India Urged to Protect Church Personnel

Episcopate Calls for Probe Into Latest Acts of Violence

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NEW DELHI, India, JUNE 21, 2005 ( The Catholic bishops’ conference of India urged the central and state governments to take serious note of the recent outbreaks of violence against the Church and its personnel.

In a statement signed by Monsignor Percival Fernandes, secretary-general of the episcopate, the conference made an urgent appeal to officials to investigate «the incidents of violence against the Church in India.»

The conference also requested that appropriate action be taken «against the culprits who have been destroying churches, physically assaulting women religious and intimidating many others.»

«In this month alone there have been at least five major attacks on churches and Christian institutions in India,» said the statement, which was released Saturday.

Assailants desecrated «the Holy Trinity Church and the Infant Jesus Shrine at Jabalpur, in Madhya Pradesh; [and] attacked two convents at Bettiah in Bihar on June 9, seriously injuring nuns and looting their belongings,» added the statement.

«In another incident, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth convent at Sokho in Bhagalpur Diocese was attacked a week ago,» it stated. On June 10, «in yet another incident, three Christian missionaries from the United States, who participated in a religious prayer in Mumbai, were assaulted by a group of some 50 people.»

«These incidents of violence against the Church make us very concerned as they reflect a pattern of operation against a community, especially its most defenseless group — women religious,» said the text of the Indian episcopate.

The bishops added: «Democratically elected governments must act to protect the safety and security of their citizens.»

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