The church where the Suryanelli rape victim's family offers prayers has said they were welcome "anytime they wish to come" while rejecting allegations by the victim's mother that they have been barred from entering the church.
"The Catholic church is for the poor. We will open our church anytime they (the victim's family) wish to come. The (TV) reports that say otherwise are wrong," Xavier Mammootil, parish vicar of the St. Francis Xavier's Church, Kurichy, said on Friday.
According to some TV reports, the victim's mother has alleged that the church authorities have barred their entry into the church.
"The church authorities told us that the case (scandal) is attracting media attention and till everything subsides, we should keep away from the church," the victim's mother told a TV news channel in Kottayam.
The victim does not go to the church, but her parents go there every week.
"Once a week visit to the church gives us lot of solace. For the past two weeks we are going to another church," she added.
The sex scandal took place at Suryanelli in Idukki district January 1996, when the then 16-year-old was threatened, abducted and abused by a bus conductor and was later confined and sexually assaulted for 45 days by 42 men.
The case was back in the spotlight after the Supreme Court ordered a retrial in the case on January 31 while setting aside the acquittal in 2005 by the Kerala High Court of all but one of the 35 accused convicted by a special court.
Since 2005, the victim and her parents and sister have moved out from Suryanelli in Idukki district and are living near Kurichy in Kottayam district.