Dalit Christians protest ahead of Salem Bishop’s consecration

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By DCD Reporter

Dalit Christians on July 23 staged a protest demonstration in front of the District Collector’s Office in Salem, Tamil Nadu, ahead of the consecration of the new bishop Arulselvam Rayappan in Salem.

The protest organized by the Dalit Christian Liberation Movement (DCLM)-Salem diocese condemned the untouchability practiced by the Catholic hierarchy in India, particularly in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry region where only non-Dalit bishops/archbishops have been appointed consecutively during the past fifteen years.

As a consequence, there is only one Dalit bishop now out of the 18 Catholic dioceses in the region even though Dalits comprise about 75% of the Catholics here, making their representation negligible. This situation continues for decades, said M. Mary John, president, DCLM.

So, Dalit Catholics are anguished by this and during the past year, they were vigorously protesting the unjust situation and insisting on appointing only Dalit bishops in Tamil Nadu and a Dalit archbishop in Pondicherry-Cuddalore archdiocese in the vacancies existing for the past two years. But despite these, the two bishops appointed now recently are also only non-Dalits. There are four more vacancies in Tamil Nadu remaining to be filled.

Now Dalit Christians protest in Salem demands to stop the consecration of the new bishop Rayappan scheduled to take place on August 4, till Dalit bishops/archbishops are appointed first in the remaining vacancies in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry, Mary John said.

The protestors demanded Bishop Peter Abir, the Apostolic Administrator of Pondicherry-Cuddalore Archdiocese, to go back to his Sultanpet diocese.

The protest was also against the Apostolic Nuncio in India for his compliance with the caste discrimination and untouchability practiced by the Catholic hierarchy in India. The protestors also appealed to Pope Francis intervene to stop the caste discrimination in Catholic Church.

After the protest, a delegation met the District Collector and gave a memorandum complaining about the untouchability and caste discrimination against Dalits in the Catholic Church and urged the government of Tamil Nadu and the Union Government to take action to stop these.

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