08/26/2008, 00.00
VATICAN – INDIA
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Orissa: Vatican expresses solidarity to victims; Indian bishop calls events shameful for the state

by Nirmala Carvalho
The Holy See has called on everyone to rebuild an atmosphere of dialogue and reconciliation. Cardinal Gracias, who chairs the conference of Indian bishops, accuses the government of being too slow in acting and the police of being ineffective. He expresses sorrow for the death of Hindu fundamentalist leader Swami Laxamananda. Violence against nuns and missionaries, who give their life for the social development of the population, is “diabolic”. Mother Teresa’s successor Sister Nirmala Joshi says that one cannot be disciple of Christ without paying the price, on the Cross.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – The Vatican has expressed “solidarity to the Churches and religious congregations” of India, victimised by violence. It has called on everyone to rebuild an “atmosphere of dialogue and mutual respect.” The Indian Church and the Sisters of Mother Teresa have welcomed the appeal for reconciliation, but in Orissa the acts of destruction, including the burning of homes, churches and Christian institutions, keep rising.

The Press Office of the Holy See issued a statement today reproving “these actions which are prejudicial to people’s dignity and freedom and compromise peaceful coexistence.”

From Mumbai, the chairman of the Bishops’ Conference of India Card Oswald Gracias said he was following “with sorrow and sadness” the unfolding events in Orissa.

For him the government bears a heavy responsibility. “How could they [the government] not foresee ahead of time such a situation and take the necessary preventive measures to avert this large scale mayhem?” said the prelate.

The prelate noted that last December similar incidents took place in the same area with villages under siege, churches set on fire and people killed.

For the chairman of Indian bishops such episodes are a “shameful for India within the international community; it is a blot on India’s image. The international community might end up seeing us as a nation where the government is slow to act and police is ineffective.”

Cardinal Gracias said he was saddened by the death of Swami Laxamananda, whose murder sparked violence by Hindu fundamentalists who blamed Christians for it.

“The Indian Church immediately condemned the murder of the Guruji. The Church has never been a party to any violence. The vendetta against Christians is pure madness.”

The prelate described the rape of a nun and the death of a lay woman missionary burnt to death as “barbaric and perverse”.

“Our Women religious have given their lives to empower the same people who are now assaulting them,” he said. “Our nuns have given dignity to these people through the social ministry of the Church and today they are brutalised by this senseless mob. This is diabolical.”

Sister Nirmala Joshi, who succeeded Mother Teresa at the helm of the Missionaries of Charity, said that “it was painful to see that the people we serve, for whom we are doing good work, can do such things . . . . We must never the less forgive and go on with the eyes focused on our mission.”

Meanwhile a hospital for the elderly run by the Missionaries of Charity was destroyed (for a second time). Some Sisters of Mother Teresa have been attacked with stones. Sister Nirmala has remained in constant contact with them.

“Pope Benedict XVI said that the Blessed Mother Teresa was a real disciple of Christ. [. . .] But without the Cross there is no Jesus. Can we be disciples of Christ without paying the price like him, on the Cross?”

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