Cardinal urges caution in India-Italy row

February 22, 2012 by  
Filed under Persecution

Cardinal-George-AlencherryVatican City, February 22, 2012: Cardinal George Alencherry urged the Kerala government not to precipitate in the controversy.

India’s new cardinal has urged the Kerala government not to precipitate in the controversy over the killing of fishermen by Italian mariners.

“I immediately contacted the Catholic ministers to ask the Kerala government not to take precipitate action,” Cardinal George Alencherry, major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, yesterday told Fides news agency in Rome.

The cardinal also urged Kerala’s opposition parties not to exploit the situation. “It seems that the opposition wants to manipulate the situation for political motives by talking about Western powers and the drive for American domination,” the news agency quoted the cardinal as saying.

The congress party led by Italian-born Sonia Gandhi heads Kerala’s ruling United Democratic Front. The opposition Left Democratic Front is led by the Communist Party of India’s Marxist faction.

The cardinal’s comments came a day after a magistrate in Karunagapally near Kollam remanded in custody for two weeks the two guards of an Italian oil tanker accused of killing the fishermen on February 15. She has also allowed the police three days to question marines Latorre Massimillaino and Salvatore Girone.

The police arrested them on Sunday triggering a diplomatic row between India and Italy.

Italy wants the mariners released on bail arguing that they shot the fishermen mistaking them for pirates in international waters. The Indian side says the shooting of the unarmed fishermen took place in Indian waters.

Cardinal Alencherry said he would give the controversy his “constant attention” in coming days. He was in Rome along with 21 other prelates to receive the cardinal’s red hat from the Pope on Saturday.

Federal Minister of State for Agriculture K. V. Thomas, a Catholic from Kerala, had accompanied the cardinal.

The Kerala Church leader said the minister is a “man of great moral stature and significant influence, both in the local and in the central government, who has assured me of his maximum effort.

Italy has sought diplomatic immunity for the pair who was part of a six-member naval security team on board the MV Enrica Lexie tanker.

“Italians want the prosecution and investigation done according to UN rules and not per Indian laws. But we maintain the killings happened within Indian waters. Now only the court will have the final word,” said P. Chandrasekhran, additional director general of police.

According to an Italian Foreign Ministry press release, the presence of armed guards on board the ship was permissible under Italian law and in line with UN resolutions.

Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi reportedly said there are “considerable differences” with India over the killing of the fishermen.

– deccan herald / ucan

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