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News 2014 � August

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Indian President appreciates Catholic Church's service to tribal population in Bengal


By Fr. John Vaikath
Below: The President is welcomed by (R. to L.)Fr. Nirmol Gomes, Fr. John Vaikath and Fr. Karlus Murmu at Polsondamore. Above: The President with the officials and dignitaries on the dais, at the laying of the foundation stone of Daya Duar Mini Hospital
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Kolkata, Aug. 27. The President of India Shri Pranab Mukherjee visited Don Bosco Catholic Church Palsondamore, in West Bengal, on 24 August, 2014, and laid the foundation stone for a mini hospital under the parish. It was a historic event in the annals of this small Parish of the diocese of Krishnagar, W.B., with a majority tribal population. The president was accompanied by his son Shri Abijit Mukherjee, Member of Parliament.
The President arrived at the venue at 12.20 pm. The Bishop of Krishnagar Rt. Rev. Joseph Gomes SDB, the Salesian Provincial of Kolkata Dr. Fr. Nirmol Gomes SDB, the Provincial Superior of Sisters of Charity Sr. John Teresia SCCG, the Parish Priest Fr. Karlus Murmu SDB, the co-ordinator the Daya Duar Mini Hospital Fr. John Vaikath SDB and others welcomed the President. Present were also over 400 governmental and non-governmental invitees and about 250 boarding children of the parish.

The main functions at which the President presided over were the laying of the foundation stone of the ''Daya Duar Mini Hospital'', and the inauguration of the bi-centennial celebrations of the birth of Don Bosco, pioneer educationist, Catholic Saint and founder of the Society of the Salesians (SDB).

Bishop Gomes in his welcome speech highlighted the role of the local Church in education through English medium School, ministry to the jailed inmates at the central correctional Home at nearby Berhampore, and in particular over 50 years of  the Church's service to the tribal people, specially the Santhals. He said that there were also 8 boardings serving over 2000 tribal children in the locality. He mentioned that the ''Daya Duar'' which  means the ''Door of Mercy'', whose foundation stone the president was about to lay, would serve to reach out to the needy tribal community to safeguard and promote their health.

Fr. Nirmol Gomes, Salesian Provincial brought to the notice of the President the work of the Salesians in the field of academic and technical education and reach out programmes to tribal people in rural India. The Salesian province of Kolkata has 45 institutions under its care with colleges and schools in English as well as in vernacular languages.

Fr. Karlus Murmu, parish priest of Catholic Church, Palsonda confessed his humble origin from a rural Santhal family and said that he owes his present leadership role as parish priest to Don Bosco and the Church. As a tribal he felt honoured by the visit of the President to this tribal area.

The President in his speech praised the Catholic Church at Palsondamore in the yeoman service it was rendering in the field of education, social work, and health care for the people of the area.  He said that he was also happy to know that the Church was also working with inmates of correctional homes.

The President spoke also of the importance of reaching out to tribal people. He deplored the fact that tribals were still lagging behind in benefiting from the developmental programmes and plans of the Government as they do not get filtered down to these people. He praised the efforts and dedicated service of the missionaries for the all round development of the tribal community and not just to their education.  He added that lack of development leads to discontent, extremism and violence among the people. ''Such violence is against the spirit of our Constitution and desire of God,'' the President said.  He affirmed that Christian teachings such as service of humanity is service rendered to God, and the core Christian teaching of the love of one's neighbour, would help to reinforce India's own core civilization values.

The President then unveiled the foundation stone of the proposed mini hospital ''Daya Duar'', after which Bishop Gomes blessed the stone to dedicate the undertaking to God and to seek divine blessings.

Before the president departed from the venue he handed over three Catholic Church awards of merit and appreciation to Fr. Scaria Nedumattathil for mission and social work, to Fr. Thomas Kayyalackal for noteworthy services in the field of education in rural Bengal, and to Dr. Dablu Soren the first Ph.D. degree holder in Literature from among the Santhals of Murshidabad district.

The function was compered by Fr. Joseph Pauria SDB, parish priest of Berhampore.
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