MUMBAI, India — Church leaders, Church workers, Church supporters face crucifixion from the followers of a different creed, following Pontius Pilate instead of Jesus Christ, according to one Good Friday sermon by a prominent priest in India.
Father Magi Murzello, the rector of St. Andrews College in Mumbai, said these people declare through their actions the words of this false creed: “I believe in crucifying other, I believe in holy spite, embarrassing the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of gossip, the forgiveness of sin at least of those who cannot retaliate, the destruction of body and ‘striking’-ness everlasting.”
Murzello was nominated by the governor of the Indian state of Maharashtra to the Senate of the University of Mumbai, and St. Andrew’s college is considered the best in the city.
Using his own personal testimony, the priest remarked on the suffering the clergy face every day, both from those within and outside of the Church.
He related how his father once told him soon after his ordination that the people would “crucify him” in his work.
At first, he didn’t believe him, and in fact, said the early days of his priesthood were like a “honeymoon.”
But then, it began: “Lies, anonymous letters, slander, gossip and sometimes even physical threats” from members of the Christian community.
Murzello related the time someone started constantly sabotaging his motorbike by tampering with the brakes, cutting cables, cutting the wires of the headlights, and syphoning gasoline.
The priest spoke about the pain of a rumor that he – who did not drink – was an alcoholic.
“At first, I thought it was a joke. I laughed it out. But when it came up at different meetings, people making enquiries, is it true, I realized that someone is crucifying me with lies,” he said.
He said at one point he thought about leaving the priesthood, and now says, “Someone has to stand up and say: Enough!”
Murzello’s sermon came as Christians in India – making up around 2.3 percent of the total population – have faced growing discrimination by the country’s Hindu majority.
Since 2014, India has been ruled by the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has strong links to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a militant Hindu nationalist organization.
Incidents of harassment against the small Christian minority have increased over the past few months, with various Christians being detained or arrested for “attempted conversion,” and places of worship being vandalized.
Clergy are often targeted by Hindu nationalists.
At the same time, they have to deal with the usual personality clashes and controversies that affect Church life in Catholic parishes around the world.
Which is what the priest meant when he said, “Enough!”
“I know that what I have spoken, some will say how dare he speaks. No one says how dare do they speak. How dare do they put this… the vicious gossip, lies. If you want to crucify then crucify yourself, crucify ourselves,” Murzello said.
“If our feet are crucified, we will be following in His footsteps … Not to go to the corrupt areas and slimy places but to run errands of justice and to use our feet in Christian service,” the priest continued. “If our hands are crucified, we will be careful with what we handle.”
He also noted “there will be no sharp words from us if our tongues are crucified,” adding “our words should be soothing and not like salt on a wounded back.”
Murzello concluded his reflection by noting the Passion was ended when Jesus’ heart was pierced, the sign that the world had rejected Him.
“His heart was crucified. Is your heart crucified. Is it dead to sin and evil? Is it a throne upon which he lives? Does he have the first place in your life or is your heart divided between the world and Jesus?” the priest asked.
“If your heart is crucified then you have the right attitude. You will stop crucifying others in your own home. In your community, in your parish. Instead you will crucify yourself to heal others.”