07/07/2008, 00.00
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Catholics mourn the “first martyr” of the Church in Nepal By Kalpit Parajuli

by Kalpit Parajuli
At the funeral of Fr John Prakash more than a thousands priests, nuns and ordinary believers gather to honour the memory of the slain Salesian clergyman. People want to know what happened as Bishop Sharma promises continuity in the work of the religious.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Nepal’s Catholic community is “under shock” for the “irreparable” loss. It wants to know what happened so that justice an be done and culprits do not go unpunished, this after Fr John Prakash, a 62-year-old Salesian, was killed last 1 July in Sirsiya (Morang district), eastern Nepal

The funeral of the “first martyr of the Nepali Church” took place on 4 July in Bandel, a village some 45 kilometres from Kolkata. About a thousand people took part in the ceremony, including priests, nuns and religious.

Mgr Anthony Sharma, Nepal’s first bishop, told AsiaNews that Father Prakash’s death is a serious blow to the Catholic community because he represented the very essence of “service to the nation and the people”, especially to those in greatest need.

In condemning the barbaric slaying, the prelate reaffirmed his hope that incidents like this will not be repeated in the future, and that the “culprits in the murderous act will be brought to justice.”

Bishop Sharma, who directly followed the cremation of Fr John Prakash’s body in India, said that despite the great loss, the work of the Nepali Church “will continue without any rest” and will not be blocked by fear.

Fr Pulickal Augusty, rector and superior of the Salesian Congregation in Nepal, said that Catholics will continue their work but will take greater precautions.

He noted that his fallen fellow clergyman never wanted “money or clothes for himself” but always dedicated himself to others, to those most in need. “It is absurd that he should die just for money.”

In the meantime the National Human Rights Commission of Nepal has called on the government to guarantee people the right to life and security. The murder of the Salesian clergyman shows how bad things are getting, affecting the right to live itself. In the statement the Commission also said that Father Prakash’s death deprived “hundreds of orphans and children of free educational support and of a possible education.”

Early evidence shows that Father Prakash was killed by hooded men from an underground terrorist group called the Terai Defence Army.

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