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Catholic Priest Brutally Attacked in Thane near Mumbai

A group of over 40 Bajrangdal activists attacked Fr. Oscar Mendonca, August 6, in front of the John the Baptist Church, Thane, Maharashtra.

The miscreants after a meeting to condole the murder of four RSS activists allegedly killed by Christians, marched to the church, and breaking down the iron gates, attacked Fr. Oscar Mendonca, now recuperating in a hospital. They attacked him with a flower pot, causing large bruises on his chest and back.

The mob kept chanting that the church was responsible for killing Hindus throughout the country.

Cardinal Ivan Dias, the Archbishop of Bombay, while condemning the attack as senseless and barbaric has, in a communiqué, asked all the Catholic Schools in the archdiocese of Mumbai to remain closed on Monday, August 13, as a mark of protest. "I want to emphasise the serious nature of the incident, which must be considered much more sacrilegious than any attack on a church, temple or a mosque, for it was a premeditated assault on a priest who has received a sacred anointing in the service of God", said the Cardinal. "I make a special appeal for prayers for the perpetrators of the criminal act. This would be our response to Christ Our Lord’s command to ‘pray for those who persecute you’, and would echo His prayer on the Cross-, ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they have done", added Cardinal Dias.

According to a newspaper in India, The Hindu, Maharashtra State Monorities Commission sought stringent action to curb this activity of extremists. A member of the commission, Mr. Abraham Mathai visited the attacked priest.

Fr. Mendonca is the assistant parish priest and was ordained three weeks ago.

AICC Concerned with New Threats to Religious Freedom

The All-India Christian Council (AICC) has called for "united action to counter a series of recent incidents in several States by fundamentalists of the Sangh Parivar, as well as the police forces acting at their behest, in which the civil rights of Christian individuals and groups have been violently attacked".

In a statement put out July 29 in New Delhi and Hyderabad, the Council said it was deeply concerned that the Central and State Governments, instead of taking urgent steps to restore confidence among the terrorised minorities, had seemingly condoned such actions. "The Centre is in fact, according to media reports, bringing out a legislation that will further and more seriously affect religious minorities in the country and their work, and harm Constitutional guarantees."

The statement said the ‘most ominous incident’ had taken place in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. "In that city, a Christian religious worker was among five persons ‘detained’ by self-styled vigilantes of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, July 24. The five men had come to the city to attend a meeting. The City Superintendent of Police, who had the five men released, admitted they were innocent of the charges of conversion levelled against them."

The police, however, have not taken action against the VHP goons, the release added.

The Council alleged that the VHP groups were also terrorising the inmates of an ashram in Kota district of Rajasthan, which is home to over 1,500 destitute and orphaned young people. Death threats have been issued to the officials of the ashram, the Council alleged.

Naga Christians Support Ceasefire Extension

Naga Christians have welcomed the Central Government’s decision to extend the ceasefire to territory outside Nagaland. In several places of the Northeast Indian States of Nagaland and Manipur, both bordering Myanmar, Nagas took out peace rallies in support of the Government move.

On July 25, members of the Dimapur Naga Students’ Union (DNSU), walked along the 80 km hilly route from Dimapur to Kohima and submitted a memorandum to the President of India through the Governor, Mr. Om Prakash Sharma, requesting him to renew the ceasefire agreement after it expires July 31. As many as 245 students participated in this peaceful and prayerful rally.

Earlier, Rev. Shiwoto Swu, speaking at the inauguration of the Dimapur rally, quoted St. Mathew’s Gospel 4:9 and called upon the Nagas to become peacemakers.

Principal of the Oriental Theological College, Dimapur, Dr. Wati Aier said, "We Nagas need to be constantly vigilant. But our method should be totally non-violent. If we are non-violent we have nothing to lose… we gain everything."

Naga Mothers’ Association (NMA) members prayed for the success of the rally and over the DNSU members and volunteers.

Christians Protest Municipality Move to Demolish Century Old Cross in Mumbai

On July 7, Bhandarpakhadi in Kandivli, Mumbai, witnessed a demonstration of solidarity among Catholics of the area – Andheri and Borivli. They came to protest against the proposed demolition of a century-old cross on a piece of land that is being eyed by the Municipality for the purpose of widening the road.

The protest was jointly organised by the Bombay Catholic Sabha (BCS), Our Lady of Assumption Church Unit, Kandivli, and Voice of The Exploited (VOTE) of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Orlem, Malad.

