Cardinal Alancherry shares grief over death of Kerala fishermen

Published 05 March 2012  |  
Cardinal Mar George Alancherry, on his return to India on Saturday, said he grieved the death of the two Indian fishermen who were allegedly gunned down by members of an Italian ship in Kerala last month.

The archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church was caught in a controversy after he was quoted wrongly by a news agency following the incident on February 15.

In an interview to Agenzia Fides, the Vatican's official news agency, Cardinal Alancherry said the Kerala government should not "precipitate action" against the Italian marines and informed he will remain in close contact with the Catholic ministers of Kerala to pacify the situation.

After much furore was created over his statement, Fr Paul Thelakat, spokesperson of the Syro-Malabar Church, clarified to reporters that the cardinal wanted an amicable settlement as he was apprehensive about how the incident would affect Indians in Italy and those working on Italian ships.

"The cardinal told me he did not speak to any minister on the issue nor did he intend to meddle in the legal course of action," Fr Thelakat said.

On his return, while fielding questions from reporters, Alancherry, who was recently made a cardinal at a ceremony by Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican, said he did not wish to continue with controversies generated over his statement.

The news agency that had published the report also posted a clarification by Cardinal Alancherry that stated: "What I said the other day parenthetically was that this event shall not become a cause for conflicts and enmity in the communities and between nations. I have no intention of taking a mediatory role in the settling of this matter."

The two Italian marines, Latorre Massimillano and Salvatore Girone, on board the Enrica Lexie, have been arrested for shooting dead the two Indian fishermen after mistaking them to be pirates.

The two slain persons, Jelastine and Ajesh Binki, belonged to the Latin Catholic Church.

Italy said the accused were shooting into the water and should be tried under Italian law as they were sailing in international waters at the time when this unfortunate incident occurred.

Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Steffan de Mistura, who flew down to New Delhi on February 22, apologised over the incident to his Indian counterpart Preneet Kaur.

A magistrate court in Kollam, Kerala will today decide whether the two Italian navy personnel should be sent to jail as their police custody ends today.

Media reported that Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy has ruled out the possibility of any out of court settlement in the case which has led to a diplomatic faceoff between India and Italy.

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