Nepal´s King "Was a Great Friend of Catholics"

Studied in the Jesuit School in India, Says Official

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KATHMANDU, Nepal, JUNE 5, 2001 (Zenit.org).- The president of the Christian Workers Movement of Nepal expressed his grief over the shooting deaths of King Birendra and virtually the entire royal family last Friday in the royal palace.



"Please pray for peace in our country," Josh Niraual told ZENIT. "The late King Birendra was a great friend of Catholics."

"He began his studies at St. Joseph´s School, Darjeeling, India, run by the Jesuits," Niraual said. "So did the queen at St. Helen´s Convent, Kurseong, India. Both paid a visit to the Holy Father at the Vatican in the 1980s."

"We, the members of the Catholic Church, are in deep sorrow," he added. "Please request the Holy Father to say prayers for the repose of their souls and also for peace in the nation."

On Saturday, as soon as he heard the news of the deaths, John Paul II sent a telegram to Gyanendra, the regent and brother of the deceased king, to express his sorrow over the "tragic deaths" and to assure him of his prayers for Nepal.

Heir Prince Dipendra was named sovereign, even as he lay in a coma. When he subsequently died, Gyanendra was crowned king.

The new king has announced a judicial commission into the deaths, headed by the chief justice. The panel´s findings are expected to be made public within three days.

King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya, as well as that of seven other members of the royal family, died from the shootings.

Mobs have been demanding to know the truth about the deaths -- the royal family has virtually a divine character in Nepal. The country is 90% Hindu.

Few people in this Southern Asia country of 24 million accepted the initial official explanation that the royalty were victims of an accident, according to Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Authorities in the capital were bracing today for a second day of violence, as the strict overnight curfew was lifted, ABC reported. The local press has reported six deaths from mob violence.