Father Bernard Digal sheds His Blood for Christ in Orissa, India

CUTTACK, India – The church in Orissa under grief following the death of Fr. Bernard Digal, who was succumbed injuries during Orissa’s anti-Christian violence, died at St. Thomas Hospital, Chenai at about 8.45 p.m. on 28th October 2008. May his blood help Orissa to overcome the current trials.

On Saturday, October 25, a feverish Fr. Digal was taken to St. Thomas Hospital in Chennai, in Tamil Nadu. It is reported that Fr. Digal was under the medication in the same hospital and breathed his last out of heart attacked. Prior to that he suffered Dengu fever and succumb injuries. The doctors operated on him to remove a blood clot from his brain, caused by the beating on the night he was attacked. Yesterday, his lungs collapsed and he fell into a coma. Fr. Digal was given a respirator to keep him alive, but his body gave out.

Fr. Digal was hospitalized in at the Holy Spirit Hospital in Mumbai Last September 10, 2008.

Fr. Digal (47) hails from Tiangia village, under Beticola Parish in Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar. Tiangia is a land adorned with its heroic stories of martyrs, known for its small-scale businesses, high levels of education and various traditional art forms, hills and other places of natural beauty.

Fr. Digal was born on 27th January 1962 and he is the second son of late Mahajon Digal and Lucia Digal. He has a brother and three sisters.

He was ordained priest on 22nd May 1992 and served the Archdiocese in various capacities such as parish priest, professor, vocation promoter, youth director, diocesan counsellor, financial manager, spiritual adviser etc.

Funeral is scheduled to be held on at Raikia, Friday on 30th October 2008.

Fr. Rabindra Swalsingh said “Death of Fr. Bernard is shocking and very sad news. He was a young priest with a lot of experience both in administration and pastoral ministry.”

Mr. Ashok Nayak one of his good childhood friend said that Fr. Bernard was everything for me, I feel his death is unfathomable. Mr. Prodeep Mishra, the accountant, says I feel that my own soul has departed from me.

Fr. Bernard narrated his story during an interview after he was attacked during the recent flare up in the state – On 23rd August 2008, I and Mr. Sisir Pradhan set out from Archbishop’s house and reached to Sankarakhole Parish at about 10.30 p.m. and had dinner, as we were preparing to go to bed after a tiring day we received a call from one of my friends about Swami Laxmananda Saraswati’s murder. I could not believe and went to bed. I was awakened by the sounds of slogans and yelling outside. As I started to concentrate on what they were saying I could hear them shouting ” Kill the missionaries…” Fear struck me and we (I, Fr. Alexandar Chandi, (65 ) Parish priest, Sankrakhol and Mr. Sisir) remained inside the church compound whole day and moved to the forest for the night.

On 25th, as the situation got worse, we kept getting information on attacks and killings in the villages. We got stuck in the forest and survived on dry food. Condition of Fr. Chandi was sensitive because of his age and sickness and seemed like he might collapse at anytime. We had to look for a safer place for shelter so we moved towards the house of Mr. Pare Kanhar so that we could use his motor cycle. He is Fr. Lameswar Kanhar’s elder brother who is close friend of mine. As we reached, his house it was on fire, the entire household article including the motorcycle were set ablaze.

From there we moved to Fr. Lameswars’ sister’s place in the same area to be informed that her house was also on target and she suggested us to look for a safer place. Thereafter, we went to Dudukangia to take shelter along with other 15 Christian families. As we reached there and requested shelter, people refused and informed that all of them are targeted. Finally, we decided to sleep in the church which was broken and set ablaze with only standing walls, thinking that the mob may not come and we were tired of walking all day and our legs were swollen.

At about 11.30 p.m, miscreants came into the broken church, seeing them we ran in different directions. Driver Pradhan could run first as I and Sankrakhole father were caught. We heard them saying “Tanku podaiba, Nialogao”.

I pleaded them not to kill him but they gave no heed to it, started hammering him with crowbars, lathis and axes etc. They stripped him completely naked and asked for mobile phones if any. Beating came like heavy rain. As some of them were beating him, others set fire.

Seeing the fire I ran and was caught at a distance. I could not stand anymore and just fell to the ground. They started hitting me black and blue and as they were beating me I could make out that they also missed shots and the blows went to the ground but many fell on my body too and I finally collapsed. I could see blood flowing from my head and fell unconscious. They thought I was dead and left me lying in the same place. In my semi unconscious state I could hear the cries of a wolf and thought that it would feast on me while I lay helpless there. I prayed “Lord, I might not even get a burial”. I gathered all my strength and shouted for help. After some time two villagers came to see me as I shouted “oh my God help me”. I was freezing as the wet ground made my body numb. I requested them to bring the broken door of the church so that I can lie on it and they did so and also got some water for me. I was feeling a bit better and the villagers left me alone and I stayed there until Mr. Sisir, the driver found me in the morning. He looked scared and I kept pleading him to take me to hospital. He then informed police and along with few other villagers I was rescued. I was then taken to the public health centre in Tikabali and was later moved to a district hospital. After two days I was moved to Kalinga Hospital Bhubaneswar after lot of pressure on the administration.

Fr.Dibakar Parichha said that Fr. Bernard narrated this story lying in the bed in Kalinga Hospital when he went to see him. He hardly could speak and as I tried asking him about his condition, he started sobbing. He had bandages all over the body. I touched his leg which was bandaged from thigh to the foot, he responded spontaneously saying “there is no place left in my body where I have not been beaten up” and he shed tears again.

On Saturday, October 25, Fr. Digal was moved to St. Thomas Hospital in Chennai, in Tamil Nadu. The doctors operated on him to remove a blood clot from his brain, caused by the beating on the night he was attacked. Yesterday, his lungs collapsed and he went into coma. Fr. Digal was put on a ventilator to keep him alive, but his body gave up.

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