“Church Army:” Archdiocese condemns ‘misleading’ media reports

By Jose Kavi

New Delhi, Nov 7, 2019: The Archdiocese of Tellicherry on November 7 dismissed as fake media reports that it has formed an army to protect Christian faith and ideals.

“The news about the Gabriel Sena (army) is objectionable misrepresentation of facts. It violates the media ethics,” says a press release from the Syro-Malabar archdiocese.

Earlier, newspapers in Kerala said the Syro-Malabar archdiocese formed the Church army with retired military and paramilitary men. One daily remarked that the “sena” formation would add to the woes of the Church in Kerala already embroiled in several scandals.

The press release said the archdiocese decided to form a fellowship of retired soldiers as volunteers to manage traffic and crowds when hundreds of thousands of farmers plan to assemble at Kannur town on December 8 to highlight various problems in the farming sector.

“Farmers from Kannur and Kasaragod districts and independent farmers organizations will take part in the gathering,” it explained.

The archdiocese called off the first meeting of the Gabriel Army of Tellicherry (GATE) planned for November 15 at St Mary’s Auditorium in Thaliparamba, a town in Kannur district.

“We should dedicate ourselves to guard the doors of faith and goodness,” GATE director Father Mathew Assariparampil wrote two weeks ago inviting the volunteers to the Thaliparamba meet.

The priest said the fellowship aims to help the volunteers to grow in individual spirituality and become warriors of goodness. “This is not an organization or a communal fellowship,” the priest clarified in the letter.

Amid widespread criticism over the army plan, the archdiocese said they have abandoned the whole plan.

“The first meeting of the organization scheduled on November 15 has been called off,” said the Sena director.

Father Philip Kaviyil, coordinator of the farmers’ agitation, too agreed the Church does not need an outfit to protect the Catholic faith and sentiments in Kerala. He said the agitation was launched on October 13 with a human chain of around 250,000 farmers from 200 villages.

The controversy revived a distant memory of Christopher Sena organized during the Liberation Struggle in 1957 that toppled the Kerala’s first government formed by a coalition led by the Communists. Kerala had created history then for the democratically elected Communist government in the world.

The state is now ruled by a coalition led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

Kerala had also seen outfits such as the Hanuman Sena and Ayyappa Sena created out of fear that the fate of Hindus in the state was at stake.

However, after uproar over the group’s creation, the church has abandoned the idea of floating Gabriel Sena. The clergy has also expressed resentment over the issue taking a befuddle turn, dragging their members to controversy.

The archdiocese regretted that the media have failed to notice the Church’s efforts to draw the world attention to the plight of farmers.

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