This year we complete a decade of the sad happenings in Kandhamal. The Archdiocese of CuttackBhubaneswar has decided to celebrate a Solemn Holy Mass of thanksgiving, reconciliation and Grace on 25 August, 2018: Thanksgiving for those who witnessed the faith with their sufferings and life,

Reconciliation that there might be genuine feeling of goodwill among all peoples and Grace that the Church may be further strengthened to live its faith.

Kandhamal has become a symbol of faith, hope and perseverance for the Indian Church and the Church in India has received abundant blessings from the sacrifices of the martyrs and the poor suffering victims of Kandhamal.

Over these ten years, the Archdiocese of CuttackBhubaneswar has remained close to the victims, and has been the prime driving force behind the legal processes to seek justice for the victims and relief for those who have suffered.

The Government of Odisha has been very helpful and positive towards the Christian Community in the State. In this regard, the Chief Minister of Odisha Shri Naveen Patnaik met with Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas SFX, Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India and Most Rev. John Barwa, SVD Archbishop of CuttackBhubaneswar on 2nd July 2018. They were accompanied by Advocate Fr.Dibakar Parichha, Secretary for the Diocesan Commission for Justice Peace and Development and Mr. Devasis Samantaray, General Secretary of the ruling Biju Janata Dal.

In the meeting, Bishop Theodore thanked the Chief Minister for his support and benevolence towards the Christian community in the state and assured him the prayers of the Christian community. He also offered the Chief Minister total cooperation of the Catholic Church in the developmental programmes of the Government with special focus on health, education, and community development and offered him partnership in the good work his government was doing specially with the PPP (Public Private Partnership) model. While thanking him for taking interest in resolving the issues related to the Kandhamal incidents ten years ago, he requested his help in dealing with the remaining issues. The Chief Minister thanked the prelates and assured them his full and continued support in the future also.

Earlier in the day, the Secretary General of the CBCI along with Archbishop Barwa, Fr.Prasan Kumar Pradhan, Vicar General, Fr. Pradosh Chandra Nayak Vicar General. Fr. Vijay Nayak, Dean of Cuttack, Fr. Manoranjan Dean of Raikia and number of priests from the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhbuaneswar met Mr. Devasis Samantaray, General.

Secretary of the ruling Biju Janata Dal and discussed with him various issues in which the Church needed the support and assistance of the Government. The Church support and collaboration was offered specially through the PPP (Public Private Partnership) model.

Mr Samantray also expressed the support of the Government to the Church and sought the cooperation of the Church in various issues at the grassroots level.

After meeting the Chief Minister, the Bishops met Shri Dhirendra Sambhaji Kutte, IPS, OSD, O/O Chief Minister. Thanking him for his support and work especially in dealing with the Kandhamal matters, Bishop Theodore placed before him three issues which are partly pending: The Secretary General requested him to expedite the payment of the enhanced compensation extended by the judgment of 02/08/2016 of the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India passed in W.P. (C) No. 404/2008 (Raphael Cheenath v/s State of Odisha & Others). Advocate Fr. Dibakar explained that while 60% had been paid, 40 % were still pending. Mr. Kutte asked Advocate Fr. Dibakar to provide the lists of those who have not yet received the enhanced compensation and assured that action would be taken at the earliest. Bishop Theodore also referred the matter of the of the 7 innocent people who are languishing in jail for the last ten years and whose cause the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar is fighting in the courts. Mr. Kutte promised that he would immediately look into the matter and see if relief can be provided. Bishop Theodore also took up the issue of churches and religious structures damaged in the violence that still remain unrepaired. It was revealed that the Government is working on measures to remedy this question.

The Bishops also met Mr. Shri. Pratap Jena, Health Minister Government of Odisha. While expressing the gratitude of the Christian Community to the Health Minister, Bishop Theodore also spoke to him about the need for more health services especially in the Kandhamal area. He offered the partnership of the Catholic Church in the Health sector especially in the Kandhamal area with a view of serving every person of the place without any distinction. Mr. Jena revealed that the Government of Odisha has a plan for a super speciality hospital in Kandhamal and invited a PPP proposal for the Catholic Church. He suggested that the Government could provide the full infrastructure, full remuneration for the staff and handover the hospital to the Church for running. Mr. Jena also provided an alternate proposal in which the government would provide the required land free of cost for hospital construction in case the Catholic Church was willing to construct the Hospital and run it in Kandhamal or anywhere else.

The Government officials were full of praise for the Christian Community for its peaceful way of living and for being leaders in nation building.

Most Rev. John Barwa, SVD

Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar