As attacks on churches and Christians continued in Orissa — claiming at least nine lives — Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday condemned the violence and appealed for peace.
The Pope, in his afternoon address at Vatican Square, said he had learnt with “deep sadness” the news about violence against Christians.. He condemned the “attacks against human life” and expressed his “spiritual closeness and solidarity” to all Christian brothers and sisters in their time of trial and suffering.
Up in flames
Christian leaders in Orissa asked for Army deployment on Wednesday, as they said the police had failed to cope with the situation.
The growing chasm between the Church and the Sangh Parivar is one of the factors instrumental in igniting communal flare-ups in Orissa.
The Pope also appealed to “religious leaders and civil authorities to work together to restore among members of various communities the peaceful coexistence and harmony which have always been the distinguishing mark of Indian society”.
Back home, the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) is meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday to urge him to hold an independent inquiry. "We will also ask the Prime Minister for payment of immediate compensation to victims and their rehabilitation," CBCI spokesperson Father Babu Joseph said.
As a mark of solidarity, convent schools across India will be closed on Friday, Archbishop of Bombay Cardinal Oswald Gracious has announced. There will also be nationwide prayer and fast on September 7.
Violence erupted in Orissa during the Vishwa Hindu Parishad-sponsored state-wide bandh on Monday. The bandh, to protest the murder of its leader Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati and four of his disciples, turned communal with protestors attacking churches and missionary schools across the state.