Kochi: Italy is apparently not only engaging diplomatically with Kerala over the killing of two Indian fishermen by Italian navy guards, but also working the Catholic channels through the Vatican to secure their release from custody.
Indian Cardinal George Alencherry, who was recently ordained in Rome, has now been dragged into the controversy.
Reports say that Alencherry had appealed to the Kerala government asking it not to "precipitate action". But Father Babu Joseph, Spokesperson, Catholic Bishops Conference of India said Alencherry was misquoted.
"The Cardinal has in no way intervened. We should let it rest at that and let the two governments deal with the situation. The Indian government and other sources are saying that he was misquoted.I think we should move on from this. Misquotation is not exclusive to the Indian media, it can happen anywhere in the world," the reverend said.
Chief Minister Oomen Chandy, meanwhile, refused to be drawn into the controversy surrounding the Cardinal's remark. He said that the Syro Malabar Church had refuted the remark and therefore, he was not going to say anything on the matter.
He added, "The police is seriously questioning the culprits. We will continue to take all action under the IPC. There is a lot of concern about the security of fishermen. We are calling a high level meeting with the Coast Guard and the Navy. We will not let the guilty escape from here."
Opposition leader in Kerala Assembly VS Achuthanandan, however, said that the statement of the Cardinal was condemnable, if he had made such a remark. "If the statement was true, it showed that the Cardinal was with the persons who killed and not with the victims. The Cardinal tried to justify the incident more than the Italian authorities," he said.
Referring to the Cardinal's alleged remark that the Opposition would try to "exploit" the situation, he said it was unexpected that such an "irresponsible statement came from a person like the Cardinal".
Meanwhile, the Syro Malabar Church said that the Cardinal was keen that both India and Italy resolve the matter in a "peaceful and amicable" manner. A spokesman of the church, Father Paul Thelekat, told PTI in Kochi that he had spoken to the Cardinal following the controversy over his reported statement.
With additional information from PTI