Three children who were allegedly sold by an employee of the Missionaries of Charity have been rescued, and a politician has accused a political party of unfairly targeting the religious order.
Last week two women affiliated with the Missionaries of Charity, one a religious sister and one an employee, were arrested after a couple complained that they were sold a baby boy, who was then taken back by the shelter.
Since then, three other children have been recovered by authorities, who are still on the lookout for a fourth baby. The children all came from the same Missionaries of Charity-operated home for pregnant women, Nirmal Hriday, in Ranchi, the capital of the state of Jharkhand. The women residing at the home were moved to a government-run shelter.
Initially, it was reported by Indian media that 280 children were missing from the Missionaries of Charity home in Ranchi. This number was eventually revised to four, and of the four, three have been located safely.
The Senior Superintendent of Police for Ranchi, Anis Gupta, said that they learned about the other children after questioning the initial two women arrested. The third child was rescued on Thursday from the city of Simdega, which is also in Jharkhand.
Gupta told Indian media that “a few people have been detained for questioning” after this latest rescue, but further details were not available.
Missionaries of Charity spokeswoman Sunita Kumar said last week in a statement that the order was “shocked” by the allegations, “which totally goes against the value and ethics espoused by the Missionaries of Charity, the nuns, and its founder.”
Kumar said that the order will be investigating the accused employees in Jharkhand “with all seriousness,” and that the Missionaries of Charity had stopped handling adoptions in India three years ago.
Church officials in India, along with a politician, have raised concerns that the Missionaries of Charity have been unfairly targeted by India's ruling party, the Hindu-nationalist group the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, a member of the All India Trinamool Congress, tweeted Friday that “Mother Teresa herself set up Missionaries of Charity. And now they are not being spared.”
Banerjee called the accusations against the order “malicious attempts to malign their name,” and said the “The Sisters are being targeted” by the BJP, who “want to spare no one.”
“Let MOC continue to do their work for the poorest of the poor,” she tweeted.
Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, Auxiliary Bishop of Ranchi and secretary general of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, defended the Missionaries of Charity on Twitter.
“This is a deliberate attempt to malign one of the world’s and India’s most loved institutions, Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity,” said Bishop Mascarenhas on the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India’s Twitter account.
“The truth will come out,” he tweeted.
In another tweet, the bishop accused the state of corruption, saying the Missionaries of Charity are “simple innocent sisters” who are unable to “match the manipulations of the crooked.”
Bishop Mascarenhas also posted a report from an official government visit to the shelter in Ranchi about a week before the baby-sale allegations. The conditions were described as an “excellent environment.”
The Missionaries of Charity were founded in 1950 in Kolkata, by Albanian Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, who became known as Mother Teresa. In 2017, she was canonized as St.Teresa of Calcutta. There are about 3,000 Missionaries of Charity sisters worldwide.
In addition to the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, members of the Missionaries of Charity take a fourth vow pledging “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor.”