Two Catholic priests from Italy visited the home of one of the two fishermen gunned down by marines of Italian ship Enrica Lexie, fuelling speculation that their mission was to explore possibilities of settling the case through out-of-court mediation.
The family members of slain fisherman Jalastine Valentine and the authorities of the Kollam Catholic Diocese, however, denied such a motive on the part of the priests.
According to police sources, the priests visited the house of Jalastine on Wednesday and prayed at the cemetery where the fisherman was buried.
"We did not discuss the details of the case. They conveyed their sympathies and prayed for the departed soul," Jalastine's wife Dora said.
Meanwhile, a diocesan spokesman also refuted reports that the visiting priests discussed details of the case with the church authorities, apparently to explore chances of a compromise.
In a statement, diocesan spokesman George Robario said, "The church has never interfered in the case. The church's firm stand is that the case should take its own course under the Indian laws. The church also welcomes the steps taken by the state government in the case."
Last month, Italy's Deputy Foreign Minister Steffan di Mistura had visited the church authorities and the bereaved family members.
Two marines of the ship, Latore Massimiliano and Salvatore Girone, have been charged with murder and remanded in the central prison here since February 19, four days after the incident.They were arrested and charged with murder of Jalastine and fellow fisherman Ajesh Binki, the latter belonging to Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu. They had put out to sea from Neendakara in Kollam.