Suspected Hindu extremists have demolished the wall of a Catholic mission hospital and manhandled staff, including nuns, in the latest incident in Madhya Pradesh state, considered a hotbed of anti-Christian violence in central India.
Ucanews.com reported that 60 people, with the help of a bulldozer, razed the boundary wall of 44-year-old Pushpa Mission Hospital in the town of Ujjain on March 12. They blocked its emergency entrance and destroyed equipment, including power generators.
The hospital has been facing trouble since January after Gagan Singh, the personal assistant of a local legislator, staked a claim over disputed land in front of the hospital, said Fr Anthony Pulickamandapam, the hospital director.
The dispute has gone to court after members of the BJP, the party that runs the state government, attempted to take over the land on January 27, accusing the Church of illegally occupying the site.
Fr Pulickamandapam said the attackers came armed with a bulldozer and sharp-edged weapons. They demolished the boundary wall, erected a fence and put up some makeshift shops to claim the land.
“Our staff, including Catholic nuns, who attempted to resist the advance were manhandled and forced to flee for safety,” he told ucanews.com. “They also destroyed the backup power generator and disconnected the water supply, putting the lives of nearly 200 patients – including 12 in the intensive care unit – in serious danger.”
The local bishop, Sevastian Vadakel, said the local police station and other officials refused to answer calls for help.
Madhya Pradesh had the greatest number of anti-Christian incidents in India last year, according to a report by Persecution Relief, an ecumenical forum that records Christian persecution in India. The state witnessed 52 attacks against Christians in 2017, up from 28 in 2016, the report said.
Attacks have increased since the BJP came to power in New Delhi in 2014. There were 736 reported attacks against Christians in 2017, up from 348 in 2016, Persecution Relief said.
Vatican removes archbishop after abuse trial
A Vatican tribunal has found Archbishop Anthony Sablan Apuron, who was accused of sexual abuse, guilty of “certain of the accusations” against him, and removed him from office.
A five-judge panel of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) announced the verdict last Friday and imposed upon the archbishop “the penalties of privation of office and prohibition of residence in the Archdiocese of Guam”.
Archbishop Apuron has headed the Archdiocese of Agaña since 1986, but was placed on leave by Pope Francis in 2016 after a series of abuse accusations from young men.
In October 2016, Michael Byrnes was appointed as co-adjutor archbishop to run the diocese in Apuron’s stead.
A source told the Catholic Herald that Archbishop Apuron will appeal the verdict, and remains Archbishop of Agaña in name while he does so.
The accusations against the archbishop ranged from grave allegations, including child abuse, to less serious ones. The CDF rejected most of the accusations, and has not disclosed of which ones he is guilty.
In a statement, the archbishop said: “I have been informed of the conclusion of the first instance canonical trial against me. While I am relieved that the tribunal dismissed the majority of the accusations against me, I have appealed the verdict.
“God is my witness; I am innocent and I look forward to proving my innocence in the appeals process.”
The archbishop said he was praying for “the Church in Guam, which has been suffering greatly”, and for “the healing of our island”.
In January the archbishop said he had been ill – he is now in a wheelchair – and wrote that “having lost interest in this world, God is my witness: I deny all allegations of sexual abuse made against me”.