MUMBAI, India – A priest in India was murdered on Thursday, allegedly by a disgruntled former sacristan removed from his position three months ago.
Father Xavier Thelakkat, 52, was stabbed while climbing the Kurisumudy, a mountain at Maiayattoor associated with St. Thomas the Apostle and a popular site of pilgrimage for Christians in the state of Kerala.
According to local tradition, the apostle fled to the hill to escape the hostile native population in AD 52, and the imprints of his feet remain there to this day.
The priest was stabbed in the leg, and died of blood loss on his way to the hospital.
The alleged murderer fled after the incident and is believed by police to be hiding out in a nearby forest. Police are mounting a search for the man.
For the past seven years, Thelakkat was the rector of the Kurisumudy pilgrim center.
According to the police, he and the former sacristan had an argument at the center on Wednesday morning.
A spokesman for the local Syro-Malabar eparchy said the priest was making preparations for the annual pilgrimage to the site, which takes place during Holy Week.
His funeral will likely take place on Saturday.