By Matters India Reporter
Bhubaneswar: Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, Odisha has appointed a priest to document and prepare dossier containing documents for Kandhamal martyrs.
In his December 3 appointment letter, he named Father Purushottam Nayak for the said task.
“It is ripe time now to collect the documents and present the petition for the process of initiating of declaring them martyrs and if god willing, later for the process of Canonization,” the Divine Word prelate said.
The Archbishop appointed Father Nayak “to collect necessary documents for the purpose of initiating the process of declaring martyrs, the persons martyred during the Kandhamal persecutions with effect from January 1, 2018.”
Father Nayak “will collect a list of persons martyred during persecutions, a critical biography of the persons proposed, a report on the virtues, the reputation of the sanctity, reports of favours granted if at all through their intercessions, any possible obstacles to the cause, all the published writings on the persons proposed, a list of witnesses, both favorable and unfavourable to the cause.”
The Archbishop termed it as “important and sacred task in the Archdiocese.”
Currently, Father Nayak is prelate’s personal secretary and deputy secretary (in-charge) of Odisha Bishops Regional Council.
Earlier he worked as finance manager of Caritas Charities, Archdiocese’s social service wing, and a staff at St. Paul’s Minor Seminary, Balliguda (Kandhamal).
He has Master’s degree in English and hails from Kandhamal.
Last January, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai and president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), had told Matters India that Vatican was keen to canonize Kandhamal martyrs.
Cardinal Gracias had 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 was showing greater interest in it.
Now the documentation process and collection of evidence of those killed during the Kandhamal violence is needed with a formal procedure in the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, Odisha, eastern India.
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).
Cardinal Gracias had already requested the head of the Church in Odisha, Archbishop Barwa 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.
It is important 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.