KATHMANDU, Nepal, MAY 25, 2009 (Zenit.org).- A bomb explosion in the middle of a Mass in a Kathmandu Catholic Church killed two parishioners and injured eight others.
The explosion took place Saturday morning in Assumption Catholic Church, reported UCA News, where some 300 parishioners were gathered.
Josh Niraula, a parishioner, noted: “The blast was so powerful that it literally sent people flying. We were just 15 minutes into the Mass.”
Father Silas Bogati, the director of Caritas in Nepal and the priest who was celebrating the Mass, stated: “We could never imagine that someone could carry out such a cowardly act and kill and injure so many people.
“The Catholic Church in Nepal has always done good things for society. We have never hurt the feelings of any group or community.”
On the contrary, he said, “we been having good religious harmony and some extremist group is trying to disturb this.”
Bishop Anthony Sharma, the apostolic vicar of Nepal, confirmed that the Church has no enemies. He said, “We pray for those who died, their families, the injured and the perpetrators of the crime.”
Celeste Joseph, a 15-year-old student, and Deepa Patrick, a woman in her late 20s who was visiting the city, were killed in the explosion.
Sunil Shrestha, another parishioner, reported: “The scene was horrific. Smoke engulfed the church as people ran helter-skelter. The injured were lying on the floor in pools of blood and I could hear women and children crying and shouting for help.”
Amid the church debris were pamphlets belonging to an obscure Hindu group called the “Nepal Defense Army,” which led the police to believe that the group took responsibility for the attack.
The group was also blamed for the murder of Salesian Father John Prakash Moyalan in eastern Nepal last year.
Father Bogati said, “We had received threats over the phone from this group about six months ago,” but “we took them lightly.”
The deputy inspector general of police, Arjun Jung Sahi, noted that the explosives were planted inside a pressure cooker, and left in a bag in the middle of the church.
Kedar Singh Bhandari, a police superintendent, assured the public that a search for the criminals is under way.
Shortly after the incident, the Catholics were joined by Hindu, Muslim and Protestant leaders who came to show solidarity the victims.
Damodar Gautam, president of the Nepal chapter of the World Hindu Federation, Hindu leader Keshav Chaulagain, and Muslim leader Nazarul Hussain condemned the attack.
Over 30 protestant pastors met with Bishop Sharma and other Catholic priests, and decided to organize a nationwide peace rally on May 31.
Father Bogati explained: “We are holding prayers to show our solidarity and religious tolerance. We are also planning an all religious group rally this Sunday.
“The attack has created psychological fear among Christians. Some armed groups are trying to disturb religious harmony in Nepal but they will never be successful.”
The country’s prime minister, Madhav Kumar Nepal, joined other politicians and religious leaders to participate in a prayer service for the victims on Sunday, the day after the explosion.
Kumar, who was inaugurated today in his position, condemned the attack and set up an inquiry to bring the criminals to justice as one of his first acts in office. The defense army issued demands for the restoration of Nepal’s Hindu monarchy, overthrown last year.
Caritas reported that there has been little history of religious conflict in Nepal, where over 80% of the 30 million people are Hindu, while 10% are Buddhist and 4.2% are Muslim. There are some 10,000 Catholics in the country, around 0.5% of the population.