Convenor of VOTE, Mr. Dolphy D’Souza, said the demonstrators would remain before the cross, praying and singing to register their protest. He said such threats were being thrown at the Christian community, "because the perpetrators of violence know well that we, being a docile community, would be prepared to turn the other cheek." He called upon the Christians, including the priests and the religious who took part in the demonstration, to put up a stiff fight against the decision of the Municipality.

Mr. D’Souza also informed that a delegation of Christians had met the ward officer, Mr. Narayan Pai, and that the latter had assured the delegation that the cross would remain untouched until the end of his term.

Church, IGNOU to offer Course on HIV, Family Education

The Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), New Delhi, has announced a six-month certificate programme on ‘HIV and Family Education’ through distance learning mode, according to a press release issued by the Commission for Healthcare, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, July 10.

This is the first time that an Indian University has launched a programme of study on HIV/AIDS and family education.

The proposal for such an initiative was taken at an inter-agency meeting, organised by the Commission for Healthcare of the CBCI and IGNOU in early 1999 in New Delhi. "There was a desperate need to develop a University certified programme which took into consideration the unique social fabric of India," says Prof. Gracious Thomas, the Course Co-ordinator at IGNOU. The programme of study on HIV and family education focuses on moral, social and family values keeping in mind "the teaching of our great religions", says Dr. Alex Vadakumthala, the Executive Secretary of the CBCI Commission for Healthcare.

The CBCI has established a chair at IGNOU to promote research and development of study on HIV, family education and social welfare. Admission to the first certificate programme on the course is currently on. Though the minimum entry qualification is 10+2, the course can be taken by anyone with a higher degree, the release said. The application forms are available and can be obtained at the IGNOU headquarters or at any of its 45 regional centres. IGNOU also provides walk-in admission for the certificate programme. Those who register before November 2001 will start their lessons from January 2002 and those who apply thereafter will be included in July 2002 session, the press release said.

Churches Urged to Eradicate Poverty and Illiteracy

The two-day colloquium of the executive body of the Councils of Churches, held here, from July 14 urged Churches to work towards eradicating poverty and illiteracy from the country.

National Council of Churches general secretary, Rev. Ipe Joseph, and its State convener, Jetti A Oliver, and other members regretted that India attained Independence 52 years ago but 42 percent people are still under the poverty line.

Mentioning the demolition of the church at Kukatpally Housing Board Colony, the colloquium requested the government to take adequate and prompt action.

Leader Calls Dalit Christian Struggle a Failure Story

Renowned Dalit leader and theologian, Dr. James Massey from Punjab called for mounting a "united Christian effort" to make the Dalit Christian struggle in India a "success story".

Participating in a ‘Consultation on Equal Rights to Dalit Christians’, organised by the Karnataka Dalit Christian Federation, under the aegis of the CBCI National Commission for SC/ST and BC, at the Jesuit-run Indian Social Institute, July 12 here, Mr. Massey described the Dalit Christians’ struggle so far as a "failure story".

He said if the movement has to succeed the issue has to become "an issue of the entire Christian community". But "I don’t find a single Christian in India today", he said quoting the architect of the Indian Constitution and Dalit leader, Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar, "because Christians represent only their denominations – Catholic, Protestant, Baptist and so on. We are the most disjointed community," he said.

"The Government leaders know that Christians do not have anything in common except Jesus Christ. We are not united… we are heavily divided on the basis of denominations and languages. So any pressure on the Government by a fragmented community seeking equal rights is not going to bear much fruit," he said.

Dr. Massey called for an action plan to mobilise Christians in the four southern States, which according to him house nearly 65 percent of the total Christian population in the country. He also suggested that a strategy be worked out to identify strong Christian pockets in North India to consolidate the Dalit movement.

Giving the background of the Dalit struggle in India, Secretary of the CBCI National Commission for Scheduled Castes/Tribes & Backward Classes, Fr. S. Lourdusamy said the present Government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party was determined not to allow any reservation for the Dalit Christians. "The Government has never said no to our demands whenever we made a representation. But nothing positive is likely to emerge as regards equal rights to Dalit Christians and reservations for the community. This is because of the political will. Dalit Christians are not a major vote bank."

