//Dalit Catholics demand Archbishop from their community in Pondicherry

Dalit Catholics demand Archbishop from their community in Pondicherry

By DCD Reporter

Pondicherry: The Dalit Christians in the Archdiocese of Pondicherry-Cuddalore on December 29 rallied towards the Archbishop’s House from Kamban Kalaiyarangam demanding the appointment of the Archbishop from a Dalit community.

The protesters come out in the streets holding placards. They want a Dalit Archbishop and to end the age-old untouchable practices in the Church.

Background to the protest is that some Dalit priests wanted to dialogue with the diocesan administration to end untouchability on November 30. While they were in the Archbishop’s House, some Dalit leaders also came to see the Dalit priests. But the Archdiocesan administration stopped them, and it created tension. Police officials intervened and solved the problem temporarily.

Archbishop Antony Anandarayar, who turned 75 this year on July 18, has resigned and waiting for further directives from the Vatican. 

He promised the Dalit priests that he would appoint a procurator from the Dalit community and suddenly informed them that he was going on sick leave. 

Meanwhile, Dalit priests sent a letter to the Apostolic Nuncio expressing the caste-based challenges in the Archdiocese for so many decades. 

Caste-based discrimination is taking a toll on the lives of many Catholics. Dalit Christian organizations have taken many steps to end untouchability with little results. Dalit Christians feel that they have been discriminated against by the Church and society for several decades. They demand to treat them with equality and dignity.

The Archdiocese is 388 years old and there is no Dalit Archbishop appointed. Dalit Catholics who are the majority continue to face discrimination in many ways. 

In the past, the vocation to the priesthood was denied to the Dalit Catholics, but now there are more than 70 Dalit priests after a long struggle for justice.

But they continue to be discriminated against in the administrative positions and the leadership of the Archdiocese, said Salethaiyan M, a member of Dalit Christian Liberation Movement (DCLM), and State Advisory Board President. 

“We are gravely disappointed and agonized on the lack of response and intervention by the Holy See despite the several representations to it by DCLM,” said Salethaiyan.

“We want to draw the attention of the Vatican to this blatant injustice and denial of rights committed by the caste-dominant Catholic hierarchy in India against Dalits,” said Alice, secretary of the women wing of DCLM.

The Dalit Catholic organization has put forth some demands to the Archdiocesan administration of Pondicherry-Cuddalore. In education and employment in all the dioceses equal opportunities should be given to Dalit Christians, who constitute about 75% of the Catholics. Dalit Archbishop should be appointed in the existing vacancy since only non-Dalit Archbishops are appointed so far.

Dalit bishops should be appointed in the six vacant dioceses of Tamil Nadu since only non- Dalit bishops are appointed during the last 15 years. Dalit priests should be appointed in the top administrative positions in the Archdiocese and in institutions that are denied to them. The church should see the plight of the Dalits who demand their rights which are just. 

The same kind of rally and protest took place in the K. Puthur Bus Terminal in Madurai demanding to appoint Dalit bishops in the vacant dioceses of Tamil Nadu. 

As many as 15 Dalit Christian organizations joined in the protest.

They demanded that Dalit bishops should be appointed proportionately implementing the ten and eight-point programs of Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council and Dalit Empowerment Policy of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.