Indian Catholic News

Newly-erected wooden crosses removed from Kerala's Panchalimedu

St Mary’s church had erected the crosses on revenue land in Panchalimedu near Kuttikkanam during last Good Friday


Church authorities have removed some newly erected wooden crosses from a hilltop in Kerala’s Idukki district in their attempt to end a raging controversy.

Catholics of St. Mary’s parish on June 18 removed the additional cross they erected during the past Easter Week on the hilltop near Kuttikkanam.

The crosses stood on the government land in Panchalimedu and the Church officials took the initiative to remove them following notice from revenue department, media reports said.

However, the church did not remove the 14 concrete crosses erected on the land 65 years ago.

The hill also houses a temple on the same government land for the past several years.

Controversy erupted after Catholics installed two new wooden crosses during the Way of the Cross procession last Good Friday.

Protests began to get media attention after a right-wing Hindu group installed a trident (Trishul) near the cross, protesting against the alleged attempt by the Church to encroach upon revenue land.

Government intervention followed and District Collector served a notice to the church authorities to remove the crosses.

“Both the cross and the temple are now staying on government land, which is estimated to over 50 acres. If the land owned by the government should be reclaimed, both the structures have to be removed,” Idukki RDO M P Vinodh told the Express.

Since the issues are related to believers of two religious communities, action will be taken only after conducting a joint meeting with the temple and the church authorities, he said.

Peermade Tahsildar Josekutty K M said both the newly erected crosses and the tridents are now removed.

A decision on removing the temple, and the crosses installed years has been put on hold, he said.

St Mary’s parish priest Father James said the church had installed the crosses in 1954, when the whole land at Panchalimedu was held by two Catholic families in the high ranges--Kallivayalil and Karimbanal.

“However, when the government passed the Land Reforms Act in 1963, the land was taken over by the Revenue Department. Parishioners have been offering prayers at the crosses on all Good Fridays for the past 65 years,” he said.

“We don’t know how the issue has flared up suddenly,” he said.

The local temple committee’s version is that the controversy was an attempt to destroy communal harmony in the place.

Source: New Indian Express

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