Present among others were Fr. S.T. Joseph of Mysore Diocese, Director of Childcare, Fr. Gerard Valavan, ISI Director, Fr. Michael Das, Convenor of Karnataka Dalit Christian Federation, Mr. Mariswamy, Mr. Kumar Swamy from All India Christian Council, Member of National Minorities Commission, Mr. Balraj IAS (retd), Vice-president of the Federation of Karnataka State Christian Organisations/Associations, Bangalore, Mr. Joseph Manoharan, and Rev. Benjamin of the National Council of Churches in India.

Christian Drama Troupe Wins Four Nandi Awards

A Christian Drama Troupe, Kala Darshini won four Nandi Awards for its play "Prema Samrajyam" (A Nation of Love) in the Nandi Natakotsav-2001, held in Hyderabad. The Chief Minister Mr. N. Chandrababu Naidu presented the awards to Jesuit Father Joe Sebastian, in a grand function held at Ravindra Bharthi, Hyderabad, recently.

"Prema Samrajyam" is based on the biblical theme "Kingdom of God". The Drama deals with a number of social problems such as alcoholism, gender oppression, divorce, and immoral life. The play has also drawn inspiration from the Christian legend of ‘The Fourth Magi’. The central theme is ‘love of neighbour’. "Whatever you do to the least of my people you do it to me," resounds through out the play. The play is written by Mr. Bandi Stanley, directed by Mr. Sylverstar and organised by Fr. Ravi.

Kala Darshini was founded July 31, 1990 as Ignatian Jubilee Memorial, at Loyola College, Vijayawada.


So How Much Does the Pope Really Earn?

Last Friday, when the Vatican’s financial statement was presented, an American reporter asked Cardinal Sergio Sebastiani, president of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, how much the Pope earns.

Cardinal Sebastiani answered that, although he was unaware of a papal salary, he believed that, if it existed, it would be "normal."

On Saturday, however, Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls published a press statement saying that "the Pope has not received, and has never received, a salary."

"Appropriate Vatican organizations provide for the needs of the Holy Father’s daily activity," the statement adds.

Navarro-Valls added that "all donations received by the Pope are allocated to the needs of the Church, respecting the intention of the donor, when stipulated."

He concluded: "The donations are managed according to absolutely transparent criteria."

Just for the record: John Paul II does not receive a salary.

Indian Christians ask Musharraf to repeal blasphemy laws

An Indian Christian organization Wednesday asked
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to repeal his country’s "obnoxious blasphemy laws" under which Christian and Hindu minorities it said were being persecuted.

"Under the blasphemy laws extra-judicial killings and arrests have become a day-to-day affair for minorities in Pakistan," the Global Council of Indian Christians charged in a letter to Musharraf, a copy of which was released here.

The letter was handed to Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, here Wednesday. "A growing body of evidence confirms that the Christians and Hindus continue to be treated as second class citizens. We are outraged by the blasphemy laws of your country, which are selectively used against religious minorities."

"The radicals under the support of the authorities infringe the modesty of minority women. Lands are confiscated under the laws," it said and added the laws were clearly discriminatory and violated international conventions.

"Your visit and the forthcoming summit is an opportunity to remove mistrust and misunderstanding and to pursue the path of harmony, peace and prosperity," the letter said.

It called for immediate repealing of all laws and anti-minority provisions from the Constitution and initiate steps to instill confidence among non-Muslims by reconstructing places of worship destroyed during the anti-minority riots.

Church Condemns Manner of Former CM's Arrest

The Church leaders in Tamil Nadu have condemned the manner in which the former Chief Minister of Tamul Nadu was arrested, June 30.
    The President of the United Minority Forum and the United Christian Council for Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry, Archbishop Marianus Arokiasamy of Madurai said, "The manner of arrest of an elderly person, a former Chief Minister of State, late in the night deserve to be condemned in the strongest terms by all those respecting the rule of law."
   Chennai Police stormed the residence of former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, 78 year old M. Karunanidhi, dragged him out of bed and beat him up, and arrested him at 1.45 am, June 30. He was arrested without a warrant, for alleged misappropriation of Rs 12 crore in the construction of flyovers in the city.
    Archbishop described the gruesome episode 'a black chapter in the history of a State, known for its people living in peace and tranquility'. "But what really disturbing is the plight of the common man, - in the light of near lawlessness and blatant violations of human rights," the Archbishop added.

