Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Fr. Augustine Vallooran on Investigations at Divine Retreat Centre

Truth In The Recent Happenings At Divine

Fr. Augustine Vallooran V.C.
Director - English & Other Language Retreats, Divine Retreat Centre

Recently, Divine Retreat Centre has been subjected to allegations perpetuated by certain communal forces that have been regularly handing out false news and claims against us to the mass media. I would like to share with everyone who loves us, the truth of what has actually been happening in Divine recently.

On 10 March 2006, the Honourable High Court of Kerala, upon receiving an anonymous letter and 2 CDs containing false allegations against Divine Retreat Centre, took up the case suo motu (on its own initiative) and ordered an inquiry into the affairs of our Retreat Centre. A Special Investigation Team headed by the IG of Police, Winson M. Paul, was formed to find out whether there was any truth in these allegations. We, at Divine Retreat Centre, had wholeheartedly welcomed this investigation and have been giving it our full cooperation. However, it is our firm belief that after carrying out the police investigation for so many months and spending a very huge amount of public money, the Investigation team could not find anything in Divine that was in violation of any laws or justice. Yet, certain things have been happening recently which have made us question whether Divine is being subjected to a violation of our basic rights as citizens of India - where everyone is guaranteed true and unbiased justice.

The humiliating manner in which the police investigation was carried out in the Charitable Homes of Divine Retreat Centre on 30 September and 1 October 2006 seem to strongly indicate that it is in the interest of the Investigation team to find out something incriminating against Divine Retreat Centre. In fact, the High Court had only given the directive to the Special Investigation team to submit a report after the Police inquiry to ascertain if there was any truth in the original allegations made. (Rev. Fr. George Panackal's March 2006 comments in accompanying mail).

Nobody comes to Divine Retreat Centre for medical treatment and we do not run illegal hospitals here. Divine is primarily a Centre of Prayer. Millions of people have come here to have a spiritual experience and get solace for all the problems they face in their lives. We have many volunteers who choose to stay on to serve in Divine Retreat Centre because of the joy of their spiritual experience. However, there are those who come to Divine who have severe alcoholic problems and need to be in a treatment centre. These people are admitted to our De-Addiction Centre. Likewise, Divine runs Care Centres and Homes for AIDS patients, mentally challenged people, abandoned women and their children and terminally ill and elderly people.

We have nothing to hide. We are committed in serving the poor and the needy people irrespective of caste and religion - especially those who are ostracized by their families and societies and who have no other place to live in dignity. Divine Retreat Centre manages a Care Centre for Mentally Challenged people and a Treatment Centre for Alcoholics with federal government recognition. Our Retreat Centre's Emergency Dispensary cares for some of the thousands of people who attend our retreats every week that are held in English and in six Indian languages.

In the past few weeks, after the latest police investigation activity, wrong reports have been published in many major media sources. One allegation is that that there are no qualified medical personnel in Divine Retreat Centre. I would like to reassure all our friends and benefactors of Divine that this is certainly not true. There is 1 resident medical officer, 4 clinical psychiatrists, 1 general physician, 1 Homeopathy doctor, 2 Ayurvedic doctors, registered pharmacists and several qualified nurses serving at the Care Centres and Homes run by our Retreat Centre. Despite our best efforts, the investigating authorities were unwilling to listen to our explanations or to look at any of the available documents.

Many of our mentally challenged residents, AIDS patients and recovering addicts are unable to personally ensure taking the correct amount of medication that are prescribed to them by qualified doctors from surrounding hospitals, Thus, we have undertaken this important care initiative to provide them with the correct daily dosage.

There was no justifiable cause for the rough and insensitive behaviour of the Police Investigation team against the more than 1,000 residents of our Care Centres and Homes. Their basic human rights were violated and they did not get the fair justice that they are entitled to. I would like to share with you some of the many public acts of support that we have received after this recent Police Investigation:

Our Archbishop, His Eminence Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese, made a personal visit to our Retreat Centre on 11 October 2006 to provide his unwavering support to all of us in Divine. He also personally addressed our Malayalam retreatants about the recent police investigation. His Eminence Cardinal Varkey declared, "That the powers of evil fight relentlessly against those who do good to society is not an isolated instance in the history of mankind. The unending flow of thousands of people to Divine Retreat Centre for their spiritual awakening is not being relished by a microscopic minority. They conspire and devise plans to malign this Retreat Centre among the public."

In a statement, Archbishop Jacob Thoomkuzhy of Thrissur, strongly criticized the recent Police investigation. "The Church in India is shocked by the police investigation at the Divine Retreat Centre, that has been helping millions of people spiritually and through medical care and various humanitarian activities. This Centre has given refuge and care to many helpless and destitute sick people. It was atrocious on the part of the police to deal with them in an unbecoming manner."

Most Rev. James Pazhayattil, Bishop of Irinjalakuda stated, "The Government should have encouraged and helped the many charitable works carried out by Divine Retreat Centre. What has happened has caused great grief to the Christian community and all men of goodwill."

Mr. K. M. Mani, the State's ex-Revenue Minister, who is currently Member of Legislative Assembly for Palai Constituency and Chairman of the Kerala Congress Party, visited our Centre on 3 October 2006. He stated, "Divine Retreat Centre has become an oasis for the poor, sick people abandoned by medical science and a home of refuge for the mentally challenged people. I always come here with a sense of awe for the magnificent works of compassion and mercy. It is indeed a sacred place where the poor and sick are taken care of - we see the Face of God in them. The Police should have respected the sanctity and holiness of this House of God."

Mr. John Kachiramattam, President of Kerala Catholics Federation stated, "Certain fundamental and communal forces have been working against the Divine Retreat Centre for some time now. The Police should have been aware of this and should have given full protection and encouragement to the manifold works of mercy carried out by the Retreat Centre. I want to assure the Fathers of Divine Retreat Centre that the Christian community of Kerala stand firmly by them."

Mr. Thomas Kandathil, Mr. Sebastian Vadassery, Adv. Charly Paul and Adv Jacob Mundackal, leaders of the All Kerala Catholic Congress, issued a joint statement. "The orphan children picked up from the street gutters and the poor widows despised by families, AIDS patients ostracized by society, and the mental patients who are considered a threat and burden to their families are accepted with open arms and cared for by Divine Retreat Centre. There is the Hindu and Muslim people of all caste and communities who are also cared for without any discrimination. In fact, the Police should have provided protection for all these helpless people instead of frightening them."

We, the Fathers at Divine Retreat Centre, hope that such an untoward incident will never be repeated again. Divine is a House of God and we will continue to love and care for all the poor and needy people who have turned to us for help. We are extremely grateful and thankful for the prompt and strong support of our Archbishop, Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil of Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese, other Bishops and Church authorities, Political leaders, people of high moral standing in our society and Divine's numerous friends and benefactors - in India and all over the world - who have contacted us and visited our Centre. Many have spoken up publicly for all the works of Divine and are calling for a fair and impartial police investigation. We ask for your fervent prayers for truth and justice to prevail. If God be for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

Rev. Fr. Augustine Vallooran V.C.
Director - English & Other Language Retreats
Divine Retreat Centre
23 October 2006

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