Church Leaders Plea for Indian People

Prefect Brings Papal Words to Persecuted Christians

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BHARANANGANAM, India, NOV. 12, 2008 ( Appeals continue coming from the Vatican on behalf of Christians in India, who continue facing the aftereffects of a wave of persecution at the hand of Hindu extremists.

The latest such appeal was made by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, L’Osservatore Romano reported today. In his four-day visit to India last weekend, he called «for an end to all violence as a sign of authentic respect for the religious liberty of all the sons and daughters of India.»

Hindu-Christian tensions in India flared into a wave of violence at the end of August, after extremists blamed the slaying of a Hindu leader on Christians. Dozens of Christians, including a priest, were killed and thousands fled their homes.

Cardinal Sandri’s trip centered around a Mass of Thanksgiving for India’s first woman saint, Sister Alfonsa of the Immaculate Conception, who was canonized last month by Benedict XVI.

During Sunday’s Mass, over which he presided, the cardinal relayed a message to the thousands of people gathered: “Know that Benedict XVI holds in his heart all those who are suffering in Orissa and other places in your country, and that he prays that peace, like our prayer for daily bread, will be given to all of India, and that all forms of discrimination will disappear.

“The only solution to all types of conflict is the cessation of all violence, and this begins with the decision to institute a fraternal solidarity.»

Home for Christmas

The bishops of Orissa, for their part, have petitioned state authorities to “rebuild the demolished churches, preferably before Christmas,” AsiaNews reported Tuesday.

These prelates have cautioned that Christians are still leaving in fear, despite assurances from authorities of restored peace. The Orissa bishops affirmed that many members of their flocks have yet to return home due to the threats. They expressed expectations that Christians will go to live in other states and they asked authorities to maintain current law enforcement during the next months until stability is restored after April elections.

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