04/23/2016, 15.40
INDIA
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Two newly ordained priests to serve Christians in Odisha’s Kandhamal district

by Santosh Digal

Mgr John Barwa, archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, ordained Fr Pritam Singh and Fr Bhanja Kishore Singh in a ceremony attended by more than a thousand Catholics, as well as 35 priests and 50 nuns. The district now has 12 priests, the highest number in the state. The increase in consecrations confirms that the Christian community has not been intimidated by Hindu radical violence.

Bhubaneswar (AsiaNews/Prashanti) – With the ordination of two deacons in the village of Bamunigam, Kandhamal district (Odisha*) now has 12 priests serving the local Catholic community.

This is the highest number in the entire Indian state, and is sign of an important fact, namely that the anti-Christian pogrom of 2008 did not hamper vocations.

The consecration of the two priests took place on Wednesday (20 April) in the Our Lady of Lourdes Parish. Mgr John Barwa, Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, ordained Fr Pritam Singh and Fr Bhanja Kishore Singh in the presence of more than a thousand Catholics, as well as 35 priests and 50 nuns.

Fr Pritam belongs to the Indian Missionary Society of Varanasi province, whilst Fr Kishore Singh comes from Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar. Both work in Alanjuri, in one of the Bamunigam parish missions. The village now has six diocesan and six religious priests, as well as 12 nuns.

The rise in consecrated vocations confirms that the district’s Christians have not given up after they were struck by murderous violence in the summer of 2008 at the hands of Hindu radicals who unleashed one of the most vicious waves of persecution ever experienced in India in the past 300 years.

The wave, which lasted for almost four months, caused the death of 101 people and forced 75,000 people to flee their homes and villages, effectively becoming refugees in their own country.

The ordination of the two priests comes at a special time for the Church in Odisha.

The latter is preparing to celebrate the centennial of the birth of its first diocesan priest, Fr Pascal Singh, who hails from the village of Bamunigam and was a pioneer in education in Kandhamal, where he set up the Cambridge School in Cuttack, and the Vijay High School in Raikia.

Fr Pascal “offered himself to work for the marginalized communities along with his own brother priest,” Father Ajaya Kumar Singh, who coordinates social work activities, told Matters India.

The two “remain [a] source of inspiration for us all,” and “We are quite pleased to know that the largest number of priests in Odisha state happens to be from our village”.

* Until 2011, the State of Odisha was known by the name of Orissa.

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