By Robin Gomes
The cause of the beatification and canonization of two French missionaries, martyred in the mid-19th century in a remote village in north-east India, took a step forward on Saturday, 14 September, with the inauguration of the Diocesan Board of Inquiry at St. Peter’s Church, Tezu in Arunachal Pradesh.
Passage to Tibet
The two priests, Fathers Nicolas Michael Krick and Augustin-Etienne Bourry, belonging to France’s Societe des Missions Etrangeres de Paris (MEP) or the Society of the Paris Foreign Missions, who sowed the first seeds of Christianity in Arunachal Pradesh, had Tibet as one of their important goals.
Back then, the only way to Tibet was through what is Arunachal Pradesh today. It was on their way while halting at Somme, a Mishmi tribal village, bordering China, that they were killed by its chief, Kaisha, on 2 August 1854.
The two missionaries made their way up from Chennai to Kolkata, then to Guwahati and beyond to Arunachal Pradesh.
In the presence of priests, women religious and a large number of people from around eastern Arunachal Pradesh, the new members of the Diocesan Board of Inquiry took oath to discharge their duties faithfully according to the norms of the Church, during a solemn Eucharistic celebration at the Catholic Church in the capital town of Lohit District.
In the process of canonization of an individual, the first move is made by the bishop of the diocese where the individual died. The bishop petitions the Holy See to allow him to initiate the process of beatification and canonization in his diocese.
If there is no objection by the Roman Dicasteries, especially by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the permission, or “nihil obstat” (no objection), is communicated to the initiating bishop.
Bishop George Pallipparambil of Miao Diocese, who has been actively promoting the cause of these two martyrs, inaugurated the Diocesan Board of Inquiry with a solemn Eucharistic celebration.
“Today is an important event of the Church in Arunachal Pradesh”, he said at the beginning of the Mass. “With the constitution of the Diocesan Board of Inquiry today, we enter into the second stage of our efforts to bring these two holy men on their way Sainthood”.
“As we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Cross today, we pray that the work we undertake for these two holy men, who shed their blood on our soil, will soon bear fruit”, he said.
After receiving a favourable opinion of the North East Regional Bishops’ Council, Bishop George obtained the “nihil obstat” from the Congregation for the Cause of the Saints. He then appointed a Historical Commission to collect the private and public writings of the two priests and issue a report. Theological censors then made a study on the available resources and affirmed the orthodoxy of their writings without any error in faith and morals.
At the start of the diocesan process, the candidates for sainthood are conferred the title “Servants of God”.
The new Diocesan Board of Inquiry consisted of the Diocesan Bishop, Postulator for the Cause of Canonization, an Episcopal delegate, a Promoter of Justice, Notary and copyist. Bishop George has appointed Father Antonysamy Savarimuthu, Director, Centre of Canon Law Studies, Bangalore, as Postulator, Father Tomy Joseph, Episcopal Delegate, Father Joy Manickathan, Promoter of Justice, Sister Sunita Parmar and Father Felix Anthony, Notaries and Fathers Joseph P. Xavier and Subhash Michal as copyists.
At the end of the diocesan process, all documents will be handed over to the Vatican where the candidates will be subject to further inquiries.
The people of Tezu, a Mishmi tribe town, expressed joy at the new impetus the process of canonization has gained. Catherine Boo, a prominent Catholic from the town said, “We are very happy to see the progress with the process of canonization.” “We pray that this day will remove the blot of stains we have acquired because of the killing by own tribe’s man 165 years ago,” she said.
The new Board of Inquiry also received depositions from three witnesses during the Holy Mass, who obtained spiritual benefits through the intercessory powers of the two Servants of God. Another 18 witnesses recorded their testimony with the Board of Inquiry after the Mass.
Krick was 35 and Bourry just 28 when they were killed. The mortal remains are still enshrined and preserved by the people of Somme village.
The constitution of the Diocesan Board of Inquiry has reignited the hope for the first saints from Arunachal Pradesh among the people of the frontier state of India, bordering China, Myanmar and Tibet. (Source: Diocese of Miao)