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Archbishop farewells Orissa flock

Kandhamal Christians praised for enduring faith in face of violence

Archbishop farewells Orissa flock
Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar lays the foundation stone of destroyed church in Pabingia, Kandhamal
Ajay Kumar Singh, Bhubaneswar

March 17, 2011

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The outgoing head of the Catholic Church in Orissa has praised Christians of Kandhamal for setting an example of living the faith in a hostile environment. “You have raised the faith into new heights at the face of death. I am proud of you,” Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar yesterday told some 3,000 people at Raikia, a divisional headquarters in Kandhamal district of Orissa state. Two thirds of parishes in the district come under the archdiocese, which was the epicenter of anti-Christian violence in 2008 that killed more than 90 people and displaced more than 50,000 people. The Divine Word prelate is currently on a five-day tour of Kandhamal villages, his last official visit. He is scheduled to leave the office on April 2. “You have not deserted your faith but clung to Christ more. I cannot but salute your faith,” Archbishop Cheenath told the gathering The prelate, however, cautioned the Kandhamal Christians not to be misled by the apparent peace prevailing in the area. “For the government, peace has returned, but I am not sure how long it would remain,” he said. He also urged the Christians not to “sit idle, but continue to fight for our constitutional rights especially religious freedom to earn sustainable peace.” Several people told that they appreciated the archbishop’s efforts to get justice for the violence victims. “He went up to the Supreme Court and earned the ecumenical leadership. He stood by every denomination,” said Jacob Digal, a village leader. Shibani Behera, a woman leader, said the archbishop is a Marian devotee and always encouraged women to take the lead for the community’s advancement. Satyabrata Jena, a local government official, said the administration could control violence because Christians heeded to the archbishop’s call to remain calm and tolerant, despite severe provocations. “He helped the government to restore the peace,” Jena added. Related reports Pope names new head of Orissa Church Kandhamal Christmas under siege IE13657.1645

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