Syro-Malabar bishop appeals to Indian prime minister to rebuild demolished church in Delhi

A Syro-Malabar diocese in India appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to help rebuild a church that was earlier demolished by authorities for being “illegal” because it stood on a “public property.”

“We call on you to intervene immediately to rebuild and restore the damage caused to the faithful in this place of prayer, which [authorities] devastated without any respect,” said Bishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara of Faridabad.

The Little Flower Church in Lado Sarai was demolished on July 12 by the South Delhi Municipal Corporation after it was considered “unauthorized” although it had been standing in the area for almost 15 years.

“Something like this should not have happened,” said Pinarayi Vijayanha, head of Kerala’s local government, in a report on AsiaNews. “We will see what can be done about it,” he said.

An eviction notice was earlier issued to “illegal encroachers” in the area by the Block Development Officer of the South Delhi district, which is under the local government’s tax office. The notice, dated July 7, said the area where the church stood is a public place and ordered the “occupants” to clear it.

Father Jose Kannumkuzhy, parish priest of the Little Flower Church, said the demolition was done without any warning.

“There was no discussion. They arrived without warning,” he said, adding that he was present when “they destroyed everything: statues, objects used for prayer, the registers, the sound system.”

“The altar is still standing but it is still unusable,” said the priest in a report on AsiaNews. He said the church was a temporary structure that had been there for almost 15 years.

In a report on Matters India, Monsignor Joseph Odanat, vicar general of Faridabad Syro-Malabar diocese, said the demolition was a “calculated hidden agenda of the local administration and the land mafia to evacuate us from there.”

He claimed the diocese had obtained a stay order in 2015, adding that the land was donated to the diocese 12 years ago for the use of about 1,500 Catholics in the area. – with a report from AsiaNews and Matters India