I. Anyway, the photograph pertains to reports of "miracles" allegedly occurring in the northeast of India, in a region bordering China, Burma and Bhutan. Here's the article from La Stampa:
India's "impossible" miracles
Unexpected cases of healing are being witnessed in the Diocese of Itanagar. Meanwhile, Catholic presence has increased by 40%
Strange things are going on in the Indian diocese of Itanagar and Mgr. John Kattrukudiyl spoke about them during a visit to Germany for the periodic meeting organised by Aid to the Church in Need, the international organisation that deals with churches and Christians in countries where they face the greatest difficulties.
According to the prelate, the numerous unexplained healings which preceded and resulted from prayer, are the main reason for this extraordinary increase in Catholics - 40% over 35 years - in this remote corner of India. The bishop is informed of things like this on a regular basis; and the stories "baffle me. I have a theological mindset and it is easy to become sceptical about this kind of thing. But the interested parties are absolutely convinced that what happened to them was real".
The prelate mentioned the case of a man who stopped persecuting the Catholic Church after he married a Catholic girl. "After converting to Catholicism he was asked to pray for a paralytic. He did it even though he did not want to; the next day, the paralytic rose and walked towards the church". The newly converted man was so shocked by this miraculous experience that he started attending mass and "is now a very active member of the parish".
Mgr. Kattrukudiyl is well aware of the scepticism with which most of these miracles are met; when he describes miracles that have taken place people in Europe sometimes say: "Hey, bishop, you're telling tales". But despite the incredulity "I am told about many cases of healing which we cannot ignore".
One possible historical-theological explanation is the relative freshness of the local church. "It is the experience of a very young Church that feels the grace of the Catholic Church in the times of the apostles," when healing miracles were frequent, as the Scriptures tell us.
According to the prelate, the faithful of his diocese witnessed these miraculous healings after gathering in the home of a sick person whom they had been praying for. "People who had been sick for a very long time were healed. These people got a real experience of the primitive Church". During the early Church period "healing with God’s prayer attracted many people to the Church. Belonging to the Church they felt a kind of spiritual peace". The bishop revealed that the number of Catholic faithful has grown by 40% over the past 35 years. The situation in the Church has improved a great deal; now, not only is it tolerated, but it is praised for its philanthropic work. "Politicians never miss an opportunity to praise the Church for its humanitarian work".
II. It must be stated that conversion to Christianity is punishable by law. Missionaries were once prohibited from entering the region. The Arunachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act (1978), a misnomer, was instituted "for prohibition of conversion from one religious faith to any other religious faith by use of force or inducement or by fraudulent means and for matters connected therewith". Effectively meaning, any and all means of conversion. On the national level: if conducting missionary and conversion-related activities, you could be prosecuted under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code. Under the Hindu Succession Act (1956), spouses can lose inheritance and guardianship of their children should they convert to a religion other than Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism or Sikhism. So, in a country-wide context, India is not necessarily open and/or accommodating to Christianity in general and Catholicism particularly. To be sure, only an Apostolic Delegation has been resident in India since 1881. Formal diplomatic relations with the Holy See have been existent since only June 12, 1948, about a year after British India was partitioned into India and Pakistan.
III. Getting back on track... Dioecesis Itanagarensis encompasses 10 districts within the state of Arunachal Pradesh, namely Kurung Kamay, Tawang, Papum Pare, East and West Kameng, Upper and Lower Subansiri, East, West and Upper Siang. The cathedral is St. Joseph's church, located in Itanagar. As of 2006, there were 72,000 Catholics out of a total population 670,973 (i.e. 10.7% Catholic). There were a total of 37 priests (13 diocesan, 24 religious), meaning 1945 Catholics per priest. Not too bad, considering that in the highly urbanized Toronto Archdiocese there are 2,340 Catholics per priest. There were 18 parishes and, respectively, 31 and 73 male and female religious (source). Note that the number of religious females well exceeds those male, evidencing the nuns are thriving, doing good, productive work over there. Pray for them and the priests.
IV. VIS reports that the Diocese of Itanagar was established on December 7, 2005. It was part of the Diocese of Tezpur, prior to it being split (Itanagar is also a suffragan of the Guwahati Archdiocese). The Holy Father appointed Bishop John Thomas Kattrukudiyil as Itanagar's first bishop. He hails from Kadavoor in Kothamangalm diocese, in southern India. +Kattrukudiyil was ordained a priest on February 3, 1975. He was made bishop of Diphu diocese on June 10, 1994, where he was also Rector at Oriens Theological College, Shillong. His Grace is also Secretary of the North Eastern Bishops regional council of the Catholic Bishop's Conference of India (CBCI).
Sidebar: Now prepping my next tract on the Canadian situation. Out soon, I hope. In the meantime, here's something nice for the ladies...
NOTES / REFERENCES
1. M. Tosatti, "India's 'impossible' miracles", Vatican Insider, June 29, 2012.
2. J. Newton, "India: reports of miracles in remote region lead to many conversions", Independent Catholic News, June 27, 2012.
3. "Church In Former 'Forbidden Land' Gets Its Own Dioceses", UCA News, December 9, 2005.
4. The historical record is scant on St. Thomas the Apostle, "Doubting Thomas", the reluctant saint. Reportedly, he arrived in southwest India circa 52 AD, on the Malabar Coast specifically, where at he established churches, converted scores, performed miracles and so on. He is mentioned by some of the early Church Fathers, but just offhandedly. There is extensive Apocrypha on St. Thomas, most notably the Acta Thomae, though it is tainted with gnosticism, as per usual with such texts. Still, documentary and archaeological data evidence that St. Thomas ventured throughout India, even to the north. See, for example, S.A. Missick, "Mar Thoma: The Apostolic Foundation of the Assyrian Church and the Christians of St. Thomas in India", Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies, 2000, vol. XIV, no. 2, pp. 33-61. So, considering the recent reported occurrences of numerous "miracles" in a region where the Catholic population appears to be exploding, it's fitting that the first bishop of Itanagar Diocese (situated in northeast India) is named John Thomas Kattrukudiyil.