The archbishop of Mumbai reveals the Vatican willingness to open up the cause of canonization. He spoke with Card. Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Christians "have chosen to embrace death rather than deny Christ." Keeping the memory of the martyrs alive "for future generations who face the challenges of religious fanaticism."
Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) - The Vatican is willing to open the canonization process for 100 Christian martyrs killed in 2008 in Kandhamal district in the Indian state of Orissa. This was announced by Card. Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai and president of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC), revelaing the contents of a meeting with Card. Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Speaking with AsiaNews Orissa Christians express deep joy in seeing the sacrifice of so many who have given their lives rather than deny Christ recognized.
Father Ajaya Kumar Singh, a prominent activist and director Odisha Forum for Social Action, says: "They did not know that they would become of the martyrs, they have defended what they believed, that Jesus is the Christ. It was more important for them to follow Jesus than to save their life. There have been many occasions in which these martyrs could have escaped death denying Jesus. But they chose to embrace death. "
In August 2008, Hindu radicals unleashed the fiercest persecution in India’s history against Christians in Orissa, blaming them for the murder of the guru Swami Lakshmananda, leader of the Hindu nationalist group Vishva Hindu Parishad. In four months of violence, more than 100 people were killed; 6,500 homes destroyed; about 395 churches and places of worship damaged or demolished; more than 56 thousand people forced to flee.
In January 2016, the Catholic Church of India decided to start the process of canonization and gave Msgr. John Barwa, Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar, the task of collecting information on the murdered Christians.
Martyrdom, continues Fr. Singh, "is nothing more than the recognition that even ordinary people find more meaning in death than in life; for them, faith in Jesus is the greatest witness and meaning of life. " Heartened "that the Cardinal recognized that. It is not only a tribute to Christians who were killed, but their faith in Christ. And above all it is recognition that the values and the principles enunciated by Jesus are implemented by simple Christians of Kandhamal ".
The announcement of the Card. Gracias has rekindled hope for the relatives of victims. One of them is Kanakarekha Nayak, who lost her husband during the persecutions. "I'm happy - she says - that the cardinal has assumed the leadership of the process, which has allowed an acceleration of the cause. This gives me great confidence and consolation ". The woman met the archbishop of Mumbai during the National Eucharistic Congress, and told him of her husband’s story. "I said that I firmly believe – she says - that his faith in Jesus, and his subsequent death for refusing to recant, were not in vain."
Paul Pradhan, a Catholic lawyer whose home was destroyed during the pogroms, adds: "The martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the faith. Martyrdom is the crown of faith. Their sacrifice purifies and strengthens our faith as followers of Jesus. They will live in our minds and in our hearts. " It is our task, he concludes, "to keep their memory alive. We must do this not only for ourselves but also for the coming generations, who face the challenges of religious fanaticism. "