Cuttack-Bhubaneswar (AsiaNews /CNA) - The Catholic Church in India has decided to initiate the cause of canonization of about 100 Christian martyrs killed by radical Hindus during anti-Christian pogroms in 2008. This was decided in recent days Card. Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai and president of the Bishops 'Conference of India (CBCI) and the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC). The cardinal has appointed Msgr. John Barwa, Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, to head the process for "martyrs of Kandhamal".
Msgr. Barwa said: "The opening of the cause is a source of pride for the relatives of the victims and for the whole Church. Our men, women and children, who became martyrs because of their faith, are not forgotten. " "Even if they were killed in a horrible way, their death has brought a new life and a new faith. This makes relatives of the victims proud".
In August 2008, the Hindu radicals have killed about 100 Christians, blamed the murder of Swami Lakshmanananda guru, leader of the Hindu nationalist Vishna Hindu Parishad. Although the Maoist guerrillas have repeatedly claimed responsibility for the assassination of the gurus, Hindu fundamentalists in Kandhamal district unleashed the most violent persecution against the Christian minority ever seen in India.
Christian faithful were killed for refusing to convert to Hinduism. In addition more than 56 thousand people fled their homes and took refuge in the forest, where they suffered from hunger and poverty. The radicals have destroyed about 6,500 homes and 395 churches. To date, nearly 10 thousand people have not yet returned to their homes.
The survivors of the pogroms of 2008 have told stories of atrocious violence, including acts of torture and forced conversions. Card. Gracias decided to give impetus to the process of canonization after meeting one of them last November. The president of the CBCI has already informed Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, who announced that he will "speak in person to Pope Francis of violence in Kandhamal and its martyrs."
Archbishop Barwa will have the task of forming a group of experts and gathering information on the victims. He has also decided to erect a monument in their memory. In conclusion, he said: "The official launch of the process is 'a big thing' for Christians in India, especially for the challenges that the minority faces every day. It will serve to strengthen and revitalize the Christian community, affected by the attacks of 2008 ".