03/07/2018, 14.38
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A statue of Our Lady beheaded in Odisha

by Purushottam Nayak

The sculpture of the Virgin is in the grotto of the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Aligonda. The “religious feelings of the Christian minority in India are hurt." In Partama, more than 15,000 devotees of Mary celebrate the feast dedicated to her. Muslims and Hindus are also present.

Bhubaneswar (AsiaNews) - A statue of Our Lady has been vandalised in Aligonda, Gajapati District, in the Indian state of Odisha (Orissa).

On Sunday, the sculpture of the Virgin was found headless in the grotto dedicated to her in the Church of the Immaculate Conception, which falls under the jurisdiction of the diocese of Berhampur.

"It is very sad to think that the religious feelings of the Christian minority in India are hurt," said Fr Sanjib Biro, the parish’s former pastor, speaking to AsiaNews.

The priest, who is currently the pastor at the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes in Dantoling, Odisha’s main place of pilgrimage, added: "The nature of Christians is to love peace and build unity and brotherhood with one another. It is really depressing that innocent Christians are harassed and threatened."

According to Fr Biro, the attack against the statue of Mary "caused deep sadness in the community. Our Lady is a model and example for every Christian in the region.”

“Hundreds of believers come to Dantoling each year on 11 February to attend the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and on 11 December in Aligonda for the feast of the Immaculate Conception."

“The incident,” the clergyman noted, "has knocked out the Christians, as if they had lost a family member. People are crying and praying for the statue of Mary because even if she is headless, she remains very dear to them."

The parish of Aligonda was founded in 1985 by French missionaries. About 10,000 Catholics live in the area.

Meanwhile, on Monday, about 130 km from the scene of the attack, more than 15,000 people took part in the feast of the Our Lady of Partama, Daringbadi Parish, in the archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar.

The large number of believers of every religion shows that the devotion to Mary is strong even among non-Christians. The pilgrimage site is famous, among other things, for the apparitions of Our Lady to a Hindu widow.

According to the story, Ms Kamoladevi, a widow, went up Partama Mountain to collect some wood. It was 5 March 1994.

At one point, a man dressed in white and with a long beard approached her and then disappeared. Soon after, a "beautiful woman" showed up, calling her by name. She asked the widow to build a church right on the spot.

Back in the village, her Hindu neighbours paid no heed to what she told them. A few days later a 12-year-old boy took her back to the mountain and then disappeared.

At that point, the beautiful woman appeared for a second time, revealing who she was. "I am the Mother of Jesus,” she said. “Pray constantly that people’s life change from evil to good, from hatred to love."

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