The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) has pledged the commitment and closeness of the Catholic Church of India to the Christians of the eastern state of Odisha who continue to suffer after facing untold violence over 7 years ago. Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, Archbishop Trivandrum, the president of the CBCI, the apex body of the Catholic Church in India, expressed this in a message to Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar whose jurisdiction covers Kandhamal district, which in 2008 witnessed perhaps the worst anti-Christian violence in the history of India. “I join in praying and thanking God for the blessings showered upon the Kandhamal Christian community. I want to assure my commitment and the unwavering support of the CBCI to the suffering brethren in Kandhamal,” Cardinal Cleemis wrote in his letter.
Meanwhile, CBCI has accepted a suggestion from Archbishop Barwa to discuss the anti-Christian persecution of 2007 and 2008 in Kandhamal at its plenary assembly scheduled, March 2-9 at St. John’s Medical College Campus, Bangalore. Archbishop Barwa, chairman of regional Odisha Catholic Bishops’ Council (OCBC), is scheduled to speak for 20 minutes giving a panoramic view of Kandhamal violence from 2007 to 2016, on March 4, 2016, and 10 minutes will be spent for question and answer. Archbishop Barwa, expressed satisfaction that the CBCI is keen to know about the status of Kandhamal violence for the first time after almost eight years.
Odisha’s bishops wanted the CBCI to discuss the possibilities of observing Kandhamal Martyrs’ Day at national level, initiating the canonization process for Kandhamal martyrs and putting up an exhibition on Kandhamal violence at the venue of the CBCI plenary assembly. However, requests for an exhibition on Kandhamal violence and testimonies by the survivors of the violence at the plenary assembly were turned down.
Meanwhile a group of priests and lay people is preparing a detailed list of Kandhamal martyrs, according to the dates of their death, denomination or religion. The Kandhamal violence of August 2008 that lasted for nearly four months claimed more than 90 lives and wounded hundreds of people. More than 50,000 people were rendered homeless.
During the plenary the bishops are expected to seek ways to help the Church respond meaningfully to modern challenges. Heads of India’s 171 dioceses, auxiliary and retired bishops are expected to attend the assembly that has chosen the theme, “The Response of the Church in India to the present day Challenges.” Justice Cyriac Joseph, a retired Supreme Court judge and acting chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission, will be the main speaker at the next plenary, said CBCI secretary general Archbishop Albert D’Souza of Agra in a report. The bishops have invited US Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, to address the plenary. Eminent persons from other Christian denominations and religions have been invited to express their views on the issues the bishops will discuss. CBCI’s last plenary was held at Palai, Kerala, in February 2014 on the theme, “Renewed Church for a Renewed Society – Responding to the Call of Vatican II.” (Source: Santosh Digal)