VATICAN CITY, Aug 26 (Reuters) - The Vatican on Tuesday strongly condemned a spate of attacks against Christians in India by Hindus, saying the violence was an affront to human dignity and religious freedom.

A statement deplored the anti-Christian violence, in which at least two people were killed and a Christian orphanage and more than a dozen churches torched in the eastern state of Orissa, and called for an end to what it called "bullying".

Separately, the Rome-based Italian missionary agency Misna said it had received reports that two Jesuit priests had been abducted in the area but had no further details.

"It expresses its solidarity with local Churches and the religious orders involved, and condemns these actions, which are an affront to dignity, peoples' freedom, and endanger peaceful civil coexistence," the Vatican statement said.

It called for "an end to all bullying" and a return to dialogue and a climate of mutual respect.

Authorities imposed a curfew in parts of the state in an attempt to quell the violence, which began after a local Hindu leader linked to the main opposition Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and four others were killed last week.

The leader had been heading a local campaign to reconvert Hindus and tribal people from Christianity.

Police blamed the killings on local Maoist rebels taking sides in a controversy over religious conversions, but Hindus say Christians were to blame for the killings.

Earlier on Tuesday, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Vatican's department for inter-religious affairs, told an Italian newspaper the attacks against the Christians were "a sin against God and humanity".

"There is no justification possible. One certainly cannot invoke religion for for crime of this sort," he told the Corriere della Sera.

Tauran said he had been to India recently and acknowledged that the Vatican did not understand Hinduism as well as it should.

"I think my department should intensify our contacts with religious leaders," Tauran said.

A top body of Indian bishops counted 32 incidents of violence against Christians in Orissa over the past two days. In protest, it said some 25,000 Catholic schools and colleges in India would be closed on Friday.

(Source: Reuters, by Philip Pullella)