Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar in India said this week in response to the recent wave of violence against Christians by Hindu extremists that Christians, “especially Catholics, are persecuted above all because of our social efforts to help the poor.
In an interview with the L’Osservatore Romano, Archbishop Cheenath also said, “We Catholics have never proselytized but we have always given good example by helping others. I think that for these people who are fanning the flames, our charitable work is an unforgivable sin.”
He noted that the current problems go back to December of 2007 and January 2008. “At that time, the ire of extremists was concentrated on the destruction of the belongings of Catholics, and now it is on the direct attack of people. The number of victims is still not definitively known. I have received news of five victims and numerous wounded, some seriously. I pray to God this will all end soon and reason will soon prevail again,” he said.
The archbishop went on to say, “It is not necessary but it is fair to say that people are using a pseudo-religious pretext for matters of a political nature. Catholics in Orissa are a small community, about one percent of the population. Our faithful support peaceful coexistence with those who belong to other faiths and they have, whenever possible, good relations with their Hindu neighbors.”
Archbishop Cheenath also mentioned the case of a young lay missionary named Ranjie Majhie who worked at an orphanage in Panampur. She may have died during a fire at the orphanage making sure that all of the children were able to escape the flames.
“The children and some of the nuns probably hid in the neighboring plantations. However, I cannot say anything definitive about her fate. I pray that God will protect these innocent victims,” the archbishop stated.
Asked about what would happen to the Pastoral Center of the diocese, he said the center’s director, Father Thomas, “has surely fled from the Hindu fanatics who were gathered outside the building to set it on fire. I have spoken to him by phone. He has described the events with anguish. I have told him to pray fervently and to save himself.”
“As far as I know, the pastoral center has suffered serious damage, perhaps irreparable. This was a work that many of faithful sacrificed greatly for. We were very proud of it,” the archbishop said.