By Stanley Kozhichira and Arul Elango
New Delhi: Archbishop Anil J T Couto of Delhi on January 15 urged Christians in India to muster courage to face persecution.
“We need the courage to face persecution. It can come anytime,” the prelate said while rededicating a church in an eastern extreme of the national capital that was gutted in a mysterious fire more than two years ago.
St. Sebastian’s Church in Dilshad Garden was among six church institutions in Delhi targeted between December 2014 and January 2015. The attacks ended suddenly with the announcement of elections to the Delhi legislative assembly in February 2015.
The attack on the Dilshad Garden church on December 1, 2014, led to nationwide protests and drew international attention.
“Dedication of the church reminds our own dedication to Jesus. We need to witness Christ at anytime and anywhere. Jesus’s heart thirsts for the world’s salvation,” Archbishop Couto said at the rededication Mass that launched the annual parish feast.
Retired Archbishop Vincent M Concessao and around 50 priests concelebrated the Mass attended by hundreds of people from various walks of life.
Archbishop Couto acknowledged that help to rebuild the church came from various sources such as Bombay Archdiocese, Propagation of Faith, Nunciature and local sources.
The archbishop said the Catholic Church is not against anyone, but tries to reach out to all irrespective of their religions and other differences.
An archdiocesan official told Matters India that although both the federal and the state governments had promised to help rebuild the church, no aid came. The Archdiocese of Delhi undertook the reconstruction two years ago.
The church still waits for “a clear reason” for the fire, the church official added. Police and others dismissed it the result of electricity short circuit, while others suspected it as a foul play.
Present on the occasion was Oscar Fernandes, a Member of Parliament. This is “a miracle church and it remains a powerful symbol of hope,” Fernandes later told Matters India.
Ranjit John, architect of the church, said he was happy to work on the project. “I welcome the Lord. Come Holy Spirit and sanctify this place of worship,” he prayed while speaking to Matters India.
The church was opened on December 30, 2001, by then Archbishop Vincent Concessao of Delhi. It served as worship place for both the Latin and Syro-Malabar Catholics living in and around Dilshad Garden, one of the largest residential areas in Delhi.
Parish priest Father Anthony Francis said that the burning of the church was “a blessing in disguise” and as the gutted Church enabled his flock to rebuild with modernity and expansion. After the blessing of the tabernacle, Archbishop Couto handed its key to Father Francis.
The Catholic church sits between a Hindu temple and an Orthodox Christian church.