St. Sebastian Church in Delhi set on fire

2014-12-03 Vatican Radio

The mysterious fire on Monday morning reduced to ashes St Sebastian’s Church in Dilshad Garden on the eastern extreme of  India’s national  capital.

The news about the fire brought hundreds of people to the church. The crowd stood on the road before the church building and prayed for peace and communal harmony. Later they marched to the local police station and staged a sit-in to protest police’s alleged slackness in dealing with the case.

The fire seemed to have occurred between 5:30 am and 6:30 am during the guard change. The fire brigade came around 7:45 and doused the fire.

The arson attack on Saint Sebastian church in Delhi must be condemned in the strongest possible terms and  I  am completely shocked and deeply saddened at this arson attacks said Card. Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Mumbai.

Archbishop Couto said the arson in St Sebastian’s church was condemnable not just because it was an act of sacrilege and hate against the community and its faith, but that it could happen in the national Capital which is just recovering from a series of communal incidents. Also distressing is the sense of police impunity. Long hours were lost, and possible evidence destroyed, before the police finally came.

Archbishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara, who visited the church, said he suspected sabotage. The Syro-Malabar prelate said he had conducted Holy Communion and Confirmation for 17 children on Sunday. The archbishop also said it was quite evident that the fire was not natural. “All Christian communities are aggrieved over this incident,” he added.

The complex borders on a Hindu temple and is guarded during the night, but the guard did not notice any suspicious movement. Parish leaders denounce local police who took ten hours to arrive on site to collect clues for investigation. "We had to organize a protest in the street - said Father. Kojikhal - to convince the police to send an investigation team".

The fire destroyed the altar, the sacristy and the entire choir of Saint Sebastian's. "The fire started early in the morning of December 1 - said Fr. Mathew Kojickal, chancellor of the Archdiocese of New Delhi - in different parts of the church. We found the cans of kerosene. It is arson".

The church was opened on December 30, 2001, by then Archbishop Vincent Concessao of Delhi. It belongs to Delhi Latin rite archdiocese but also serves as worship place for the Syro-Malabar Catholics living in and around Dilshad Garden, one of the largest residential areas in Delhi.

(from Vatican Radio)