(File pic. of Divya P John - Courtesy: Matters India)
A group of Catholic women in India has urged the national body of major superiors in the country, the Conference of Religious India (CRI), to conduct an independent probe into the mystery behind the death of a novice nun in a Kerala convent more than a month back.
According to sources, the Sisters in Solidarity (SiS) has, in a letter written to the CRI on June 18, 2020, demanded from the Conference to probe into the mystery death of the novice nun Divya P John. In the letter SiS mentioned that many questions surrounding the death of Divya remain unanswered to date.
The body of 21-year-old Divya was found in the well of the Basilian convent at Paliekkara in Pathanamthitta district on May 7. While the Church maintains the death a case of suicide, but some lay leaders have alleged it was a murder, the sources said.
However, the head of Kerala Police Crime Branch on May 21 rejected the findings of his own department’s preliminary probe stating that no foul play was found in the death. Tomin J Thachankary, Additional Director General of Police, who himself is a Catholic, sought several clarifications in the probe team’s report.
This has prompted the Sisters on June 1 to urge Cardinal Baselios Mar Cleemis, head of the Syro-Malankara Church, to conduct an impartial enquiry into Divya’s death.
The group writes that “In these times of growing mistrust, it becomes extremely important that the Church authorities seize the moment and initiate an impartial enquiry which will bring out the facts in a transparent and ethical manner.”
In their letter to the CRI, the women pointed out that Divya’s case was the latest among some 20 unnatural deaths of nuns India reported in the past 33 years.
“Why do such deaths happen? This is a question that the CRI should address in all sincerity and objectivity. Indifference or silence out of fear in such situations would make us accomplices to the crime,” warns the letter signed by eight nuns, seven lay women and two women’s groups. The letter was endorsed by 95 priests and nuns.
The letter says, “It is high time the leadership of the Conference of Religious India woke up to this situation and put in place procedures or practical guidelines so as to prevent such deaths taking place.”
The group stresses the need to address such deaths in a “transparent manner” since at stake are the “credibility of the Church as an institution that has a moral significance and liberative mission in our society.”
They regret the Church’s handling of mysterious deaths of nuns in “non-transparent” manner shrouded in secrecy. It has brought religious life under much scrutiny, risking the loss of their credibility in society.
The group also pointed out that the case of Sister Abhaya, whose body was found in another convent well 28 years ago, “continues to be mysteriously unresolved to date.”
According to the women, Divya’s death “is also shrouded in mystery, raising many critical questions about religious life at large.”
The women assert that an independent probe by the CRI has become “imperative so that there are no more “Abhayas” or “Divyas” in our Church and also for safeguarding the integrity of religious life particularly of women religious in this country.”
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