MUMBAI, India – A bishop in India has asked his diocese to fast and pray for a priest jailed after being accused of sending indecent messages to a school student.
Father Georgish Britto, of St. Anselm School in Alwar, was arrested on April 20 for allegedly sending obscene messages over WhatsApp to a 15-year-old female student who attends the school.
Afterwards, the student also accused the priest of touching her “inappropriately” in the school.
He was charged under India’s 2012 Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POSCO) Act.
Bishop Oswald Joseph Lewis of Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, told Crux he visited Britto in jail, and the priest denied the allegations, and told the bishop he was “trapped.”
Lewis also reiterated the diocese has a “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to abuse.
“The POSCO regulations are in all our Catholic educational institutions and we have a strict policy of zero tolerance,” he told Crux.
“At the same time, vested interests, have levied ‘conversion’ allegations, which are fabricated and are false,” the bishop said.
Although freedom of religion is guaranteed by the country’s constitution, Rajasthan is one of several Indian states that have anti-conversion laws aimed at preventing “forced” or “induced” conversions.
Christian religious institutions – whose students often belong to the Hindu majority – are often targeted under these laws.
“In the 30 years of the school’s existence, if we were indulging in conversion activities in our schools, the whole town would have been converted,” Lewis said.
Hindu nationalist groups accompanied the priest’s accuser when she went to the police station to formerly make a complaint.
The investigation into Britto was due to end on May 5, and the diocese issued a statement saying that “if any crime is proved against him, he will undergo punishment as per the law.”
However, the statement added: “Even then, we won’t disown him.”