This week, Archbishop Marampudi Joji Hyderabad of India said that Hindu extremists who murdered Carmelite priest of Mary Immaculate, Father Thomas Pandippally, carried out the act for three reasons: “because he was religious, because he was Christian and because he was charitable to the poor.”
In statements to the L'Osservatore Romano, the archbishop explained that Father Pandippally “was killed because the Catholic missionaries are on the side of the poor in this region - in which there still exists a harsh form of servitude in the agricultural industry. Land owners do not recognize the rights of farm workers and make use of fanatical Hindu gangs to put a stop to any improvement to the living conditions of the rural population,” he said.
“In this region, Hindu-inspired fanaticism uses religion only as a pretext for carrying out these crimes,” the archbishop went on. “Between us Catholics and moderate Hindus there is no confrontation when it comes to dialogue about the values of the spirit. The confrontations are created by those who use pseudo-religious pretexts,” he added.
The archbishop also underscored that “the faithful of my diocese often live in fear. Here Catholics are a truly heroic and significant minority. At the parish where the killing took place, only five families openly declare themselves to be Catholic. For this reason, regular attendance at religious services is now a serious risk,” he noted.
“Farm workers in rural areas are only supposed to obey land owners who are of the Hindu faith. To be Christian, and Catholic in particular, is a very courageous choice, but a choice that puts one’s life and that of one’s family at risk,” the archbishop said.