M A I N   N E W S

Father Mark’s grave vandalised,
body found elsewhere

Gumtala (Amritsar), February 17
The coffin of Father Mark Barnes, a Christian missionary, which was found missing under mysterious circumstances, a few hours after his burial at St Marry’s School premises today, was found at the secluded cemetery here today evening by his supporters.

The development has sparked off a major controversy once again after a brief lull. The community stands divided over the issue of burial, which has become a matter of concern for the ruling party as Father Mark had great following in the Ajnala constituency.

This is for the first time unidentified persons vandalised the coffin of one of the most respected Christian preachers who had devoted his entire life for the downtrodden people of the border belt. Earlier, his sister, Ms Anne Waikling, had sided with his supporters who wanted his burial on the school premises. The burial took place after the sunset yesterday in the presence of a large number of his followers and top officials.

Mr Rakesh Bhatti and Mr Hans Raj Arlipan, supporters of Fr Mark, found the coffin in the cemetery in dramatic circumstances. The local administration and members of the Christian community here remained tight-lipped. However, certain followers said a few policemen who were guarding the burial site were also found ‘missing’ after the incident.

Sister Angela who resides in the premises of St Mary’s School said that they had gone to sleep about 11 p.m. She said when she woke up next morning the grave was found vandalised and dug up.

The residents of the area said they had erected a three-feet high brick wall around the grave. However, today morning it was found broken.

Mr Gurwariam Singh, SDM, today visited the spot, but he refused to make any comment.

Father D P Roger, who reached the spot after news reached about the disappearance of the body, said it seemed that the grave was dug up and his coffin was taken away by some unscrupulous persons. He alleged that yesterday they were told that the decision to bury the body would be taken next morning. However, they learnt that the burial had already taken place late in the evening and added that according to Christian norms, no burial could take place after sunset. However, the Jalandhar diocese smelled foul play about the reported burial. It claimed that the local court of Civil Judge, Junior Division, had ordered that the parties maintained status quo regarding the existing condition at the site till February 18.

In a Press release the diocese said, “His body was officially handed over to the representatives of the dioceses and the body was prepared in full priestly and liturgical attire. We do want to give the highest honour to Father Mark as a Catholic priest which he always was and his funeral rites to be conducted by His Excellency Rt. Rev Dr Symphorian Keeprath, Bishop of Jalandhar dioceses, accompanied by all priests who loved him and worked with him and with the people whom he served in the border districts of Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Ferozepur.

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