By Jose Kavi
New Delhi: A Dalit Christian movement has urged India;’s new Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli to take steps to appoint bishops from their community in vacant dioceses in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry.
Such a move would “restore confidence in Dalit Catholics” and “prevent their imminent uprising in Tamil Nadu – Pondicherry as well as in other states of India,” says the June 11 letter to the nuncio from the Dalit Christian Liberation Movement.
The letter also urged the Pope’s representative in India to review and make suitably changes in the traditional process and procedure of appointing bishops, archbishops and cardinals in India to make it inclusive and representative.
“The ongoing protests by Dalit Catholics against the appointment of a non-Dalit bishop Arulselvam Rayappan in Salem and the non-Dalit bishop Peter Abir Antonysamy continuing as the apostolic administrator in Pondicherry-Cuddalore archdiocese, both belonging to the same caste, same village and, in fact, blood relations,” says the letter signed by M Mary john, the movement’s president.
The Dalit body said it was forced to write the “open letter” after its numerous letters and emails to the nunciature for many years were not even acknowledged.
The silence, the letter says, forces them to doubt whether the communications were brought to the nuncio’s attention “because we do not see any sign that the nuncios looked into these which raise critical issue of caste discrimination that gravely affect Dalit Christians.”
The Dalit body also raised its suspicion that the Catholic hierarchy in India hides truth and reality of the Indian Church from the nuncio by indulging in misinterpret and misrepresent. “This remains a serious problem in resolving the issue,” the letter added.
It said the Dalit Catholics in India have waited for the new nuncio with great hope and expectation for months the he would come “with awakened and well-informed about the troubled history of casteism in India and the caste discrimination against Dalits within the Catholic Church.”
“We expected the new nuncio to understand the situation carefully with concern and take early steps to appoint a Dalit archbishop in Pondicherry-Cuddalore and Dalit bishops in the five vacancies in Tamil Nadu, which are pending for months and years,” the letter said.
The appointment of a non-Dalit to Salem within two days of the nuncio’s arrival has brought “great disappointment and shock” to Dalit Catholics, the movement regretted.
It said the Dalit Catholics were already experienced surprise and shock in January when a non-Dalit was appointed as the administrator of Pondicherry-Cuddalore archdiocese.
The administrator Bishop Peter Abir Antonysamy of Sultanpet comes from neighboring state of Kerala.
“In spite of Dalit Catholics protesting it, he is allowed to continue till now for more than four months, even though a much more senior Dalit bishop is there in Tamil Nadu who could be appointed.”
The movement alleged that Bishop Antonysamy played “all tricks with the local priests and people and manipulating the higher authorities to get appointed as the archbishop there.”
John’s letter said that when the movement met top Church officials in Tamil Nadu in March, all of them expressed surprise, embarrassment and displeasure at the Bishop Antonysamy’s appointment and said they suspected some lobby was at work in the state.
“However, all the three categorically told us that only a Dalit archbishop and Dalit bishops would be appointed in the existing vacancies. They said they had already recommended names of Dalit priests exclusively or giving priority and they would write again as well as speak to the new Nuncio to India,” the movement claimed.
Credit: Matters India