2008 (Saturday) Thomas Pandippallyil, 37, Carmelite of Mary Immaculate priest.
This 37-year-old Carmelite priest was tortured and killed on Saturday night, 16 August 2008, as he traveled to the site where he was to celebrate Sunday Mass. The body of Carmelite of Mary Immaculate Father Thomas Pandippallyil was found by religious sisters headed to the Mass he was to celebrate at the center in Yellareddy, where he was director. The Carmelite had joined the Chanda mission of his order in 1987. He was ordained a priest in 2002. He was last seen alive by those same nuns who offered him dinner Saturday after he had celebrated Mass for them. "Father Thomas is a martyr: He sacrificed his life for the poor and marginalized," said Archbishop Marampudi Joji of Hyderabad. "But he did not die in vain, because his body and his blood enrich the Church in India, particularly the Church in Andhra Pradesh -- the southeastern state where he died." "The Church in India is shocked and deeply saddened by this barbarous killing, the result of a growing climate of intolerance and violence against Christians in this country," the 65-year-old archbishop added. Archbishop Joji contended that the crime is the result of "jealousy of the Catholic Church." "Priests and nuns," he said, "have for decades been at the service of the least fortunate in India, and this makes them targets of forces of evil who do not want the marginalized and impoverished to become empowered."
Fr. Thomas Pandippallyil was murdered on 16 August 2008 on his way to worship. Before dying, he was tortured and his eyes removed from their sockets. Violence against Christians in India grows.
The Christian Community in Andhra Pradesh was once again terribly shaken by the brutal murder of one of its pastors and missionaries. A series of massacres of pastors in recent years had left the Churches in the State in anguish. Fr. Thomas Pandipally, aged 38, a Catholic Priest working in the Archdiocese of Hyderabad, was ruthlessly assassinated on the night of August 16th 2008 on the way back to his residence after the Eucharistic service at a substation of Yellareddy parish, in Nizamabad District, Andhra Pradesh.
Fr. Thomas Pandipally CMI was born in the year 1971 to late Mr. Mathew and Mrs. Saramma at Monippally in Kottayam district, Kerala. He joined in the religious order of the Carmelite Missionaries of Immaculate (CMI) in the mission province of Chanda with its headquarters at Bellampally in Adilabad (Dt) in the year 1987 and took his first religious vows in 1992. He completed his B.Sc in Christ College, Bangalore, from 1994 to 1997. He did his studies in Philosophy in Darshana Institute, Wardha, and completed his Theological studies at Jnana Deepa Vidyapeeth, Pune. After his college and priestly studies he was ordained a priest in the year 2002.
Fr. Thomas Pandipally had rendered his services as assistant director of a hospital at Bamini, Ballarshah district in Maharashtra. At the time of his death, he was the parish priest of St. Francis of Assisi Church and correspondent of Jeevadan High School, established in 1976, at Yellareddy. He was residing with Fr. Tomy Layippally CMI, the principal of Jeevadan High School. Fr. Thomas was known to be a pleasant and kind person who would not hurt anyone. He was very generous and service-minded. He was always ready to undertake demanding tasks even in life threatening circumstances and dangerous locations.
As a zealous parish priest, Fr. Thomas Pandipally was celebrating Mass in different sub-stations throughout the week apart from his responsibility in the school. On 16 August 2008 he had left to Yellareddy to celebrate Mass at Burigidda near Lingampet. Fr. Thomas had gone to the convent at Lingampet at 7.15 p.m. on his Hero Honda motorbike. From there he went to Burigidda to celebrate Mass and returned to Lingampet at 9.00 p.m. At this moment, he received a phone call in his mobile enquiring in Telugu about the time of his return to Yellareddy. Sr. Dona FCC overheard the conversation of Fr. Thomas answering that he would proceed to Yellareddy at 9.30 p.m. after his dinner.
