Two more Kerala priests who had participated in the Church of South India (CSI) annual retreat at Munnar in Kerala violating Covid-19 norms succumbed to the deadly Chinese virus on Wednesday.
Bino Kumar, the priest of Ambalakkala Parish in Thiruvananthapuram, and Y Devaprasad, priest of West Mount Church were undergoing treatment at Karakonam Medical College Hospital for the past three weeks.
This takes the fatality tally to four out of around 80 priests who were found to be Covid positive after the mass congregation held last month. Rev Bijumon, 52, the vicar of CSI church at Kazhukode near Vattappara and Rev Shine B Raj, 43, the vicar of CSI church at Punnakkamugal near Thirumala had died last week battling the Covid-19 virus.
The condition of many other priests who are currently undergoing treatment is said to be critical.
Details of the investigation
The news of 450 priests participating in the annual church retreat conducted in Munnar in April amidst the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic came as a shock.
An investigation is on to probe the matter with the Idukki District Collector on Wednesday handing over the investigation report of the Devikulam sub-collector to the government.
The investigation report stated that the CSI church organised the gathering despite knowing that it was in violation of the Covid norms. The report also recommended stern action against offenders.
The blame game
The annual retreat is an annual conference of priests and community members which was held at the CSI Christ Church in Munnar this year from April 13 to 17 amid the second wave of coronavirus pandemic.
As per a report, Jacob Mathew, secretary of Church of South India Trust Association and member of the Joint Christian Council, alleged that the directions of the government and council were ignored for organising the retreat.
Annual retreats of Central Kerala diocese and Kochi diocese were also postponed due to an increase in COVID cases. But the CSI South Kerala held the retreat without informing the state government, he alleged.
Refuting the allegations, TT Praveen, secretary of South Kerala Diocese of CSI, claimed that the infection was not spread from the retreat and blamed ‘vested interest’ for spreading ‘negative campaign’.
He claimed that the retreat was organised as per COVID protocol and also had state government permission. While he admitted that some priests had tested positive for COVID, he maintained that the infection did not spread from the retreat. He claimed that the two priests died because of other illness they were suffering from.