India's Orissa state government will ask the police to probe the death of Fr Bernard Digal, who died in a Chennai hospital after being injured during communal violence.
"As the government wanted to clear doubts over the reason behind Fr Digal's death, it decided to hand over the probe to the state's professional investigative agency," a senior home department official said.
The official clarified this was the only reason why the police took the body of Father Digal to Capital hospital for post mortem as soon as it arrived at the airport.
While some Christian leaders on Wednesday claimed that Fr Digal succumbed to injuries sustained during the communal violence on August 25, another report claimed that the priest died of dengue on the night of October 28.
"Fr Digal was the treasurer of the diocese, an extremely sensitive priest, always considering the needs of other priests before his own, seeking always fraternal communion," Archbishop Rapheel Cheenathof Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar told AsiaNews.
"Fr Bernard has been given the martyr's crown, he has received the palm of victory from the saints in heaven," he said.
"Ever since the violence against the Christian erupted in December 2007, Fr Bernard hardly ever rested, continously coordinating efforts to rehabilitate the people - through peace initiatives, and providing all assistance to the people to avail of the compensation and seeking all measures to bring the lives of the people derailed by the carnage on track. Fr Bernard was deeply devoted to the Blessed Mother and the rosary and often shared with us how he sought refugee in the Madonna in moments of despair.
"The Kandhamal Christains now have a powerful intercessor in heaven, Fr. Bernard will now continue his work for our people from his heavenly home. His final commitment culminated in a kenosis of total surrender, he was completely immersed in the Passion of our Crucified Lord, and now we hope in the glory of the Ressurection. Our belief in the victory won by the resurrected Christ is reason for hope - the hope that heaven lies beyond death."
Meanwhile, the Indian Express notes that it was a Hindu family, which risked its life to provide shelter to the nun and priest who were attacked.
This, when armed Orissa Police personnel remained mute spectators to numerous atrocities. Consider this: On the evening of August 24, when a heavily armed 'Hindu' mob attacked the Divyajoti Pastoral Centre at Kandhamal, Fr Thomas Chellen, director of the centre, along with three others fled to the nearby forest.
The nun, who was allegedly raped the next day by one of the rioters, was also among those who managed to escape.
"We saw our house go up in flames. Around 8.30pm, we came out of the forest and went to the house of a Hindu gentleman who gave us shelter," recalls the nun.
Fr Chellen also remembers the act. "We fled to the jungles and came in the night to take shelter in the house of a Hindu friend and spent the night there," Fr Chellen said. The following morning, the Hindu family moved the priest and the nun to an adjacent vacant house and locked it to give the impression that no one was in.
Crime Branch to probe Catholic priest's death (The Hindu, 30/10/08)
Indian Church Remembers Fr. Bernard Digal, Martyr (Catholic Online, 30/10/08)
Hindu family tried to save priest, nun (Indian Express, 30/10/08)