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Hindu temple deaths shock Indian Church

Tragedy could have been avoided, bishop says

Hindu temple deaths shock Indian Church
Funeral procession of those killed in the stampede reporter, Kochi

January 17, 2011

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Church leaders in Kerala have expressed shock and grief at the death of 102 pilgrims during a stampede at a Hindu temple in the southern Indian state. The tragedy occurred on Jan. 14 at the Sabarimala hilltop temple dedicated to bachelor god Ayyappa. Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council President Archbishop Andrews Thazhath of Trichur said the stampede was “most unfortunate” and said he shared his “profound grief” with the bereaved. He said the tragedy could have been avoided and told he has called on the government to take appropriate steps to avoid future tragedies. “It’s not the time for a blame game. But the tragedy should be an eye-opener for the government and police,” he added. Meanwhile, Bishop Mathew Arackal of Kanjirapally told yesterday that all churches in Kerala offered special prayers for the dead on Jan. 16 and shared the sorrow of families who lost loved ones. The Hindu temple comes under the diocesan territory. Bishop Arackal said his diocese offered “all possible help” to the injured. “We offered our hospitals to treat victims and provided ambulances for rescue operations,” he said. Some 700 parishioners in Thiruvananthapuram, the state capital, held a candlelight vigil yesterday to pray for the victims. According to police director-general Jacob Punnoose, the stampede occurred on the last day of a 41-day pilgrimage season to the temple. More than 200,000 people had gathered to see the Ayyappa Jyothi (light), a special light that flickers for a few minutes at dusk. More than 30 million people from all over India and abroad visited the temple during this year’s pilgrimages. Most of the victims were from the neighboring states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Related reports When The Sun Turns Back, Hindus Wash Off Sins In Sea Church Leaders Mourn Stampede Deaths Of Hindu Pilgrims IB12868.1637
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