An Indian cardinal is seeking the canonisation of nearly 100 Catholics slaughtered in mob violence in 2008.
Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the most senior Catholic cleric in the sub-continent, said he would personally ask Pope Francis to start the process to canonise the “martyrs of Kandhamal” in the eastern Odisha province.
The cardinal has ordered Church authorities to collect evidence of atrocities against Christians who refused to abjure their faith at the point of death. The martyrs include more than 90 Catholics butchered by Hindu nationalists during a seven-week pogrom against the Christian minority.
Non-Catholic Christians also died in witness to their faith but will not be included among any future saints canonised by the Pope. They include Parikhit Nayak, a Dalit Christian Protestant convert from Hinduism who was tortured to death in front of his wife, Kanak in August 2008.
Hindus who had previously been his friends and neighbours burned him with acid, castrated him and finally disembowelled him, with some wearing his intestines around their necks as garlands.
Among the victims are Rajesh Digal, a Pentecostal minister who was ordered by a Hindu mob to renounce his faith. When he refused, he was beaten severely and was buried up to his neck for two days, with his tormentors urinating in his mouth as he begged for water. The mob eventually battered him to death with clubs, sticks and axes.
Cardinal Gracias, the Archbishop of Bombay and the leader of the Latin Rite Catholic Church in India, said he has personally asked the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints to start investigating the martyrdoms.
“The Church is sensitive to modern-day martyrs,” the cardinal told Fides, a Vatican-based news agency. The roles of the witnesses of the martyrs are quite important. It is a tedious work and needs proper and timely documentation. I am willing to speak personally about Kandhamal violence and its martyrs to Pope Francis.”
The cardinal has instructed Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack Bhubaneswar, whose niece was raped in the violence, to initiate the sainthood process at the local level in preparation for its formal opening.
ISIS attack on Christians was a ‘message of horror’
Syriac Church leaders have denounced a terrorist attack that targeted Christian-owned restaurants in Qamishli, Syria.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the December 30 attack, which killed 20 people, 13 of them Christian, and injured more than 40.
“Most victims were young people willing to welcome the New Year with hope and joy,” said Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan. Instead, he said, “in tears and gloomy hope, Christians of Qamishli welcomed 2016.
“It was a sinister message the terrorists wanted to send to the Christians of this city, sowing death and tears,” the patriarch said of the “unprecedented terrorist massacre … [The worst] message of horror so far to the entire Christian community in this war-torn country for the past five years.”
Prior to the conflict that is tearing apart Syria, Christians in Qamishli, located in northeast Syria near the Turkish border, numbered about 40,000.
“Now they surely are less than half,” Patriarch Younan said of the continuing exodus and fatalities. “Now, after this massacre, our fear is that the emigration of Christians will go further and in larger numbers.”
Manila draws a million pilgrims
More than a million pilgrims took part in the annual procession of the Black Nazarene in Manila on Saturday. In the procession, dating back to the 17th century, a life-sized black wooden figure of Jesus is carried through the streets, and barefoot men clamber over each other trying to touch it for good health and to protect them from harm.