Idukki: About 480 priests belonging to the Church of South India (CSI) in Kerala have been booked for allegedly violating COVID-19 protocols. The prominent Christian denomination was charged for organising and participating in a retreat at Munnar in the high-range Idukki district last month, police said on Thursday.
Following media reports, the Tahsildar submitted a statement based on which the police registered a case. The reports had stated that the annual retreat had turned into a super spreading event as over 100 priests had been infected and two vicars had succumbed to it.
Recently, a section of the priests and laymen under the church had also lodged a detailed complaint with the government about the alleged pandemic protocol violations in the five-day event, held here from April 13.
Some of them had criticised the church on social media platforms over this, following which the controversial event came to light in the media.
K R Manoj, inspector, Munnar, who is investigating the case, said they are swiftly collecting details about the event now and could comment about anything only after that.
"We have registered a case against 480 priests and the church management based on the statement of the Tahsildar. The investigation is on now. We are trying to elicit details by collecting photographs and videos regarding the event," he told PTI.
They were booked under the Kerala Epidemic Diseases Act (KEDA) and the IPC 269, he said adding that the church authorities seemed to have sought no permission from anyone concerned to hold the event.
"As per media reports, several priests, who participated in the event got infected and two priests had succumbed to it. At present, I can not tell anything. We will investigate all aspects," the officer added.Most of the participants were reportedly from the state capital of Thiruvananthapuram. From there they were taken together to the CSI retreat centre at Munnar, a distance of over 270 km in a bus.
CSI moderator and bishop of South Kerala Diocese, A Dharmaraj Rasalam was also reportedly among those infected.
While some of the infected priests are reportedly under treatment at a church-run hospital near the state capital, others are under home quarantine.
The CSI authorities were unavailable for comment. However, they had earlier claimed that there was no protocol violation in the retreat.
(Based on PTI with minor edits)