Four priests were ordained yesterday in the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, the same that was torched on Christmas Eve of 2007, a prelude to the wave of anti-Christian persecution of August 2008. The ordination ceremony was marred by a serious car accident in which 18 relatives and friends of the new priests died.
Bamunigam (AsiaNews) – Four priests have been ordained in the Indian state of Odisha (Orissa): Fr Dibyaranjan Digal, Fr Deepak Uthansingh, Fr Ananta Uthansingh and Fr Akhya Senapati; deacons since 2017.
The ceremony took place yesterday in the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes in Bamunigam, which was set on fire by Hindu radicals on Christmas Eve in 2007. The burning of the church set the stage for the pogroms carried out by extremists in August 2008.
At least 3,000 Catholics attended the service, concelebrated by 50 priests. The church is part of the archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhunaneswar, in the district of Kandhamal, one of the most affected by sectarian violence against Christians.
The joy of the celebration was marred however by a serious car accident involving several relatives of the priests on their way to the ordination.
The driver of the bus carrying friends and family lost control of the vehicle, which then ended up in a ravine. Some 18 people were killed and more than 40 wounded, but the number of deaths is destined to rise given the severity of the injuries sustained by some.
The news of the incident spread just before the start of the celebration and shocked everyone present. Mgr John Barwa, archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, turned his thoughts to the victims: “Life is like two sides of the same coin. It is both of sadness and happiness. We all depend on God for everything."
Speaking after his ordination, Fr Dibyaranjan Digal said “My first mass will be for the dear and near ones who lost their lives. It is God who called me to offer Mass for my beloved people who could not witness my ordination ceremony.”
The priest is one of more than 56,000 Christians forced to flee in 2008. To save himself, he spent several weeks in the jungle.
“The persecution towards my people did not shake my call to the priesthood but rather strengthened me,” he said.
Lastly, his mother Agnes noted: “Today I thank God who called my son to be an instrument of His Kingdom. It is God who saved my son from anti-Christian violence.”