Church attackers claim orders came from God

02 Jan 2001

Church attackers claim orders came from God

January 2, 2001


CASTRIES, St. Lucia--Two men who attacked worshippers in a cathedral on this small Caribbean island, setting them ablaze and killing an Irish nun, claim they were sent by God to combat corruption in the Roman Catholic Church, police said.

"The way they're talking is that the world is going to end and that the time had come for what they had to do," police Inspector Gregory Montoute, who interrogated the men, said Monday.

The suspects--Kim John, 20, and Francis Phillip, 34--both identified themselves as Rastafarians, Montoute said. Police spokesman Albert Fregis said St. Lucia's Rastafarian leaders denounced the Sunday attack at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

The men told police they were "prophets" sent by Haile Selassie, the late Ethiopian emperor worshipped as a god by Rastafarians.

Police said they don't believe the men belonged to an organized group.

Rastafarianism, followed by about 1 million people worldwide, emerged in Jamaica and spread throughout the Caribbean in the 1930s out of the anger felt by descendants of slaves with the colonial powers' oppression of black people. It is based on peaceful principles.

Sunday's attack came during holy communion while more than 400 people were in the cathedral. The men burst in carrying machetes and a blowtorch while many worshippers were lined up in the aisles, police and witnesses said.

One of the attackers doused people with a flammable liquid, while another used a blowtorch to ignite the flames, witnesses said. Police said the attackers hacked at people with the machetes. But Monsignor Theophilus Joseph, the church administrator, gave a different account, saying the intruders beat people with pieces of wood and used torches to set worshippers afire.

The attackers then made their way to the altar, where they set fire to the Rev. Charles Gaillard, injured an altar server and burned the altar. Gaillard, who suffered a collapsed lung and third-degree burns over his body, was flown to the nearby island of Martinique for treatment, said Monsignor Patrick Anthony, a church spokesman.

The priest was in critical condition, Anthony said. At least 12 other people were hospitalized after the attack, and five were in critical condition Monday.

The slain nun was identified by police as Sister Theresa Egan, 72, of Ireland. She belonged to the Order of St. Joseph of Cluny, an Irish order that has been involved in education programs on the island for nearly 100 years. Egan had lived on St. Lucia for decades.

Associated Press


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