I am sure that you are quite aware of the tragic incident that took place at the Jesus and Mary Convent in Ranaghat, West Bengal on 15th March, 2015. I was in Delhi on those days, attending a series of Consultations, organised by the CBCI. As soon as the meetings were over, along with the Deputy Secretary General, Msgr. Joseph Chinnayyan, I visited the Jesus and Mary Convent on 18th March in Ranaghat, in the District of Nadia, about 140 kilometers from Calcutta city, accompanied by the Vicar General and other Priests of the Archdiocese of Calcutta. Most Rev. Joseph Suren Gomes, Bishop of Krishnagar and few Priests were at the Convent in Ranaghat to receive us.
We met the two Sisters in the Convent and the third Sister, the victim of violence, was in the Additional District Hospital, a few kilometers from the Convent. We talked to the two Sisters privately and were shocked to listen to their narration of such inhuman and dastardly action of a group of people, who broke open and entered the Convent around midnight, ransacked the rooms, tied the nuns to the bed, threatened them, and inflicted sexual violence on one of them. They broke the Tabernacle, threw away the Consecrated Hosts, stolen the sacred vessels. They also stole the school money of about Rs. 2.5 lakhs. When these criminals left the place around 3.30 a.m. after performing all sorts of diabolic acts, the two Sisters who were locked in a room came out to look for the third Sister, whom they found in a pool of blood, motionless. Immediately they informed the police and she was rushed to the hospital. According to the Sisters, police reached the place within minutes.
We expressed the solidarity of the whole Church in India with the Sisters, who were subjected to such violence, trepidation and agony. I prayed with Bishop Joseph Gomez, the Sisters, and Priests at the Chapel. We consoled them and tried to convince them that they are not alone, the whole Church is with them.
After meeting the Rev. Sisters and prayer in the Chapel, we met the Media. A large number of Media people gathered outside the school campus. We made it clear that we were not a Vatican Delegation; we had come to representthe Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India to show our solidarity and oneness with the Sisters,who were subject to both physical violence and mental torture (there was a rumour spread through certain media that the Vatican is sending a Delegation to Ranaghat and why another country – Vatican, should interfere in our internal affairs). To the repeated array of questions, we made it clear that though the Sisters have forgiven the perpetrators in the true spirit of Christianity, we want justice should be done and the culprits should be booked at the earliest, and that no woman in India should be allowed to undergo such dehumanizing experience in future.
We then proceeded to the Additional District Hospital, where the Sister was recuperating. To my great surprise, I found her calm, serene and affable. She told that she had already surrendered everything to God and she was at peace with the Lord. She said it might have been an occasion for her to come closer to the suffering Lord in this Season of Lent. She opened her mind and said that she forgave from the bottom of her heart to the perpetrators, but she wished that justice be done and such shameful criminal acts to women should not be allowed to be repeated. I prayed with her and assured her that whole Church is with her in her agony and pain. I carried in a special way the prayers and greetings from the Apostolic Nuncio and all of you, Bishops of India. As a sign of reassurance and solidarity, I gave her the Rosary which I was using for the last so many years, one blessed by three Popes.
The next Agenda was the visit to the Chief Minister. I proceeded to the Chief Minister’s Office along with the Bishop Joseph Gomez of Krishnagar and three priests. Ms. Mamatha Banerjee received us with utmost courtesy and respect and carefully listened us as we shared the anxiety of the Christians in the Country. The Chief Minister pointed out that she ordered CBI enquiry for faster solution to the problem. She understood the gravity of the problem and promised all her help. I thanked her on behalf of the CBCI wholeheartedly for all her great help and intervention.
At 7.00 p.m. there was another Press Meet at the Archbishop’s House, Calcutta and a good number of people from Media were present there. Most sincerely I thank His Grace Thomas D’Souza, the Archbishop of Calcutta, His Excellency Joseph Suren Gomes, Bishop of Krishnagar, Rev. Fr. Donomic Gomez, the Vicar General of Calcutta, Reverend Fathers, Rev. Sisters and the lay representatives who helped very much during my sojourn in Calcutta and Ranaghat.
I wish to conclude this sharing with a personal note of appreciating the exemplary Christian way of accepting and reacting to this abominable crime by Jesus and Mary Sisters, and applauding the sense of solidarity and outpouring of love and concern from the local people towards our Sisters.
Let us continue to keep those brave Sisters in our prayers and seek effective means to protect our Religious, Priests and people from such strange and dehumanizing situations.
I humbly request all of you, my brothers to pray and exhort our people, Priests and Sisters to pray ardently for the strength and grace to face the challenges, atrocities and persecutions in a true Christian spirit.