By Sr Carmel Ann Coutinho
The violence that lasted for nearly four months in 2008 against Christians in Kandhamal District of Odisha state resulted in the loss of 100 lives and left more than 56,000 people homeless.
Survivors claim they are facing continued denial of justice in the numerous cases pending before the law courts. But the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, to which the victims belonged, is preparing to initiate the cause for sainthood of those killed.
Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar has appointed Fr Purushottam Nayak to document and prepare a dossier containing details regarding the Catholics killed during this violence.
Fr. Nayak will document their lives and virtues before the start of the diocesan process. Fr. Nayak is the archbishop’s personal secretary and deputy secretary (in-charge) of Odisha Bishops Regional Council.
Meanwhile, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Mumbai and President of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), spoke to Vatican News during his last visit to Rome about the issue. Cardinal Gracias has met with and listened to the people who suffered and is convinced that those who died in Kandhmal are martyrs. He supports Archbishop Barwa and says we need to be sensitive to our people who have suffered.
Mumbai Cardinal ready to facilitate for martyrdom process of Kandhamal victims
Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Mumbai and President of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), spoke to Vatican News during his last visit to Rome about the issue. Cardinal Gracias has met with and listened to the people who suffered and is convinced that those who died in Kandhmal are martyrs. He supports Archbishop Barwa and says church needs to be sensitive to our people who have suffered.
Cardinal Oswald Gracias spoke to Sr Carmel Ann Coutinho of Vatican News. Excerpts:
Q: Recently, we read about Fr. Purushottam Nayak being appointed to research and prepared dossier for documents for some hundred martyrs of Kandhamal.
Cardinal Oswald: I am not aware of what you say. I have been to Bhubaneswar, met the survivors of Kandhamal, wives of those who are killed. I do feel they are martyrs from the stories, accounts of first hand from people are martyrs.
For the Church to be declared, there is a process; documentation, examination and study; discussion. I have spoken to the Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, Odisha, already that time. I have also offered canonical assistance; our Mumbai archdiocese for it too. I have met priests on the situations and of Archbishop Barwa to take stock of. I am not aware of any development in last month. I had a meeting with all the Archbishops; he was not present. But certainly, when I meet him, I shall inquire and encourage about it.
I think they should go about it. We are also sensitive to the feelings of others. Hence, need to be prudent. The initial moments need to be helpful to process. We have Rani Maria, who is beatified recently beautiful celebration, beautiful experiences. And no one find offended to. Here too, need to prepare it well. Certainly, personally, I feel convinced that they have given life for faith. Now they are with the Lord.
Q: How can Vatican look at it?
Cardinal Oswald: I suppose, there is a process. I have not spoken personally; but I should to Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., who serves as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Initially, I spoke to the officials, giving the background and the issues. There is feeling to go ahead. But the local bishop (Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar) has to take the initiative. I hear of it; I promise to follow up with him; offer assistance whatever we can. We have quite a well number of trained persons in our Archdiocese of Bombay, I could offer if he wants so that we could go ahead. It would help people faith strengthened.
When I asked the wife of one of the persons who died, what you want from the Church; I presumed; she would ask help for Children; but she asked whether my husband could be declared as martyrs. I said in public; as it quite touching. It is quite legitimate request to declare them martyrs. We would like to facilitate it.