A Church in Gujarat, Sacked in 1998, Is Reconsecrated

Was Destroyed by Hindu Extremists

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NEW DELHI, India, JUNE 23, 2004 (Zenit.org).- On June 13, feast of its patron, the Church of St. Anthony was reopened in Naroda after its was sacked and destroyed six years ago by hundreds of Hindu extremists.

More than 1,000 faithful attended the celebration in the state of Gujarat during which Bishop Thomas Macwan of Ahmedabad consecrated the rebuilt church. «Our faith is fortified in persecutions,» the prelate said in his homily.

St. Anthony’s Church was devastated in 1998 when it was attacked by 700 Hindu extremists who damaged the images of the Infant Jesus and of St. Anthony, and burned the Bible and liturgical texts, as well as sacred objects and pews.

Fire destroyed the nave. Part of a complex next to the church was also damaged and is still under reconstruction.

The small number of faithful who tried to stop the extremists were threatened with death. The police, who were only a few kilometers from the church, delayed in intervening.

«Despite what happened, since then we have not failed to celebrate Mass every Sunday,» said one of the faithful who is helping in the reconstruction, Fides agency reported.

«We have often celebrated Mass in homes, a fact that reminded us of the catacombs, when Christians were persecuted,» he added.

Given the persistent tension in Gujarat, there was no ostentation when the church was reopened. The new church has a capacity for 300.

Hindu fundamentalist movements increased in Gujarat in 1998, and targeted Christians. In 2002 they attacked Muslims, leaving more than 1,000 victims.

From June 12-16, Gujarat was the object of a visit by the apostolic nuncio in India and Nepal, Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana, who celebrated Mass in the Marian shrine of the Mother of Carmel, in Kadi, and expressed to Christians of this state John Paul II’s concern and solidarity.

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