Cardinal denies he offered to mediate in row

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Cardinal Mar George Alencherry has clarified that he did not offer to mediate between Italy and India in the firing case involving Italian merchant ship.

In a statement issued here on Wednesday, Mar Alencherry, elevated as a cardinal by Vatican on Saturday, said he didn’t talk to any Kerala minister on the matter. The clarification came after an interview given by the cardinal, now in Rome, to Vatican’s Fides News Service on Tuesday.

Opposition leader V.S. Achuthanandan was quick to criticise the cardinal’s so-called mediatory role. Also, a few BJP workers organised a march to the cardinal’s official residence in Kochi on Wednesday alleging that he was trying to protect the Italian Navy men who shot dead two fishermen here last week. “The news carried by FNS was not true.

The agency has since withdrawn the report and apologised to me. What I said was that two valuable lives were lost (in the firing) and that all legal steps should be followed in the case,” the cardinal clarified.

“Truth and justice need to be upheld always. What I meant was that the issues that cropped up following the incident should be sorted out through peaceful talks by the two countries. The incident should not be allowed to become a cause for conflicts and enmity in the communities and between nations.”

Mar Alencherry said he was with the people of his country in this matter, and was grieved by the death of the two fishermen. The cardinal also expressed his condolence to the members of the bereaved families.

The Syro-Malabar Church launched a damage control exercise as soon as it learned about the “wrong interpretation” of the cardinal’s interview. Church spokesman Fr Paul Thelekkat said he talked to Mar Alencherry as soon as he came across the news items “on his mediatory efforts” and found the news item wrong.

The cardinal himself came out with a clarification later, sensing the damage done by the news agency report.

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