By Santosh Digal
Mumbai: The Vatican is keen to consider the canonization of 100 Kandhamal martyrs, says Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai and president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC).
“I have personally spoken to Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in the Roman Curia regarding the canonization process of 100 Kandhamal anti-Christian persecution and the Vatican is showing greater interest in it,” Cardinal Gracias told Matters India January 18.
Now the documentation process and collection of evidences of those killed during the Kandhamal violence would be strengthened with a formal procedure in the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, Odisha, eastern India, the prelate said.
The cardinal is one of the nine key members of the team that advises Pope Francis on various church matters. He is also the president of Conference of Catholic Bishops of India -Latin Rite (CCBI).
He said he has already requested the head of the Church in Odisha, Divine Word Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack Bhubaneswar, to initiate the process.
The outbreak of anti-Christian violence in 2008 followed the killing of a radical Hindu leader in August 2008 by Maoist rebels.
Even though Communists claimed responsibility for the assassination, Hindu groups blamed Christians instead. Christians deny the charge.
The Kandhamal violence that lasted for nearly four months in 2008 claimed more than 100 lives and rendered more than 56,000 people homeless.
The violence also displaced some 56,000 people, forcing many of them to hide in forests where some were killed by snakebites, and destroyed an estimated 6,500 Christian houses and 395 churches.
Archbishop Barwa has constituted a team 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.
Hindus who had previously been his friends and neighbours burned him with acid, castrated him and finally disembowelled him, with some of them wearing his intestines around their necks as garlands.
Victims also include 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.
Rajni Majh, an orphan girl in the care of a Catholic priest, was raped by members of a mob before she was tied up and burned alive.