In a not too distant future, the Catholic Church in India’s extreme north-east hopes to have its first martyr saints. If the process of beatification and canonization proceeds smoothly, the martyrdom of French missionaries, Fathers Nicolas-Michel Krick and Augustin-Etienne Bourry, could be recognized by the Vatican. Their cause is being promoted primarily by Salesian Bishop George Pallipparambil of Miao in Arunachal Pradesh, India’s easternmost state where the two were martyred over 160 years ago.
Frs. Krick and Bourry were members of the Société des Missions Etrangères de Paris (M.E.P), or the Society of the Paris Foreign Missions, an institute of diocesan priests zealous to spread the Gospel of Christ in Asia. One of their important goals or destinations was Tibet. Back then, the only way to Tibet was through NE India, Arunachal Pradesh today. In fact, it was through Frs. Krick and Bourry that Arunachal Pradesh had its first encounter with Christianity, way back in mid-19th century.
The state shares international borders with Bhutan in the west, Myanmar in the East and Tibet and China in the North. The two were passing through the north-east region of what was then British India, on their way to Tibet, which Krick had already visited before. It was during their last push for Tibet that they were killed by the chief of the Mishmi people on 2 August, 1854, in Somme village of Lohit district. Krick was 35 and Bourry just 28. Their mortal remains are still enshrined in the village.
Well, to know more about Krick and Bourry, especially the process of their beatification and canonization, we contacted Fr. Felix Anthony, the secretary of the Office for Social Communication of Miao Diocese. Talking to Vatican Radio on his mobile phone, Fr. Felix who is also parish priest of Neotan, near Miao, narrated how over 160 years ago Frs. Krick and Bourry made their way up from Chennai to Kolkata, then to Guwahati and beyond to what is Arunachal Pradesh today. To begin with, he spoke about how his bishop was inspired by the two missionaries.
Fr. Felix said that the process of beatification and canonization of Frs. Krick and Bourry was the initiative of Bishop George of Miao, who was fascinated by their missionary zeal. He said it that the preliminary diocesan-level inquiry began in 2010-2011 after getting the clearance from the Vatican, with which the two were conferred the title ‘Servant of God’. The diocesan level investigation is over and the papers have been forwarded to the Vatican, where the cause of Krick and Bourry will be subjected to a long rigorous process to ascertain their martyrdom and holiness.
Despite over 160 years since their death, Fr. Felix said, the two missionaries are very much alive in the memory of the people of east Arunachal. Even though the Mishmi people in whose hands they met their end are not Christians, they have maintained the tomb with the mortal remains of the two Frenchmen.
Miao Diocese inaugurated its first hospital in 2016 at Injan near Kharsang, naming it Krick and Bourry Memorial (KBM) Hospital. A Church-run high school, close to where they were martyred, as well as several shops are named after Krick and Bourry. Bishop George has also composed a prayer to the two missionaries which is recited in the boarding schools of the diocese.
For persons who were killed in the remote region over 160 years ago, it was difficult to find evidence and proofs of their holiness and martyrdom. Fr. Felix admitted Arunachal had very little to offer but they came to know a lot about the two from the letters they exchanged with the headquarters of the Paris Foreign Mission , the MEP, in the French capital.
Local people say that soon after their death, their blood mingled with the water of the land and a new spring began flowing. From their letters back home, we come to know about the enormous difficulties and suffering they faced in the forsaken land. They were robbed by their own guide and were held captive because they had not money to pay but throughout they were rooted in deep faith, prayer and good will, Fr. Felix said.
Till date, there have not been any reports of spectacular miracles or unexplained healings attributed to Krick and Bourry, but Fr. Felix said people have received graces after praying to them. He gave the example of Newman High School in his parish of Neotan that had reported 22 failures out of 32 candidates for the school’s first public exam in 2015. The students were urged to pray to Krick and Bourry, and surprisingly enough, the following year, all 33 passed. This year too all 32 went through. Small children have recovered from illness after praying to the two missionaries, Fr. Felix added.