A Catholic priest was stabbed to death by his former Church sexton while taking part in a pilgrimage at Angamaly near Kochi on Thursday.

Senior Catholic priest Xavier Thelekat, 52, who was attached to the Angamaly diocese of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, was attacked and killed with a sharp-edged weapon by sexton Jomy, who was removed from the post of sacristan three months ago.

The incident occurred on Thursday afternoon when the 52-year-old priest was climbing the Kurisumudy in Malayattoor. The priest, who was reportedly bleeding profusely, died as he was taken to a private hospital in nearby Angamaly, the police said.

Jomy went absconding soon after the incident. He is believed to have holed up in a forest near Malayattoor, and the police have launched a manhunt to trace him. 

A Syro-Malabar Church spokesman said the "unfortunate incident" occurred at a time when the priest was overseeing the preparations for famous Kurisumudy pilgrimage during the holy week later this month.

Kurisumudy is a hill at Malayattoor. According to Syro-Malabar Christians, St Thomas had visited Kurisumudy after landing at Kodungalloor in AD 52.

(With PTI inputs)