Mystery surrounds the death of Father Santosh Chepathini on a railway track in Andhra Pradesh
A senior Catholic priest found on a railway track with his throat cut in Andhra Pradesh state in southern India was buried in his home parish on Dec. 12 even as mystery shrouds his death.
The body of 62-year-old Father Santosh Chepathini, priest of Chintakani Parish in Khammam Diocese in Telangana state in southern India, was found close to Vijaywada railway station in Andhra Pradesh early on Dec. 10 by a railway patrol team.
No identifying documents were found, according to a railway official, but a photo of the priest’s bloodstained body was circulated among police and officers from his parish identified Father Chepathini.
Diocesan officials confirmed his identity and received his body after completing legal formalities including a post-mortem examination on Dec. 11, said an official who did not want to be identified.
“The body was found 500 meters away from the railway station,” added the official.
Diocesan officials were not sure if it was a case of suicide or murder as his death seemed to have been caused by a deep cut on his throat.
“We do not know if it is a suicide or murder,” Father T. Showry, vicar general of Khammam Diocese, told UCA New on Dec. 12.
“We are shocked. The priest was in the diocese on Dec. 9 and was under tremendous depression.”
Father Chepathini had taken leave from his ministry on account of his depression, but “we could not believe he would take his life,” Father Showry said.
A senior priest on condition of anonymity told UCA News that the deceased priest had collected more than 7 million rupees (US$95,000) from many people to provide houses, but he lost the entire amount when someone cheated him.
It might have been a reason for him to take such an extreme step as suicide as he was unable to pay back the sum, the priest added.
Father Showry said the diocese had no details of how much money Father Chepathini had collected and who cheated him.
“Yes, it is true that such information recently reached the diocese but we have not gone for any kind of inquiry as no one connected with it approached diocesan officials,” he added.
The diocese, is waiting for the autopsy report to find out the cause of the priest’s death.
“If someone jumps before a train, no doubt the body will have several injuries,” said Father Showry, adding that in this case only the throat was cut.
The deaths of other Indian priests and a nun have raised questions.
On July 1, Father Xavier Alwin, 36, was found hanging from the ceiling fan of his residence in Tuticorin Diocese in southern India’s Tamil Nadu state.
On June 22, the body of another priest, 51-year-old Father George Ettupara, was fished out of a well near his parish in Punnathura village in Kerala state. He is suspected of committing suicide following depression.
On June 20, the body of 50-year-old Father Yeruva Bala Shoury Reddy was found hanging from the ceiling fan of his bedroom in Kolakalur parish in Guntur Diocese of Andhra Pradesh state.
A 21-year-old student nun’s body was found in the well of her convent on May 7. The nun belonged to the convent of the Basilian congregation in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district.
Last year on Oct. 11, Father Mahesh D’Souza, 36, of Udupi Diocese in Karnataka state, was found hanging from a ceiling fan in his room. He was a parish priest and principal of a diocese-run school.