2017-12-05 10:19:00

Indian archdiocese ready to gather evidence on Kandhamal martyrs

The Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar in eastern India’s Odisha state is preparing to initiate the sainthood cause of those who perished in the 2008 anti-Christian violence by Hindu extremists in Kandhamal district. In a December 3 letter, Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar appointed Father Purushottam Nayak to research and prepare a dossier containing documents for some 100 martyrs of Kandhamal, Mattersindia reported.

The Divine Word archbishop said that time was ripe to collect the documents in order to present the petition to initiate the process of declaring them martyrs. Fr. Nayak’s mandate will come into effect on January 1, 2018

Data collection

According to the archbishop, 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 their 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 unfavorable to the cause.” 

Sainthood process

The process of collecting data and documenting the life and virtues of a candidate begins before the initiation of the long and stringent process of beatification and canonization at the diocesan level where the ‎person lived and died.  At the start of diocesan process, the candidate receives the title “Servant of God”.  ‎With the end of the diocesan process the dossier passes to the Vatican for further verification process that confirms the person’s heroic virtues and grants him or her the title “Venerable Servant of God”.  A miracle through the candidate’s intercession is needed next for the person to be declared Blessed.  However, a miracle is not required for a martyr.  Another miracle, including for a martyr, is needed for final sainthood or canonization.    

The job of Fr. Nayak from Jan. 1 will be to document the life and virtues of the martyrs before the start of the diocesan process.  Archbishop Barwa termed it as an “important and sacred task” of the archdiocese.  Fr. Nayak is the archbishop’s personal secretary and deputy secretary (in-charge) of Odisha Bishops Regional Council.

Last January, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Mumbai and president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), told Matters India that the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints headed by its Prefect, Cardinal Angelo Amato, has shown keen interest in the sainthood process of Kandhamal martyrs.  The cardinal, who is president of India’s Latin-rite bishops (CCBI) and one of the 6-member council of cardinals, popularly called the “C9”, that advises Pope Francis on the reform of the Roman Curia, or the central administration of the Universal Church, had already requested the head of the Church in Odisha, Archbishop Barwa to initiate the process.

Anti-Christian violence

Violence against the Christians of Odisha erupted in Kandhamal District with untold savagery, ‎with ‎Hindu ‎extremists blaming Christians for the August 23, 2008 murder of Hindu ‎leader ‎Swami ‎Lakshmanananda Saraswati, despite Maoist rebels claiming the assassination.  Some 100 ‎Christians were killed and an estimated 395 churches and 6,500 Christian houses were destroyed. 

The documentation includes collection of evidence of atrocities against Christians who refused to give up their faith at the point of death.  The martyrs include more than 90 Catholics butchered by Hindu nationalists during a seven-week violence.   

Members of other Christian denominations also died in witness to their faith but will not be included among any future saints canonized by the Catholic Church.  They include Parikhit Nayak, a Dalit Christian “Protestant” convert from Hinduism who was tortured to death in front of his wife, Kanak Rekah Nayak.

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 and was urinated upon when he begged for water.  The mob eventually battered him to death with clubs, sticks and axes. 

Rajni Majhi, an orphan girl in the care of a Catholic priest, was raped by members of a mob before she was burned alive.  (Source: Mattersindia)

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