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Supreme Court Quashes Probe Into Charismatic Retreat Center

ICC Note: Good news as campaign to slander Christian retreat center is stopped by India’s Supreme Court.

3/13/08 THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, India (UCAN) — People associated with a popular Catholic charismatic retreat center have expressed relief and joy after India’s Supreme Court called an end to a police probe into the center’s activities.

The two-judge bench that announced the decision on March 11 also criticized a lower court for ordering the probe on the basis of an anonymous letter.

Almost exactly two years earlier, on March 10, 2006, the High Court of Kerala asked police to investigate various allegations the anonymous letter leveled against the Divine Retreat Center, based in the southern Indian state.

The letter, as well as two compact discs the court reportedly received, implicated the center in a series of crimes and irregularities including murder, rape, foreign-exchange violations and running an unlicensed hospital.

The indigenous Vincentian Congregation manages what is claimed to be Asia’s largest Catholic charismatic center, to which thousands from all over India flock for weeklong retreats.

Father George Panackal, the center’s director, described the Supreme Court ruling as God’s judgment. “We are very happy, as finally truth has come out” after the center faced “a malicious misinformation campaign” for the past two years, the priest told UCA News. The media campaigns by some “vested interests” to defame the center “pained us,” he added.

The director also said the center cooperated with the police. “But the police could not find out anything substantial about the functioning of the center. So we were forced to approach the Supreme Court,” he explained. Now the verdict “proves we are right in serving the poor and the homeless.”

Several laypeople also welcomed the verdict. “It is a fair judgment,” said Annamma Joseph, who has attended retreats at the center every year since 1992. The 47-year-old Catholic housewife told UCA News the center helps thousands of people spiritually and socially, and “we were all pained when we read the malicious reports.”

Joseph also said she has not seen any inappropriate activity at the center. “But the police investigation put the center under a cloud of suspicion. I know many people who used to attend retreats at the center stopped coming,” she noted.

In her view, God allowed the center to undergo these trials to test it. “Many people were unhappy about the center’s growth and development. Many envied its humanitarian activities,” she added.

Thomas John, a Catholic layman who regularly visits the center, likewise said the court verdict reassured people like him that the allegations and trial were all part of God’s will.

Radhakrishnan Nagesh, a Hindu who lives just three kilometers away from the center, also expressed happiness at the news. He told UCA News he has seen the center serving society in various ways. The Vincentian priests “are supporting more than 2,000 people who have nowhere to go,” Nagesh said, calling this “great service.” He added, “It’s very easy to tarnish an organization’s image.” … [Go To Full Story – ID IB04628.1488]