THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, India — Catholic bishops in the southern Indian state of Kerala expressed shock over the human sacrifice of two women as part of a ritual to gain wealth and prosperity.

Father Jacob G. Palakkappilly, spokesman for the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council, said the incident, which came to light Oct. 11, has shaken the collective consciousness of Indian society, reported

“We could never imagine such a devilish act will be committed in a state which is proud of its literacy,” the priest told Oct. 12, alluding to Kerala’s claim to be the only state in the country with total literacy.

Police said they arrested three suspects, including a woman who admitted the crime during interrogation.

Palakkappilly said the crime “reflected the drastic moral degradation” in a society where “the greed for wealth” caused humans to adopt any means, including sacrificing people.

“Faith is meant for human betterment and spiritual well-being,” he said, while dubbing the killings as a wake-up call for religious, social and political leaders to promote righteousness and shun superstitions.

The prime suspect, Mohammad Shafi, alias Rasheed, is a black-magic practitioner who convinced Bhagaval Singh, a traditional healer, and his wife, Laila, that human sacrifice would bring them prosperity.

During the past four months, the trio allegedly abducted two women, identified only as Roslin and Padma, killed and dismembered their bodies before burying the body parts in the premises of Singh’s house as a part of ritualistic sacrifice, reported.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan expressed shock over the incident.

“Abducting and killing people for wealth and superstitious beliefs is a crime which is beyond imagination in a state like Kerala,” he said in a statement, urging people to come forward to identify such evil practices and bring them to public notice.