Can We Christians Not Even Die In Peace ?

by George Menezes

There have been no atrocities against Christians for a couple of months and the community was deluding themselves into believing that the worst was over when low and behold, three missionaries were gunned down in the north East and, believe it or not, a Christian was prevented from being buried in Kapadwang, Gujarat on 28th May 2001. Ironically his name was Lazarusbhai Solanki, aged 74.

Click here to read the complete article

Self-help Group Procures Hearse for Archdiocese

A Bengali Christian self-help group, Atharo Gram Samaj (AGS), has procured a hearse for use by the Christians in the Archdiocese of Calcutta. Coadjutor Archbishop Lucas Sircar blessed the Tata 207 model hearse at St. Teresa’s Parish, Moulali, Calcutta, June 24. Trinamul Congress Member of Parliament, Mr. Sudip Bandopadhyay, Member of Legislative Assembly, Ms. Noyona Bandopadhaya and Councillor Mr. Radheshyam Saha and the parishioners were present at the blessing ceremony.

"This has been one of our long-cherished dreams: to have a hearse of our own to carry our dead to the cemetery. All these years we depended on the hearse service of the Sikh or other communities," said Mr. Dilip Gomes, president of AGS, Calcutta. "This hearse will be used by the local Christian and other communities," he added. "We are extremely grateful to our MP, who gifted us this hearse from the MP’s development fund," said Fr. Orson Wells, the parish priest of St. Teresa’s Parish and head of the committee to oversee the hearse service. The AGS Calcutta is an association of Christians who immigrated from Atharo Gram in Bangladesh.

Parishioners Celebrate Feast without a Priest in Protest

The annual parish feast of St. Thomas Forane Church at Thoothoor, in Kanyakumari district is being celebrated by the parishioners without a priest. The rituals in the Church are performed without a parish priest, since June 10. Vice-president of the Parish Council, Mr. D. Lawrence told TSC that adoration, prayer and Holy Mass are celebrated daily by the parishioners themselves. This strange act of the parishioners is to protest against the decision of the diocese regarding the management of a school in Thoothoor.

The members of the parish have decided to take out a protest rally to the bishop’s house in Trivandrum, if the decision taken at a meeting, August 15, 2000, (of the bishop, parish priests and members of the Parish council) regarding the management of the school is not implemented before June 29, 2001.

The school is now managed by the Trivandrum diocese. The parishioners have decided not to accept any parish priest in the village till their demands are met.

Catholic Girl Makes it to the Top

Teena Sayan, a girl from the fishers’ community, has scored 96 per cent in the Malayalam language examination, notching up the top position in the subject in the SSLC examinations conducted recently in Tamil Nadu. A student of Amala Convent Higher Secondary School, Thuckalay, Teena is also the first ranker in Thuckalay Education District of Kanyakumari district, scoring 485 marks.

Teena’s father, Mr. Sayan, an employee in Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation, told TSC that his daughter was keen on appearing for the Indian Administrative Service examination.

Secunderabad Parish Introduces Smart Card

   St. Anthony’s Church at Mudfort in Secunderabad has introduced Smart Card for its parishioners.
Archbishop Marampudi Joji of Hyderabad launched the Smart Card on the feast of the patron of the parish, St. Anthony, June 17. Archbishop Joji said the card was being introduced for the first time in the archdiocese and in the whole of Andhra Pradesh. He said he would introduce the Smart Card to bishops in the next CBCI meeting.
Smart card is a family card containing details of family members, like their age, qualification, occupation, address, blood group etc. The card will also enable a parishioner to check the latest happenings in the church, check subscriptions, payments and the booking of Mass, aside from checking a patient’s details, if he/she is admitted to any Catholic hospital. "The idea is to use technology in the Church," said Fr. James JD, assistant parish priest and the brain behind the concept.
    A parishioner and the marketing manager of IRIS Smart Cards Limited, which developed the project, K. Venkatesh said the card system would be introduced in all Christian institutions like school and colleges, to help parents to keep track of their children’s performance.
Mr. Venkatesh said a kiosk for accessing information with the help of the card was already functional and would be available 24 hours at the parish hall. According to him, cards for the 556 parishioners were ready and would be distributed within a week’s time. Venkatesh and Lawrence Monteiro, another parishioner, had taken eight months to study the requirement and develop the project.
St. Anthony’s Church, Mudfort, is the second parish in the country to introduce Smart Card, the first being St. Anthony’s Church at Uttarahalli, Bangalore.

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