CSI retreat in Munnar last month comes under a cloud

A retreat organised by the South Kerala diocese of the Church of South India (CSI) at the Christ Church in Munnar last month has come under a cloud after a number of priests who participated in the four-day event tested positive for COVID-19.

There are conflicting reports on the exact number of people who had contracted the disease, with one faction of the CSI claiming that close to 100 priests have tested positive over the past weeks, while the official faction claims that only around 24 of those got the disease.

However, it has been confirmed that two priests have succumbed to COVID-19 since. As of now, six priests are admitted in the Somervell CSI Medical College Hospital at Karakonam, four in the Government Medical College in Thiruvananthapuram and three in other private hospitals, according to the officials of the CSI, while quite a few have recovered. CSI moderator and South Kerala diocese bishop A. Dharmaraj Rasalam is among those who have tested positive.

The retreat was held in Munnar from April 13 to 17. A group photograph of the pastors and church workers at the retreat shows many of them standing close together without masks. Jacob Mathew, secretary of the CSI Trust Association, says that similar meetings and elections scheduled during the same period in the Central Kerala and Cochin dioceses were cancelled after he had written a complaint to the Chief Secretary. "Many of the priests themselves were not keen on attending. There was no space for proper physical distancing in that hall," said Mr. Mathew.

Allegations refuted

However, the official faction of the CSI has sought to portray these as false allegations as part of the internal rifts. T.T. Praveen, CSI South Kerala diocese secretary, refuted the allegations and claimed that the event was announced and held much before the second wave hit.

"We have been organising these annual retreats for our priests for the past 40 years and they all look forward to it. The retreat was held as per unanimous decision of the administrative committee. It held in the church hall with a capacity for 400 people and a makeshift venue outside with capacity for 150. The first batch of 172 priests was there for April 13 and 14 and came back, when the second batch of 160 went. Out of all those who went, only 24 people have tested positive till now. Quite a few priests who did not come for the retreat did test positive as a result of the natural spread being seen around us now. Both the priests who passed away had other serious co-morbidities," said Mr. Praveen.

Government’s view

Replying to a question on the retreat during his daily COVID-19 press briefing, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the government was aware of the incident and had taken a serious view of such events being held during the pandemic.

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Printable version | Jun 16, 2021 3:04:13 AM |

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