Books released on two French Missionaries killed in Arunachal Pradesh

Tezu, 8 May 2023: Two books were released on the two French Missionaries killed on their way to Tibet through Arunachal Pradesh at the closing session of the diocesan inquiry of their cause of Sainthood, on 30 April 2023 at St. Peter’s Church, Tezu in Arunachal Pradesh.

Two French Missionaries of the Society of Foreign Missions of Paris, Fathers Nicholas Michael Krick and Augustine Etienne Bourry were killed by an Arunachali tribe’s man in the year 1854 on their way to Tibet.

Bishop George Pallipparambil SDB of Miao diocese has been pursuing their cause of Beatification and Canonization from 2013 onwards. Having completed all the formal procedures, the diocese formally closed its local inquiry on 30 April in a large gathering of faithful and priests from all over east Arunachal Pradesh.

On this historical occasion, Padmasree Mamang Dai released a book titled ‘The First Martyrs of North East India’ which contains extracts from the original letters of the two missionaries on their journey to Tibet between the years 1851 – 1854, and another book titled ‘Blood and Blessing’ a musical on the life of the two missionaries who walked through the Mishmi Hills along the Lohit River in Arunachal Pradesh.

Releasing the books, Padmasree Dai, who has also authored a book on Frs. Krick and Bourry titled ‘The Black Hill’, said, “I feel blessed to be part of this important event. It was my quest for spiritual fulfilment that led me to the life of these two valiant missionaries and to their hometown in France.

The closing session was attended by Bishop George Pallipparambil SDB of Miao Diocese, Bishop Emeritus Joseph Aind SDB and Bishop Dennis Panipitchai SDB.

After reaching India in 1848, Krick searched for a way to cross the Himalayas to enter the forbidden land called Tibet. After spending time studying Tibetan language at Guwahati in Assam, he journeyed on through Arunachal Pradesh towards the Tibetan border, crossing through areas inhabited by the Adi, Mishmi and Lhoba tribes. Finally, on January 16, 1852, he made his way to the village of Somme, near the present-day juncture of Tibet, India, and Myanmar (Burma). 

Tibet at that time was a closed kingdom. Nobody was allowed in, and Fr. Krick faced great opposition from the unfriendly locals who were determined to keep him out. The Frenchman could find nowhere to sleep, and the people refused to sell him any food. To survive in order to give the good news of Christ’s story of Salvation, the missionary “was forced to collect grains of rice that had fallen on the ground and to scavenge for the disgusting leftovers from other people’s meals, which even dogs refused to touch.”

After a few days of serving the people there, the locals drove Nicolas Krick out of their town and back across the border into Arunachal Pradesh in India. After recovering, Krick made plans to re-enter Tibet.

This time, he was accompanied by a young recruit, Augustin Etienne Bourry, who hailed from La Chapelle-Largeau, France. After graduating from the Missions Etrangères de Paris in 1852, Bourry applied to join the mission to Tibet and met up with Krick in India on December 10, 1853. On the following February 19th, the duo started their journey toward Tibet, with their sights set firmly on reaching Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. In mid-May, Krick recorded in his diary: “For ninety days I have been marching barefoot. All my shoes are ruined except for one bad pair, which I keep for celebrating Holy Mass. For two weeks we walked in non-stop rain, which poured down as from a cloudburst and completely ruined all our books, the breviary, the Bible, and the Imitation of Christ. To complete this picture of misery—in the mountains, you may fall prey to manifold sicknesses like fever, dysentery, rheumatism, and sores from insect bites.”            

Worn out from their exertions, Fr. Krick and Bourry finally reached Somme, a place Fr. Krick had visited during his first attempt.

On August 2, Chief of an Arunachal tribe attacked Krick and Bourry with a group of men armed with spears and machetes and killed them both. There are many versions spoken of as the cause for the killing. The then British Government did not honour the promise made to Kaisha Manyu for the help he offered to them during their journey to Tibet. In an unfortunate incident, he also lost one of his sons in Kundil river while he was on his way to collect the reward promised in Sadiya. And these two causes are said to be the primary cause for the killing. Any white man during those times was seen as British personnel by the innocent people in the hills. Mistaken identity of the French missionaries to be British officers is also said to be another reason that led to the killing.

The grieving villagers buried them with honour under a cairn of stones and carried the message of the death of the two missionaries wherever they went. The people gathered for the closing session expressed joy at the new impetus the process of the cause of their holiness has gained.

The work of the beatification is actively promoted by Bishop George Pallipparambil of Miao Diocese, Arunachal Pradesh.  After receiving a favourable opinion of the North East India Regional Bishops’ Council, Bishop George obtained Nihil Obstat from the Congregation for the Cause of the Saints. He then appointed a Historical Commission to collect all the works of these two Servants of God and for a report of the same commission, also appointed Theological Censors who made a study on the available resources and affirmed the orthodoxy of their writings without any error in faith and morals.

The team having completed its duty, the diocese formally closed its inquiry and the documents will now be sent to the Dicastery for the Cause of the Canonization of Saints.

The diocesan officials for the cause, Bishop George Pallipparambil, Bishop Anthonyswamy, the Postulator, Fr. T. Lourdusamy, Vice Postulator; Fr. Tomy Joseph, Episcopal Delegate, Fr. Joy Manickathan, Promoter of Justice, Fr. Felix Anthony, Notary and Fr. Shoby Simon, copyist, took oath of completion of their duty faithfully at the closing ceremony.