Dalit Christians approach Chennai High Court on appointments of bishops


By DCD Reporter

The Dalit Christians have approached Chennai High Court about the appointment of Dalit bishops in dioceses in Tamil Nadu.

The Dalit Christians are demanding the Catholic Church of Tamil Nadu appoints the Dalit bishops for 14 years. Their plea is not heard and they continue to be discriminated against. It is crystal clear even in the recent appointments of the Bishops in the dioceses of Tiruchirappalli, Port Blair and Salem. 

Caste mentality is prevalent in the Church and it is increasing day by day and Dalit Christians condemn the attitude of the Church in the appointment of the bishops.

The Vatican, the apostolic nuncio, Cardinal Oswald Cardinal Gracious, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India have not to heed attention to the demands of the Dalit Christians, bemoans Professor Anandaraj, the State Joint Secretary of Dalit Christian Liberation Movement (DCLM).

“We do not want the church which is adamant and enslaves the Dalits in the name of caste. We want a separate Dalit Rite for the Dalit Christians,” he said.

“We want the Catholic Church to give us our properties proportionately in the form of dioceses, Archbishops, bishops, Churches and institutions. We demand that the Dalit priests should be appointed as administrators and they should be directly under the Pope and look after the livelihood and faith of the Dalit Christians,” added Anandaraj.

The Dalit Christians in 151 villages in Tamil Nadu are discriminated against based on the dual cemetery, Churches, hearse carts, the appointment of dominant caste bishops and prohibit them from entering into worship places.

The car procession does not enter into Dalit villages, the Church support fund and donations for festivals are not received from the Dalits and the Dalit children do not get admission in schools.

This delayed justice has provoked the Dalit Christians to move to the High Court of Chennai and filed a case against the Church for discriminating against them by Dr. Mathew Gnanaprakasam, the convenor of Tamilnadu Dalit Christians Collective includes 16 Dalit Movements in Tamil Nadu. 

The case (W.P.No.13220/2021) was accepted by the court on June 25 and directed the State governments of Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and the Indian Catholic bishops by July 8, 2021.

Discriminating the Dalits is against the principles of the Church and the international policies of the United Nations. These should be removed completely mentions the case. 

It is disappointing and disheartening that the Church has not moved after having many forms of protests, requests and demands. 

The casteist attitude of the Indian Church has angered the Dalit Christians in Tamil Nadu. It has been revealed in the appointment of the non-Dalit Bishops continuously, said P. Felix, coordinator of Kristhava Makkal Kalam, a Dalit movement based in Tamil Nadu.

The Catholic Church is administered by Pope Francis, the Apostolic Nuncios, Cardinals, Bishops and Bishops’ Conferences. 

The Indian Catholic Church has 174 dioceses in India and there are 18 dioceses in Tamil Nadu. Each diocese is headed by an Archbishop or a bishop. There are 180 bishops including the auxiliary bishops. There are 31Archbishops in India. 

In Tamil Nadu out of 18 dioceses, there is only one bishop from the Dalit community and all the three Archbishops are from the so-called dominant castes. Four cardinals in India have the power to elect the Pope but no Dalit cardinal has been appointed so far.

There are 10 bishops and Archbishops that have been appointed in the past 14 years. But no one is from the Dalit community. The total population of Indian Dalit Christians is 80% and the Dalit Christian population in Tamil Nadu is far about 70%. 

These statistics prove that Dalit Christians are discriminated against in the Catholic Church especially in the appointment of the Bishops. 25 % of the dominant castes’ bishops are ruling the Church. 

“We need to reform the caste discrimination in the Church,” said Saint Pope John Paul II and it is possible to find the solution for each country and province as per their culture says, Pope Francis to the Christian community.

The Dalit Christians are not only discriminated against by the caste Hindus but also the so-called dominant caste Christians. So the 80% of the Dalit Christians should be at the decision-making bodies of the Catholic Church, said Msgr. Pedro Lopez Quintana, the Apostolic Nuncio to India in 2008.  

“We need to increase the number of Dalit Bishops and Archbishops,” said Cardinal Filoni during his pastoral visit to India on February 10, 2013.

The Dalit Christians must represent all the spheres in the Catholic Church, insists the Dalit Empowerment policy which was released on December 13, 2016. 

The 10 and 8 points of the Action Plan for the Integrated Development of Catholic Dalits are about Tamil Nadu cases refereed in 1990 and 2004. 

For the past 30 years, the Indian Bishops’ Conference and the Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council have openly accepted the existence of caste in the Catholic Church and sought forgiveness. 

“The recommendation of the Bishops’ Conference is to appoint the Dalits in the decision-making bodies of the Church. The Dalits are appointed as bishops proportionately in the vacant dioceses, we would continue our fight,” insists Gnanaprakasam.  


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