Canonisation of two MEP missionaries, martyrs of the faith in Arunachal Pradesh, is underway (photos)

Frs Nicolas-Michel Krick and Augustin-Etienne Bourry were killed in 1854 by a Mishmi chief. Although locals have never converted to Christianity, they have preserved the missionaries’ remains, notes Church spokesman in north-east.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – The Catholic Church in Arunachal Pradesh has officially initiated the process of canonisation of Frs Nicolas Michel Krick and Augustin-Etienne Bourry, two French missionaries of the Missions étrangères de Paris (Society for Foreign Missions of Paris, MEP), who were killed because of their Christian faith on 2 August 1854.

On Saturday, a solemn ceremony was held in St Peter’s Catholic Church in Tezu, to mark the start of the Diocesan Board of Inquiry’s work. Bishop George Pallipparambil of Miao, who is the promoter of the beatification process of the two missionaries, began gathering evidence some 20 years ago.

After receiving the favourable opinion of the North East Regional Bishops’ Council, he obtained the Nihil Obstat from the Congregation of the Causes of Saints, eventually appointing a historical commission to find the missionaries’ works and have their writings vetted by theological censors.

“Today is an important event of the Church in Arunachal Pradesh”, Bishop Pallipparambil said at the beginning of the solemn Eucharistic celebration. “With the constitution of the Diocesan Board of Inquiry today, we enter into the second stage of our efforts to bring these two holy men on their way to Sainthood. [. . .] [W]e pray that the work we undertake for these two holy men, who shed their blood on our soil, will soon bear fruit”, he said.

Frs Krick and Bourry were murdered by a man called Kaisha, chief of a Mishmi tribe in Somme, a village near the town of Khibito, on the border with China. They were on their way to Tibet at a time when the MEP had begun exploring the villages on the Himalayan chain. They were killed in a hut at the age of 35 and 28 respectively; one was laying down, ill; the other was praying.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Felix Anthony, spokesman for the Church in north-eastern India, said that the “mortal remains of the two priests are still enshrined in Somme, preserved by the people of the village.” In fact, since their death, villagers have maintained the burial site, even though they haven’t embraced Christianity.

“Some say chief Kaisha killed them because the missionaries resembled the British rulers. But that account doesn’t appear to be true,” Fr Anthony explained. There is almost no documentary evidence of the two in Arunachal Pradesh. There are only “the letters they sent back to Paris.” In them, “They mention their arduous journey and how their guide robbed them.”

Dozens of Catholics attended the ceremony, hoping to soon see the first Catholic saints raised to the honour of the altars because of their association with north-eastern India. “We are very happy to see the progress with the process of canonisation,” said Catherine Boo, a Catholic from Tezu. “We pray that this day will remove the stain we have acquired because of the killing by our tribesman 165 years ago.”

During the Mass, the Diocesan Board heard three witnesses. At the end of the service, the depositions of another 18 people were recorded. All said they found spiritual benefits thanks to the intercession of the two French missionaries.

"For us it is a great joy,” Fr Anthony said. “In 2010 they were proclaimed Servants of God by the Vatican, and the proclamation became official in 2011 at a service celebrated in the Diocese of Miao.” (A.C.F.)