Diocese closes schools to protest vandalism by Hindu militants, bishops condemn attack

.- The Catholic Diocese of Lucknow closed its 20 schools Sept. 11 to protest vandalism by a militant Hindu mob the previous day.

The mob vandalized Loreto Intermediate College in Lucknow, about 500 kilometers southeast of New Delhi.

Fr. Ronald D'Souza, secretary to Bishop Albert D'Souza, told UCA News that the mob included members of various Hindu radical groups. They entered the college campus at about 4 p.m. after breaking through the main gate, breaking flowerpots and shouting slogans.

According to the priest, the attack was provoked by a report in “The Times of India” about a "special occult session" the college conducted four days earlier. The report said several students fainted at the session and needed medical attention. The paper also alleged the incident prompted "horrified parents" to question the college.

Fr. D'Souza said the newspaper had "completely twisted the whole matter" to incite the Hindu militants.

Sr. Teressia Arickatt, local superior of the Loreto nuns who manage two schools in Lucknow, also said the news report was a pack of lies.

The sister told UCA News that no one was hospitalized after the prayer session though some students did walk out during the service when they felt “giddy” from being in the packed and hot prayer hall.

Sr. Arickatt said the program comprised of mainly prayers, led by a Salesian priest, and the faith witness of a layman. His sharing is available at http://www.ourladyofchandra.com. The prayer service was optional for students, she said.

She said school authorities suspect a teacher, who was reprimanded for misconduct, may have leaked a distorted version of events to the press.

This morning the Catholic Bishop's Conference of India condemned the Hindu group’s attacks calling them “totally unwarranted.”  The Conference spokesman, Father Babu Joseph, said in the release that as a, "civilized and democratic society, we should resort to dialogue rather than violence to find solutions to problems."

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