07/18/2007, 00.00
INDIA
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Catholic priest beaten and bloodied at home

by Nirmala Carvalho
Father Michael is assaulted in his own home in Bihar by a gang of about ten people. He received various injuries, including one to a kidney. As a clergyman he is actively involved in his community where he is well-liked. Cardinal Toppo urges the faithful not to fear persecutions, but demands the authorities protect Christians from too many attacks by organised groups.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Fr V. Michael, a Catholic priest at the Chuhari Mission some eight kilometres from the Bettiah Diocese, was brutally attacked in his own home, beaten and bloodied in the wee hours of Tuesday. Police said that more than ten people entered the house and attacked him with sharp weapons. The priest received injuries to the head and the stomach, and had to undergo abdominal surgery. 

“He has lost a lot of blood and one of his kidneys has been damaged,” said Dr Arun  Kumar Singh of Bettiah MJK Hospital.

The attack has sent shock waves among the large Christian community in and around Bettiah.

Mgr Victor Thakur, bishop of Bettiah, told AsiaNews that Father Michael is “greatly involved and an active parish priest in Our Lady of Assumption, better known as the ‘Catholic church’ in Chuhari. He also runs the three local catholic schools. We are disconcerted by the assault against such a well-liked person.”

Two farm managers of Chuhari Mission have been detained for questioning.

Card Telesphore Toppo, chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, also spoke to AsiaNews about the incident. He condemned the attack against Father Michael “in the strongest terms.”

“Although India is a democratic country, Christian missionaries and institutions are unfortunately victims of attack,” he explained.

“There are groups that strike at the Church in a systematic way and the authorities must help and protect us. Article 21 of the Constitution protects our life and the government must guarantee the safety of all its citizens,” the prelate said.

“The Church has been working tirelessly for decades with a strong belief in the inherent dignity of the human person irrespective of faith and caste, something that is hard to apply in India.”

“The Church,” he said, “has been providing education and medical assistance to the poor and the marginalised, Dalits and Tribals, working selflessly for the  good of the whole society and Nation.”

“Let us pray for the aggressors, too often indoctrinated by false propaganda against Christian missions, that they may be freed from their blindness and culture of hate. India is a land that can teach the world that harmony and tolerance among different religions are possible”

“Article 25 of the constitution guarantees every citizen freedom of conscience, the right to profess, practice and promote any religion. Often however priests and nuns are not allowed to do so.”

“We do not fear persecutions—they make our witness of the faith stronger and give us the privilege of participating in the salvific suffering of the Church.”

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