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Sainthood hopes for Chotanagpur’s apostle

- Belgian team to present evidence on miracles attributed to Father Constant Lievens
The final resting place of Belgian missionary Father Constant Lievens inside St Mary’s Cathedral, Ranchi. Picture by Hardeep Singh

The Roman Catholic Church in Ranchi is gearing up for a crucial visit next month that may pave the way for beatification of Father Constant Lievens.

Church officials from the Diocese of Bruges, Belgium, will fly down to Ranchi on July 13 to make a presentation on the evidence of “miracles” of Father Constant Lievens collected from across Jharkhand.

The Belgian missionary, dubbed as the Apostle of Chotanagpur, will be beatified and declared “blessed”.

“The effort for beatification of this great apostle of god began in 1993 in the Diocese of Bruges, Belgium. The diocesan council is collecting evidence on Father Lievens’ holiness,” Cardinal Telesphore P. Toppo told The Telegraph.

A ceremony has been tentatively fixed for July 13 when the postulator from the diocese of Bruges — the authority appointed to collect evidence of miracles attributed to Constant Lievens — is expected to come to Ranchi for a presentation at the St Mary’s Cathedral on Purulia Road, Ranchi.

“The mortal remains of this great servant of God lie buried at the 105-year-old St Mary’s Cathedral. Hence, it is the ideal venue,” Toppo added.

The dossier will be presented to church experts at the Vatican for scrutiny.

According to church laws, one miracle is required after a candidate’s death for beatification. The miracle must be the result of a person praying to the candidate for intercession with god. Miracles are usually healing of medical conditions that doctors can’t explain. The candidate is then beatified and declared “blessed”.

A second miracle is needed after beatification for sainthood to be finally conferred.

Born at Moorslede, Belgium, on April 10, 1856, Constant Lievens joined the Society of Jesus at Drongen on October 21, 1878. He reached Calcutta on December 2, 1880, became a priest in 1883 and came to Ranchi, in colonial Chotanagpur, two years later.

The first Belgian Jesuit to reach Chotanagpur was Father Auguste Stockman in 1868.

But Father Lievens, who arrived in Doranda, Ranchi, on March 18, 1885, really became “one of the tribals”. He studied both indigenous and British laws to protect tribals from exploitation.

On August 26, 1892, he left for Belgium, afflicted by tuberculosis, and died there on November 7, 1893. His mortal remains were brought to Ranchi 100 years later.

His legacy lived on. When he had arrived in Ranchi, there were 56 Catholic priests. When he left, there were well over 70,000.