25 August 2018
KANDHAMAL TRAGEDY TEN YEARS AFTER:
MASS OF THANKSGIVING, RECONCILIATION AND GRACE IN BHUBANESWAR
Bishops, Priests, Religious and lay faithful gathered together in large numbers on 25th August 2018, in the St. Joseph’s School Compound, Bhubaneswar to celebrate a Solemn Eucharist to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the terrible and painful tragedy which Kandhamal went through ten years ago. In the last week of August, 2008 following the killing of Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati and four of his disciples, hate filled mobs targeted and attacked Christians. What was heartbreaking was that the massacre of the innocents continued unabated for months.
The attackers snuffed out human lives, destroyed and demolished churches, homes, schools, hospitals, dispensaries, offices, and centers working for the uplift and development of the poor and marginalized people especially the tribals, dalits, OBC and others. Women and young girls were gang raped and thousands had to flee to the jungles in fear and despair.
Ten years later, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India and the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar organized a celebration which was characterized by solemnity and sobriety. Most Rev. John Barwa SVD, Archbishop of Cuttack- Bhubaneswar in whose territory Kandhamal falls was the main celebrant at the High Mass in which 13 Bishops concelebrated along with over 90 priests and in which Religious and faithful from all walks of life participated. Bishops from other Christian denominations also attended the celebration.
Archbishop Barwa reminded the people that God works in our lives and in the life of the Church through mysterious ways. The blood of the martyrs of Kandhamal has brought many blessings upon the Church in Odisha and in the Country. Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas SFX, the Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops Conference in his Homily told the congregation that like the people of Israel we are very often helpless but the power of God gives us such strength that no human clout can give.
He confessed that we feel the pain but no anger as Christ teaches us to forgive. He said the Mass was being celebrated to thank God for the gift of the faith of our martyrs who show us the way to continue living our faith with courage and conviction. He exhorted the people to pray for those still suffering the pain of the tragedy, for justice for the victims but also for those who indulged in violence that God may convert their hearts and minds. The people were called upon to pray for peace and harmony in our country.The Mass was embellished by beautiful hymns sung by the Parish choir.
On the occasion of this gathering, the Decree of the opening of the Process of Beatification of Fr. Marian Zelazek SVD a Polish Priest who served in India and died peacefully in the Archdiocese of Cuttack- Bhubaneswar on 20th April 2006 was read by Fr. Prasana Pradhan the Vicar General. A book “Flames of Faith in Kandhamal, by Rev. Dr. Udayanath Bishoyi was released after the Holy Mass. Rev. Dr. Udayanath Bishoyi was the Master of Ceremonies and later proposed a vote of thanks.
Report prepared by Rev. Tapan Baliarsingh