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Ref: CBCI-Gen/Cir-16/2008

August 26, 2008

TO THE MEMBERS OF THE HIERARCHY

Subject: Prayer for Peace and for Our Missionaries.

Your Eminence/Grace/Excellency,

In the wake of the recent violence unleashed in the Kandhamal District of Orissa and the killing of Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati and his four associates in the Ashram, which the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) has strongly denounced and condemned, there have been unwarranted attacks on Christians and their houses and institutions in the same district and neighbouring areas.

While I express my deep anguish at the tragic events and pray for the deceased and their bereaved families, I am seriously concerned about the safety of innocent people who are helpless victims of the rampant and unchecked violence.

I urgently appeal to the Central and State Governments to take all possible measures required to maintain order and peace in all the affected areas and to prevent further attacks on Christians and other innocent people.

As a mark of true solidarity with our suffering brothers and sisters and as a protest against all acts of communal violence and, in particular, recalling the brutal murder of our dear Fr. Thomas Pandippally, CMI, I declare that all our Catholic schools, colleges and other educational institutions be closed on Friday, August 29, 2008, and I wish that everywhere peaceful marches/rallies be conducted with black flags’ demonstration in a truly prayerful spirit.

I also declare Sunday, September 7, 2008, as a Day of Prayer and Fasting and I hope that in all our Dioceses, our Churches, parish communities and all Church institutions/ organizations will hold prayer services and memorial gatherings on this day, highlighting the need for our solidarity with all the victims and prayer for all our Missionaries in India, who are facing most trying and difficult times for the sake of the Gospel.

Indeed, ‘the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christianity’. Let us fervently pray that in our days righteousness may flourish and peace abound throughout our country and the whole world.

Invoking upon you all God’s abundant blessings and mercy and in union of prayers,

Yours sincerely,

Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil, C.Ss.R.
Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church &
President, CBCI