On 17 August 2008 the sisters from Lingampet on their way to attend Sunday Mass in the parish church at Yellareddy at 6.45 a.m. by their Jeep passed by a body lying on the road. They proceeded further to inform the parish priest about "the accident". On reaching the Yellareddy parish, the sisters were surprised to hear Fr. Thomas had not returned back to his residence from Lingampet the previous night. The sisters rushed back to the spot of offence where a dead body was lying and identified it as the body of Fr. Thomas brutally stabbed to death. Immediately the police station at Lingampet was contacted by Sr. Dona where a case was registered under the section 302 of IPC and the investigation started.
There were more than 30 stab injuries all over the body of Fr. Thomas, especially at abdomen. His head was hit with sticks and boulders and the scull was spit open. All over his faces, on his eyes, lips and cheeks, deep wounds were found. His motor cycle was thrown in bushes about 4 kms away. He was done to death at a hidden place far away place in the forest and his body was brought back and thrown in the middle of the road. Due to heavy rain the foot prints were washed away so much so the police dog squad brought in later could not trace the spot of murder.
On hearing the sad news, Archbishop Marampudi Joji of Hyderabad rushed to the spot with Fr. Alex Raju, the legal advisor of the Archdiocese, and other priests. He met the higher officials and the police officers and insisted that proper enquiry be conducted to bring out the truth and render justice. Meanwhile, Fr. Alex Thannippara CMI, the Provincial of the Chanda Province and other CMI priests had reached the place. The remains of Fr. Thomas Pandipally will be laid to rest on August 20, 2008 in the Carmelite provincial house at Balampally.
There has been a history of antisocial and communal disturbances in the locality. False cases were filed and protests staged against the priests and nuns with the intention to drive them out from the place. Very presence of Christians and missionaries is being resisted alleging that they convert to Christianity and destroy Hinduism. Their institutions are being considered as threat to the other schools and hospitals run by the private agencies for profit. Fr. Sebastian, the previous principal of the same school in which Fr. Thomas Pandipally served, was also implicated in a false case.
At Lingampet of the same parish, at the time of inauguration of the duly government sanctioned and constructed Snehalaya Hospital cum Care and Support Center for the HIV/AIDS patients at the Home for the Aged run by the Franciscan Clarist Congregation (FCC) sisters was blocked by the communal forces. Despite support of District Collector and Magistrate of Nizamabad, till date it has not been inaugurated after completion. Fr. Thomas Pandipally had resisted the communal and self-seeking groups that had opposed the opening of the Care center.
Denouncing the brutal murder of the Carmelite missionary Thomas Pandipally, Archbishop Marampudi Joji of Hyderabad, who is also the Secretary of the Andhra Pradesh Bishops' Council (APBC) and Executive Vice-President of Andhra Pradesh Federation of Churches, stated: "Father Thomas is a martyr; he sacrificed his life for the poor and marginalized. He did not die in vain, because his body and his blood enrich the Church in India, particularly the Church in Andhra Pradesh.
The Indian Church is shocked and deeply saddened by this barbarous killing which is the result of a growing climate of intolerance and violence against Christians in the country". He maintains that the crime is the result of a climate of jealousy of the Catholic Church, whose only fault is that of trying to help develop the abandoned rural areas of the country and support and aid those who are victims of violence and oppression. "The priests and nuns", stressed the Archbishop of Hyderabad, "have for decades been at the service of the less fortunate in India, and this makes them targets of evil forces who do not want the marginalized and impoverished to become empowered."
The Andhra Pradesh Federation of Churches (APFC) strongly condemns the gruesome massacre of Fr. Thomas Pandipally and demands that the violent communal groups be banned. The State and Central Governments have not banned the militant outfits like Hindu Vahini, an affiliate of Bajrang Dal in A.P., which had claimed murdering the pastors in the State and had threatened to kill more of them. The APFC would take up the case of Fr. Thomas with the Chief Minister of A.P., the A.P. State Minorities Commission and others concerned while expressing its protest in union with other Christian groups all over the State against the communal forces