Friday, July 31, 2009

Priest killed in Karnataka

A priest was killed Wednesday in the southern Indian state of Karnataka where Christians have been targeted in violent attacks, the Vatican-based news agency Asianews said Thursday.

The naked body of James Mukalel, 39, was found Thursday morning on a road leading to his parish in the diocese of Belthangady.

According to initial investigations, he was killed while returning to his parish after having conducted a funeral in a neighbouring village.

The bishop of the diocese Lawrence Mukkuzhy did not put forward any theories as to the motive for the killing, but ruled out a straightforward criminal act.

Another diocesan official Tomy Mattom said it looked like an "execution." He said the body had no obvious wounds and initial information led him to believe the priest had been strangled.

An autopsy must be carried out soon to determine the cause of death.

Indian Christian groups have demanded an inquiry into the killing and other attacks on Christians in the region, Asianews said.

Twenty churches and chapels have been destroyed in the past year in Karnataka.

In the eastern state of Orissa last year, thousands of Christians were forced to flee after Hindu mobs burned their houses, churches, orphanages and schools. At least 35 people were killed in the attacks.

Christians account for 2.3 percent of India's billion-plus Hindu majority population.