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Pastors killed 160 yrs ago may become first Catholic saints from Northeast

Two French missionaries, who were murdered in Arunachal Pradesh over 160 years ago, while on their way to Tibet, could become the first Catholic saints from northeast India.

india Updated: Jul 01, 2017 10:08 IST
Utpal Parashar
Utpal Parashar
Hindustan Times, Guwahati
Canonization,Catholic saints,Arunachal Pradesh
Sketches of Nicholas-Michel Krick (left) and Augustin-Etienne Bourry (right) who were murdered in Arunachal Pradesh in 1854(HT Photo)

Two French missionaries, who were murdered in Arunachal Pradesh over 160 years ago, while on their way to Tibet, could become the first Catholic saints from northeast India.

Their cause is being actively promoted by Bishop George Pallipparambil of the diocese at Miao in Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh.

Nicholas-Michel Krick and Augustin-Etienne Bourry have already been conferred the title of ‘Servant of God’ by the Vatican and long rigorous process of their beatification and canonization is underway.

“After the beatification process is complete, they would be called ‘Blessed’ and once canonization is done Krick and Bourry would become saints,” informed Father Felix Anthony, parish priest at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church at Miao, nearly 360 km east from Itanagar.

The French missionaries were members of the Societe des Missions Etrangeres de Paris, or the Society of the Paris Foreign Missions, an institute of diocesan priests who spread out across the globe to promote Christianity.

Krick and Bourry wanted to reach Tibet, but in the 1800s the only way there was through northeast India—present Arunachal Pradesh. Both travelled from Chennai to Kolkata and to Arunachal Pradesh becoming the first Christian missionaries to reach the region.

But while they were on the final leg of their journey, they were killed by a village chief of the Mishmi tribe on August 2, 1854 at Somme village in Lohit district, barely an hour away from the Tibetan border.

“Their bodies were buried by local residents and it is believed a spring started flowing from near the site. Some say chief Kaisha killed them because the missionaries resembled the British rulers. But that account doesn’t appear to be true,” said Anthony.

It is said 35-year-old Krick was sick and 28-year-old Bourry was praying when Kaisha killed them using his machete. While they have maintained the burial site, villagers at Somme haven’t embraced Christianity yet.

“Interest about Krick and Bourry began nearly 20 years ago when the French mission started inquiries and Bishop George began gathering details about the duo’s death,” said Anthony who conducted research on the missionaries.

There is almost no documentary detail about the duo in Arunachal Pradesh. But lot about them is known from the letters they sent back to Paris. They mention of their arduous journey and how their guide robbed them.

“Two medical miracles are needed for canonization. But since Krick and Bourry were martyred they won’t be required. We expect the process to be over in the next 18 months” said Bishop George.

Graces like students passing their exams or children recovering from minor illnesses after praying to the two missionaries have been reported.

Last year, the Miao Diocese opened its first hospital in Arunachal Pradesh at Injan and named it Krick and Bourry Memorial (KBM) Hospital.

“Locals at Somme village are also eagerly hoping that the canonization process will get over soon. It could bring global recognition to the area,” Anthony said.

Besides Mother Teresa, who was declared a saint last year others Catholic saints from India are Father Kuriakose Elias Chavara, Sister Euphrasia and Sister Alphonsa.

Gonsalo Garcia, though of Portuguese parentage, was born in India and is considered an Indian saint. Joseph Vaz, Sri Lanka’s first saint, was born in Goa and was educated and ordained as a priest in India.

First Published: Jul 01, 2017 07:59 IST