An Indian bishop says that reports of repeated miraculous healings comparable to the early Church are causing massive growth for the Catholic Church in a remote area of the northeast state of Arunchal Pradesh.
“Time and time again they tell me story after story of healings that have happened in various places,” Bishop John Kattrukudiyil of Itangar told Aid to the Church in Need. “What they tell me fills me with amazement.”
One healing incident involved a man who had renounced his past persecutions of the Catholic Church and converted to marry a Catholic girl.
The man was asked to go and pray over a paralyzed man.
“He was unwilling but he still went and prayed and the next day that man rose up and walked to the church,” Bishop Kattrukudiyil said. “He was so shocked at this miraculous experience he began to go to church and now today he is a very active member of the parish.”
The bishop cited his own substantive theological background, saying it is “easy to become skeptical about all these kinds of things.”
However, the people are “absolutely convinced” that they have been healed.
Many of these accounts also inspire skepticism when the bishop tells them to people in Europe and elsewhere. The bishop said there are so many healing stories that Christians cannot ignore them.
“This is the experience of a very young Church, experiencing the same grace as that of the Church of apostolic times,” Bishop Kattrukudiyil.
He explained that healings through prayer to Jesus attracted many people to the Church in its early days.
“People who had been suffering from various sicknesses for a long time were healed – it’s really an experience of the early Church that these people had,” he said during a recent visit to Aid to the Church in Need’s headquarters in Koenigstein, Germany.
Arunachal Pradesh borders China, Myanmar and Bhutan. The region was closed to Christian missionaries because of strict entry laws revoked only in the 1990s.
This changed when young people in the state sought education in Catholic schools in neighboring Assam state. Some students, with their parents’ permission, asked for baptism and received the sacrament. They returned to their village and spread the faith. Some became government leaders and helped to change the culture.
While new Catholics once faced beatings, house burnings, the slaughter of their animals or expulsion from jobs or schools, there have been no recorded incidents of persecution or harassment in 20 years.
Bishop Kattrukudiyil said there were almost no Christians there 35 years ago but the Christian population is expected to be at 40 percent in the still unreleased results of the 2010 census.
“Today the church is not tolerated but looked up to for her developmental works in education and health care,” he said. Politicians praise the Church for her philanthropy.