If you thought all that you would find in a priest’s hands are the Bible and the rosary, think again. In Kerala, some of them sport sleek pistols too.
While the old school says the Cross and compassion are shields for men of the cloth, these priests beg to differ.
In the Christian heartland of Kottayam and Pathanamthitta, a dozen priests have arms licences and many are in the queue. They say they need the gun for personal safety. Preaching peace and non-violence is all very well but self preservation and self defence are equally important.
“What’s wrong in it? Many priests are caretakers of huge wealth and they often stay alone,” said a priest of the Pala diocese.
One priest recently procured a sleek, Belgium-make pistol for Rs 1.5 lakh. Last month, when the police denied a gun licence to a priest of the Kanjirappally diocese, one of the richest in the country, he publicly slammed a section of the Church for working against him.
Some parishioners lament the fad. Priests now have their fingers in every pie — schools, professional colleges, farms and private banking -- and the mounting parish wealth is keeping the shepherd away from the flock.
“If priests run for cover, where will the layman go?” asks Catholic reformist Joseph Pulikunnel. “A priest has to depend on God. If he finds himself unsafe, he's not fit for that job. Jesus never protected himself with arms.” Amen.