Fishermen killing : Italian ‘missionaries’ visit victim’s kin

published on April 5, 2012

Two Catholic priests from Italy the other day visited the relatives of one of the two fishermen killed in firing from aboard Italian oil tanker Enrica Lexie on February 15 as part of the efforts to get the two arrested Italian Marines and the ship from which the fishermen were shot at released.

The “missionaries” came to Kollam, native place of Valentine alias Jelestine, one of the two victims, after efforts by Italian Ministers for Defence and External Affairs, diplomats and other officials to meet his relatives failed. But the priests too failed in getting any assurance from the victim’s kin.

According to local residents of Muthakkara, Jelestine’s native village in Kollam district, the priests’ mission was to talk to his widow Dora Valentine and relatives with the help of the Kollam diocese of the Latin Catholic Church. However, these attempts also failed to be fruitful, according to reports.

Italian Marines Latore Massimiliano and Salvatore Girone, arrested on February 19 for shooting to death fishermen Jelestine and Ajesh Binku of Kanyakumari from aboard Enrica Lexie, are in judicial custody in a Thiruvananthapuram prison. Enrica Lexie has been in detention since February 17 at the Kochi port.

According to local people, the main aim of the Italian “missionaries” was to make the victim’s family agree to a settlement formula on compensation so that the ship in detention could be released from Kochi. It is said that the priests had asked Dora to think of the 23 employees of the ship, their job, families and their future when she was fighting a court case over compensation.

On Tuesday, a division bench of the High Court had refused permission for the ship to leave Kochi and asked the owners to approach the concerned court in Kollam. The ship-owners are now planning to approach the Supreme Court.

However, Dora Valentine denied reports about the priests having any talk with her or her relatives but she admitted that they had visited her home. “They came here and held a prayer at the house and at (Jelestine’s) grave… They had not talked anything about the compensation or the case,” she told the media.

A spokesperson for Kollam diocese said nobody from Italy had approached them with any request to intervene in their favour in the matter. He also said that no external forces or individuals could persuade the church to do anything against the law of the land. Kerala Minister Shibu Baby John said the Government had no information about any mission by the priests.

Immediately after his installation as Cardinal on February 18, Mar George Alencherry, Major Archbishop of the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese of the Syro-Malabar Church, had given an interview to a Roman news agency in which he said that the Kerala Government should not act against the Italians in haste in the fishermen-killing case. He later denied this.

Italy’s Defence Minister Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola and Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi, who had visited Kerala, had tried to meet Dora Valentine and her relatives in Kollam but the Kerala authorities had not given them permission for this. Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Stefan de Mistura also had made several such attempts unsuccessfully.

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