A Mass of thanksgiving, reconciliation and grace was held on 25 August. For the Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, "God works in our lives and in the life of the Church through mysterious ways. The blood of the martyrs of Kandhamal has brought many blessings upon the Church in Odisha and in the country.”
Cuttack-Bhubaneswar (AsiaNews) – A ceremony that was both solemn and sober was held last Saturday to remember the Christian victims of the 2008 Kandhamal pogrom. Thirteen bishops and 90 priests co-celebrated the Mass of thanksgiving, reconciliation and grace. Scores of men and women religious as well as ordinary believers from every walk of life took part in the event. Some bishops from other Christian denominations also attended.
Referring to the tragedy, the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar in a statement said, “What was heartbreaking was that the massacre of the innocents continued unabated for months”. Indeed, what happened ten years ago was “terrible and painful”.
The anti-Christian wave of violence followed the murder of Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati and four of his followers. “The attackers snuffed out human lives,” the statement says, “destroyed and demolished churches, homes, schools, hospitals, dispensaries, offices, and centres working for the uplift and development of the poor and marginalised people especially tribals, Dalits, OBC and others. Women and young girls were gang raped and thousands had to flee to the jungles in fear and despair.”
The local archbishop, Mgr John Barwa, also spoke during the service, saying “that God works in our lives and in the life of the Church through mysterious ways. The blood of the martyrs of Kandhamal has brought many blessings upon the Church in Odisha and in the country.”
In his homily, Mgr Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary general of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), said that “that like the people of Israel we are very often helpless but the power of God gives us such strength that no human clout can give. He confessed that we feel the pain but no anger as Christ teaches us to forgive.”
The prelate went on to ask those present to pray for those who still suffer from the tragedy as well as those who engage in violence. May the Lord “convert their hearts and minds," he said.
At the end of the commemoration, the decree that opened the beatification process of Fr Marian Zelazek was read. The latter was a Polish missionary who chose to live in Odisha and give his life for the poor, the marginalised, lepers, children and tribal people.
Lastly, Rev Udayanath Bishoyi presented Flames of Faith in Kandhamal, a book that traces the origins of Christianity in Kandhamal and the persecution of 2008.