new statue in its place. For sometime the new one was kept there but later removed as the encasing was broken,” he said.

Previous attacks

Asked if there were any previous attacks on the church, Fr. Crasta said Sylvester Pereira, serving as Superior at the ashram was beaten up by activists of an alleged Hindu fundamentalist group at Koteshwar village on June 25, 2007.

Trial still on

A trial in this case was still on in a court at Kundapur. Fr. Pereira had since been transferred and was presently at Jaglur near Davangere.

Miscreants damaged two other grottos on September 14, 2008, when there was a spate of attacks on churches in the State.

“This attack is a matter of grave concern to us. I cannot suspect anyone so far. This could be an attempt to disturb communal harmony. We feel insecure as we are being repeatedly targeted,” Fr. Crasta said.

He said ashram students heard some noise at 11.30 p.m. on Saturday.

“We are not sure if it is related to the attack on the grotto. We have filed a complaint at the Kundapur police station,” Fr. Crasta said.

Meanwhile, the police have tightened security around the church. Two police vans and a police jeep were maintaining vigil around its premises.