Catholic Bishop Thomas Dabre of Poona in the western Indian state of Maharashtra has demanded a thorough probe into the fire that gutted a 150-year-old Protestant Church on November 28.
“I personally visited the heritage church which has been charred and completely gutted. The altar, copies of the Bibles, hymn books, pulpit, and pews have been destroyed,” the Catholic bishop told ucanews.com on November 30.
Bishop Dabre said that “as the management of the St Andrew’s Hindustani Covenant Church suspects foul play, we have demanded a thorough forensic examination of the premises to establish the exact cause of the blaze.”
Reverend Thomas Irvin, secretary of the church, said that the fire broke out at around 8 am on Monday and within minutes engulfed the entire structure.
It took five fire tenders and three water tankers to douse the fire, he said.
Police had claimed short circuit as cause of the fire.
Pastor Sachin Masih said “the treasured early Urdu-edition Bibles of 1940s brought from the Covenant Church of East Turkistan and British era Roman Bibles and hymn books in Hindi were gutted in the fire.
He said the prayer service was conducted in Hindi and Urdu languages.
Agreeing to demands of Christian church leaders, Police Inspector Bajirao Mohite said that a detailed investigation and a forensic examination of the church premises would be carried out to find the exact cause of the fire.
The church was built by the Scottish Mission in 1860 and handed over to the Swedish missionaries.