Row Over Retreat Held By CSI South Kerala Diocese After 100 Priests Reportedly Test Covid Positive, Church Denies Claim

A controversy erupted after 100 Church of South India (CSI) priests tested positive of Covid-19 following a retreat in Munnar as India is seeing a second wave. The conference of the CSI Christ Church was held in Munnar in April.

Sabu Stephen, a member of CSI and a social activist had filed a petition the Kerala chief secretary and DGP on April 30 in the matter. The complainant alleged that about 100 turned positive including priests and their family members. One priest is said to have lost his life due to covid.

CSI church authorities have claimed that the numbers are fake and that only 10 people tested positive. They said the retreat was held following Covid guidelines.

The retreat was held from April 13 to 17 at the CSI Christ Church in Munnar by the CSI Church South Kerala Diocese. There was a government order on April 13 which allowed only a maximum of 100 people for indoor programmes.

According to Stephen, “About 100 people including the priests and their family members have tested positive following the retreat. CSI South Kerala Diocese organised the annual retreat, more than 350 people had participated. The community people including me had given warnings not to conduct this now due to covid. But they ignored all these.”

Bishop A Dharmaraj Rassalam, Bishop of CSI south Kerala Diocese said, “These numbers that they are saying is fake. Only about 10 people have tested positive. One death is due to Covid, the other was due to heart attack.”

The bishop added that they followed all covid guidelines and protocol while having the retreat. “Each day 150 or 160 participated. The government rule was that up to 200 people were allowed. We have conducted according to Covid guidelines,” he said.

When it was pointed out to the bishop that the government had passed an order saying only 100 people were allowed for indoor functions, he said that they held the retreat after getting the necessary permission.

The police have said that they have received a complaint and are probing the matter.

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