Indian cardinal says church attack undermines freedom of religion

(Photo: REUTERS/Stephen Crowley / Pool)India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama watch India's Republic Day parade in the rain together from their review stand in New Delhi January 26, 2015.

The head of the Catholic Church in India has lamented an attack on a church in Agra where statues of Mary, the mother of Jesus, were destroyed, saying the vandals action continued to undermine the country's constitution.

In a statement to, Cardinal Oswald Gracias described the April 17 incident as an affront to the ideals of secularism enshrined in India's constitution.

"I am saddened and shocked by the desecration of four statues of the Virgin in Agra," said Gracias, the archbishop of Mumbai. "Gestures like this hurt our religious feelings, are a deep laceration in the secular fabric of society and a serious stain on the idea of ​​secularism in our constitution."

He said the Christian community in Agra always worked with people of different faiths, especially during his stint as archbishop of Agra.

"In addition, our educational institutions serve the country and people of all faiths and caste, without discrimination," he said.

The cardinal expressed hope that authorities would bring to justice the attackers.

In a related development, investigators working to resolve the incident said a lead has fizzled out after police failed to establish links with people who were questioned about the attack over the weekend.

Agra police investigators gathered some 250 phone numbers near the St. Mary's Church one hour before and after the vandalism, and they called each of the contact to verify any links into the attack.

"Police have to work at the ground level to get some concrete breakthrough as it is clear that the accused was either too smart or mentally unstable man that he didn't carry a mobile phone with him," one investigator told the Times of India.

As investigators try to put a face to the heinous attack, an interfaith prayer was held on April 19 with Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jains, and Buddhists calling for justice. The attendees joined hands in prayer.

"Nothing can be achieved with hatred. But we want police and government to support us and ensure our security so that nothing like this gets repeated," said Father Moon Lazarus, parish priest of St Mary's Church.

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