Raikia (AsiaNews) - In the District of Kandhamal, the Church is celebrating the ordination of five new priests. About 70 other priests, 100 nuns and 5,000 Catholics attended yesterday's ceremony, which was held at the Church of Our Lady of Charity and led by Mgr John Barwa SVD, archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar. The new priests are Fr Aswin Kumar Singh, Fr Bikram Pradhan, Fr Jiten Kumar Pradhan, Fr Kapilas Nayak and Fr Rashmikant Nayak, all from Kandhamal itself, the focal point of Orissa's anti-Christian pogroms of 2007 and 2008
"In the Year of Faith," the archbishop said in his homily, "these new priests are a gift from God to the archdiocese, but especially to Kandhamal. In spite of the anti-Christian persecution of 2007 and 2008, God has not left us or forgotten us. He is with us and he gave us these young priests so that they may serve the Church. This is a clear sign that faith in Kandhamal continues to shine."
Addressing the new priests during the Mass, the archbishop said, "The priesthood is centred on Christ who came to serve and not to be served. By living and emulating Christ's life, every priest must serve everyone else, not just Christians, but people of all faiths. Jesus came to give us salvation, peace, joy and happiness. Christ's words 'I thirst' must resonate in our hearts and in our minds. As priests of Kandhamal, we are called to bring peace, joy and reconciliation among all the people of Orissa. "
Archbishop Barwa reminded those present that by washing the feet of inmates at the Casal del Marmo youth detention facility, Pope Francis "reminded us that we should serve everyone, without distinction of caste or creed."
Addressing the new priests' parents and all the worshippers present, the prelate stressed the importance of encouraging boys and girls to embrace the priesthood and religious life.
With the new ordinations, the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar now has 91 diocesan priests and 54 religious.
According to data collected by the Church, at least 100 people were killed by the violence unleashed by Hindu nationalists in Orissa, particularly in Kandhamal, beginning at Christmas 2007 followed by a series of attacks in August 2008.
More than 54,000 Christians were left homeless, nearly 300 churches were destroyed, as well as a number of convents, schools, hostels and care facilities.
Although some homes and villages have been rebuilt, again thanks to the action of the local Church, the life of these communities has not yet gone back to normal.