Priest attacked in robbery attempt

.- About 20 unidentified people attacked a Catholic priest around midnight Nov. 19 and left him for dead in what Church people and police suspect was a robbery.

Fr. Marian Pulichamakil, 62, suffered deep cuts from sharp weapons all over his body and head and was hospitalized in an unconscious state. The front portion of his face was cut and his nose was severed. Fr. Pulichamakil was bleeding profusely and remained unconscious in intensive care even 24 hours later.

The attackers also threw two crude bombs inside the compound of his Little Flower Shanti Kunj (house of peace) Mission in Hansdiha village, 1,300 km east of New Delhi.

Hearing the two blasts, neighbors rushed to the scene, and informed the police and another Franciscan residence 16 km away.

The Franciscan priest, who is a native of Kerala state in southern India, was living among tribal Santal people in a mud house on the compound of a primary school he started three years ago. About 150 poor tribal children, under the age of eight, are housed there.

Fr. Tom Chitto told UCA News that Fr. Pulichamakil's room was "thoroughly ransacked." Recently, he had started building a hostel for boys and raised about 400,000 rupees (US$8,900) for it.

"We suspect the attack was to rob him of the money," Fr. Chitto said, adding that no one is sure if the priest actually kept the money with him.

Local police inspector Rakesh Mohan Sinha told UCA News the attackers disappeared before people gathered. A police search found 50,000 rupees on farmland just outside the house. They suspect it was part of the money the assailants took from the priest but dropped as they fled. He said the police have gathered some evidence and expect to arrest the culprits soon.

"It is unthinkable that a holy man like him, who has been working for the good of the poor people here, could be attacked in such a brutal way," Sinha was quoted as saying.

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