Kottayam (Kerala), May 28: Fr Jacob Augustine, a Catholic priest here, has applied for a pistol license, kicking up a controversy.
Fr Augustine had applied to the Kottayam Collectorate for a license in January, but a section within his church is protesting against this move. The 42-year-old priest is also the manager of the Amal Jyothi Engineering College, owned by the Catholic Diocese of Kanjirapally, 50 km from here.
“There are several priests in our church who possess a licensed weapon. Moreover, since I manage a big institution, which has got lot of assets, I do not think possessing a gun is wrong,” Fr Augustine told IANS.
However, well-known Catholic reformist, Joseph Pulikunnel, who runs a Christian Study Centre, feels otherwise. “Jesus Christ never protected himself with arms and when Roman soldiers came to arrest him, he refrained his disciples from drawing out their swords. There is something wrong with Augustine and we wish to know if he wants god’s protection or the protection of a pistol. He fears something, and that is why he wants a pistol,” said Pulikunnel.
But Fr Augustine maintained that his actions were well within the rule of law. “Any Indian citizen can apply for a license to possess a weapon,” said Fr Augustine.
According to Pulikunnel, Catholic priests were not just ordinary citizens and were expected to follow certain norms. “Indian citizens can marry but can a Catholic priest marry? People have to be judicious. A Christian priest, more than anyone else, has to depend on god.”
Mr S Sreejith, the Kottayam superintendent of police, clarified that anyone could possess a weapon, according to specified rules and procedures. “Just because the applicant is a priest, there are no rules to prevent him from holding a weapon. Rules are the same for everyone and if he is eligible, he will get one,” the police official told IANS.