An annual conference of Church Of South India (CSI) which violated COVID-19 protocol has turned into a superspreading event for the coronavirus. Around 110 priests belonging to the Church of South India (CSI) have been infected with the virus, and two priests have died after they attended the retreat that was held in April. The condition of five others is said to be serious.
Among the infected is CSI moderator and Bishop of South Kerala diocese Rev A Dharmaraj Rasalam. He is currently in home quarantine, Church sources revealed.
As many as 350 priests and deacons from various churches in Thiruvananthapuram attended the meet. The priests who passed away due to COVID-19 are Rev Bijumon (52) and Rev Shine B Raj. While the former was the Vicar of CSI Church Kazhukde in Thiruvananthapuram, the latter was the Vicar of CSI Church Punnakkamugal near Thirumala. Rev Shine B Raj was laid to rest on May 4 whereas Rev Bijumon passed away on April 29, say sources.
The annual event was held at the Munnar CSI retreat centre from April 13 to 17 and was attended by priests and deacons. After they returned home, many priests tested positive for the coronavirus and were under treatment in various hospitals at Thiruvananthapuram. A group of laity members submitted a complaint to the state Chief Secretary demanding action against the church organisers for the violation of COVID-19 protocol.
Speaking to TNM, Shem P Issac who was among those who submitted the complaint to the Chief Secretary, said that CSI moderator and Bishop of South Kerala Diocese Rev A Dharmaraj Rasalam had forced the priests to attend the retreat at Munnar.
"The priests and deacons from Thiruvananthapuram attended the retreat, and most of them are above 60 years old and many are diabetic patients. Some of the priests conveyed their unwillingness to attend the retreat to the Church authorities. But the Church officials threatened them to attend it," he alleged.
"The retreat did not follow any COVID-19 protocol. The priests travelled in a bus from Thiruvananthapuram and did not follow social distancing. They did not use masks or sanitisers in the retreat," Shem P Issac said.
"Many senior priests were under treatment and in critical condition in various hospitals in Thiruvananthapuram. The reality is that there is no action or democracy inside the CSI Church" he added.
However, the Idukki district administration has said that they didn't get any information about the retreat.