A special ceremony was held with candles lit in front of the desecrated grotto in the village of Salangabahal. For Mgr Kujur, “our hearts are full of hope that Mary will continue to build the Church and keep us united.” The Christian presence dates back more than a hundred years. Here “people of different religions, cultures and languages have always coexisted in peace and harmony.”
Rourkela (AsiaNews) - "We celebrated the feast of the Annunciation of the Lord with joy and solemnity, invoking Mary’s protection and peace for the diocese," said Mgr Kishor Kumar Kujur, bishop of Rourkela, Odisha (Orissa), speaking to AsiaNews.
This year, the universal Church celebrated the proclamation of the birth of Jesus to Mary by the archangel Gabriel. For local Christians, the event was particularly important after some statues of Our Lady, the Baby Jesus and places of worship were vandalised in Sundargarh district.
"Despite the desecration that took place in the diocese, our hearts are full of hope that Mary will continue to build the Church and keep us united,” said Mgr Kujur. “The Mother of God is truly our mother. Let us pray for Mary, [and] for peace in our communities and among peoples."
On Easter evening, some unknown criminals struck statues of the Virgin and attempted to set a village church on fire.
"Today a special ceremony took place in front of the vandalised grotto,” said the bishop. “The faithful lit candles, as they usually do, and prayed to our beloved Mother Mary. Our people have strong devotion to Our Lady. Today's feast fills our souls with consolation and joy." The grotto is located outside the church of St Thomas in Salangabahal.
Regarding the acts of vandalism, the prelate noted that "the incident left us shocked and caused deep distress. When I visited the affected places, I asked people to stay calm and pray to Mary to touch the hearts of those who did all this."
"I made a special request to the afflicted communities: to keep the peace and work together in spite of such unpleasant incidents."
"We are not sure of who could have carried out the attack,” Mgr Kujur said. “But certainly, it was not a mass attack since the nature of the act of vandalism points to the responsibility of a few people."
He is grateful to the "state and district officials who visited the places and guaranteed security".
Mgr John Barwa, archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, wrote to his colleague of Rourkela.
"You are in our prayers in this hour of pain and agony,” the letter says. “Such an act of vandalism, carried out on a day of celebration, clearly shows that the devil has lost and is sickened by the fact that faith and the number of the faithful increase. Our God is a victorious God and no other power can ever defeat us. Let us continue to have trust in the Lord."
In the district of Sundargarh "no attacks against churches have ever occurred,” the bishop of Rourkela explained.
Here, “The Christian presence goes back more than a hundred years. In this area people of different religions, cultures and languages have always coexisted in peace and harmony.
“Furthermore, the Catholic community is known for its commitment to education, especially for the poor, for the care of the sick and the suffering, and for other charitable works."