Indian Priest Dies After Beating

NEW DELHI, India, OCT. 30, 2008 ( Father Bernard Digal, 45, died in a hospital Wednesday from wounds he sustained in late August, when he was beaten by Hindu extremists.

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The priest served in the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, in the state of Orissa, the hotbed for a large portion of the anti-Christian violence that has plagued India since the August death of a Hindu leader.

Father Mrutyunjay Digal, secretary of Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of that archdiocese, announced the priest’s death to the Fides news agency. He said the community was in “a moment of mourning, of silence and of prayer for the entire local Church.”

“During his life, Father Bernard showed determination and courage to give testimony and die for Christ,” the secretary added. “He has died as an authentic Christian; immediately after the attack he suffered, he pardoned his enemies and persecutors.”

The Fides agency cited Indian Christian organizations in reporting that some 100 Christians have died as a result of the wave of persecution, while thousands have been wounded. Some 15,000 Christians are living in refugee camps and perhaps as many as 40,000 more have fled to the jungle to hide from the extremists.

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