The Catholic bishops in the Indian state of Kerala have condemned the demolition of a large hilltop cross erected in an area that has experienced large numbers of land grabs.

“The demolition of the cross has pained the entire Christian community,” Varghese Vallikkat, deputy secretary general of the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council, said in a statement.

The state of Kerala has a relatively high number of Christians, with 18 per cent of the population recorded as Christian in the last census. Photo: Gili Chupak / Flickr / CC

According to UCA News, officials on 20 April used pneumatic drills and bulldozers to remove the concrete base of the eight-metre iron cross, erected by a group called “Spirit of Jesus”, which runs a prayer and retreat centre in Idukki district.

The government carried out the demolition after investigations proved there had been extensive land-grabbing in the area. Local media reported that politicians and the rich have colluded to grab public land and build resorts and private houses in the fast-developing tourist area.

“The officials should have shown respect to their feelings when they pulled down a powerful symbol worshipped by Christians all over the world,” Fr. Jose Karivelickal, a spokesman for the Idukki diocese, told

Local Christians and followers of the Spirit of Jesus group tried to block the government team by leaving their vehicles across the road. However, the team used excavators to clear them, and police removed the protesters.

Kerala’s Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, while addressing a public meeting following the event, said the authorities should have been more careful, but denied the state government was opposed to the symbol of the cross.