Shortly after two other similar cases, a third Catholic priest in India has been found dead from “unnatural” causes.
Fr Xavier Alwin, aged 36, was found on July 1 hanging from the ceiling of his room. He was living next to a school he taught at, which was run by the Tuticorin Diocese in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.
Bishop Stephen Antony Pillai of Tuticorin said that a suicide note was recovered by police which explained that the priest was “frustrated”, but the bishop added that he did not know the reason for the “frustration that led him to take the extreme step.” Speaking to UCA News on July 2, the bishop added: “The police are investigating the case. We will know the reasons after that.”
The bishop explained that a priest visited Fr Alwin’s room after he had failed to turn up for breakfast. “When there was no response, [the priest] used a spare key to open the door and found Father Alwin hanging from the ceiling fan.”
“[Fr Alwin] was very active, kind-hearted and mingled with everyone. People loved him so much,” the bishop said. “It is unbelievable that he took such a step. People who know him wonder what has happened to him.”
The last two weeks also saw the “unnatural” deaths of Fr Yeruva Bala Shoury Reddy and Fr George Ettuparayil.
Fr Shoury, a 50-year-old priest at Kolakalur parish in Andhra Pradesh state, was found hanging in his room on June 20 with a stab wound in his stomach. Guntur diocese said that they believed Fr Shoury had taken his own life and said that a suicide note had been found which “explains the pains of loneliness” the priest had suffered.
However, a message circulating on social media suggested Fr Shoury may have been murdered, claiming that the parish door had been left open and that the priest’s legs were found touching the floor. The message criticised the rush to judge the case a suicide before the police had completed their investigation.
Fr Ettuparayil was found dead inside a well on June 22, shortly after parishioners reported him missing from St Thomas Church near Kottayam, Kerala. A parishioner who helped search for the priest told the Indo-Asian News Service: “His mobile was in the room and we found out that the CCTV was also switched off.”
The popular priest was said to have sought a transfer prior to his death in response to a fire that had previously broken out on church premises. A number of people were injured in the incident, with one person hospitalised, which reportedly left Fr Ettuparayil deeply distressed.
On June 18, a church group appealed for an independent inquiry into the death of a 21-year-old nun, Sr Divya P John, whose body was also recovered from a well near her convent on May 7.
The group said that Tomin J. Thachankary, additional director general of Kerala’s Crime Branch, “rejected his agency’s report that there was no foul play in her death.” They added that Sr Divya was the twentieth nun to have been found dead inside a well in Kerala over the last thirty-three years and that it was high time that the church authorities “woke up” to the problem.