India Bishops Praise "Heroism" of Orissa Christians

Assembly Focuses on Word of God

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MYSORE, India, FEB. 20, 2009 ( The Indian bishops’ conference paid tribute to the persecuted Christians of their country as «heroes of faith and patriotism.»

In the conference’s weeklong plenary assembly that ended Tuesday, the 120 bishops dedicated moments of prayer for the communities in many parts of India, especially in Orissa and Karnataka, that have faced persecution over recent months at the hands of Hindu extremists.

The Pope and the prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples sent a message to express their support to the assembly.

Last Saturday the conference published a report from John Dayal, president of the United Christian Forum for Human Rights, which states that the Orissa situation is far from resolved, and thousands of Christians have not been able to return home.

It says that the Orissa government «is still not able to ensure the safety and security of thousands of Christians who cannot still return to their village homes»

AsiaNews reported that the violent attacks against Christians are continuing in Orissa. The most recent took place on Feb. 11 when a mob assaulted the home of a Christian woman and tortured her son for refusing to convert to Hinduism.

L’Osservatore Romano reported Wednesday that the Christian community in Madhya Pradesh is also falling under persecution by Hindu groups.

The prelates expressed solidarity with the suffering communities, and honored those who gave their lives for the faith in their country’s recent terrorist attacks.

Bible masters

The Indian bishops’ meeting focused on the theme «Word of God in the Life and the Ministry of the Church.»

In the homily of the opening Mass, the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Pedro Quintana, urged the bishops to be «masters of the Word.»

A statement from the conference affirmed that in the assembly, the bishops expressed the desire for every Catholic to «own a Bible, handle [it] with reverence and read it regularly.»

An initiative of the conference proposed a ceremonial handing of a Bible to children at the age of reason, in the framework of their baptism and first Communion celebrations.

They also encouraged the faithful «to understand the message of the Bible and all sacred texts, which speak of love, justice and peace,» and to reject «Biblical fundamentalism» as a literal reading of each verse.

The prelates appealed to priests, nuns, and all people of the country, especially Catholics, to «live in unity and fellowship, according to the sacred writings.»

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