New Delhi (AsiaNews) – “Father Thomas is a martyr: he sacrificed his life for the poor and marginalised. But he did not die in vain, because his body and his blood enrich the Church in India, particularly the Church in Andhra Pradesh”. Those are the words of Msgr. Marampudi Joji, archbishop of Hyderabad and secretary of the bishops’ conference of Andhra Pradesh (a state in South East India), commenting the barbarous killing of the Carmelite priest Thomas Pandippallyil, 38, assassinated on the night of August 16th in Mosalikunta, on the road between Lingampet and Yellareddy, 90 km from the regional capital.
On the night of August 16th his body was found on the roadside by a group of people, not far from the village of Balampilly; the body of the Carmelite of Mary Immaculate carried wounds to the face while the hands and legs had been crushed and the eyes gouged out. His motorbike was found one kilometre on from the body. According to witnesses, Saturday afternoon Fr. Thomas celebrated mass in Burgida, before setting out for another village in the district where he was to have celebrated Sunday mass. The last people to have seen him alive were religious sisters from Lingapetta convent, where the priest had stopped for supper before continuing his journey.
“P. Thomas is a martyr – said Msgr. Marampudi, archbishop of Hyderabad, on hearing of the brutal murder. The Indian Church is shocked and deeply saddened by this barbarous killing, the result of a growing climate of intolerance and violence against Christians in this country”. The prelate immediately made his way to the area where the massacre took place and speaks of a “traumatized” Christian community. He forcefully denies accusations of “proselytism and forced conversions”. Given that there are “five families of Catholic faith” in the parish where Fr. Thomas was murdered.
Msgr. Marampudi Joji maintains the crime is the result of a climate of “jealousy of the Catholic Church”, whose only fault is that of trying to help develop the abandoned rural areas of the country and support and aid those who are “victims of violence and oppression”. “Priests and nuns – continues the archbishop of Hyderabad – have for decades been at the service of the least fortunate in India, and this makes them targets of forces of evil who do not want the marginalized and impoverished to become empowered”.
The remains of Fr. Thomas Pandippallyil will be laid to rest on Wednesday in the Carmelite provincial house in Balampilly: the priest was actively involved in educational field. He joined the Chanda mission of the CMI on 24th June 1987. He was ordained a priest in 2002. He was the rector for the Chanda mission province of the CMI, and also worked as hospital administrator, school manager and mission centre director.