05/15/2023, 12.03
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Orissa: a shrine to Our Lady of Fatima in the refuge for persecuted

by Purushottam Nayak

Over 5,000 faithful at the opening of the Marian place of worship. An occasion of joy for a community still scarred by the 2008 anti-Christian pogroms unleashed by Hindu fundamentalists. A way to heal the wounds and traumas especially for the little ones.

Kandhamal (AsiaNews) - Christians celebrated in the diocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, in the Indian state of Orissa, for the opening of a new shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima. At least 5,000 faithful, four priests and as many nuns attended the opening of the place of worship on 13 May. It stands in the area where many had found shelter during the 2008 pogroms in Kandhamal, with over 100 dead and 50,000 displaced. 

Bijay Mallick was among those who animated the novena of prayer and meditation that preceded the opening from 4 to 12 May. He points out to AsiaNews that the Marian shrine at Sugadabadi,  is "an occasion of great joy".

"If we are safe and sound," he continues, "it is because the Virgin Mary protected us from fundamentalists and persecutors during the violence of 2008" and because Our Lady "is stronger than the threats of Hindu fundamentalists". 

Today, adds Sagar Digal, begins "the feast of Our Lady of Fatima whose intercession has brought us closer to God and strengthened our faith in Jesus". The Christians in the area, Peter Digal continues, have experienced a time of "psychological pain, agony, trauma especially for the little ones" and the horror is a reminder of how "cruel Hindu fundamentalism is towards Christians". 

The Catholic village of Sugadabadi consists of 120 families and the drama experienced in August almost 15 years ago is still etched in the memory, with fires, devastation, death and over 50,000 people fleeing into the forest, despite the threat of wild animals.

Today, however, it is a time of celebration with priests and nuns leading the community to the new Marian shrine, accompanied by dancing, singing, hymns and prayers. Fr Pradosh Chandran Nayak, vicar general of the archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, blessed the shrine. "The celebration of the feast of Our Lady of Fatima in the new shrine," the priest emphasised, "reveals our deep faith in God and Mary's power of intercession.

"We gain peace of mind, enlightenment, direction and guidance when we pray in the shrine. God is one but the paths are different. We need,' concludes Jharana Pradhan, the lady who has worked tirelessly and fearlessly to make this mountain a shrine, 'each other, despite our differences in faith."

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