Dalit Christians protest to appoint Dalit bishops in Kumbakonam

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By DCD Reporter

Kumbakonam: National Council of Dalit Christians (NCDC), Anaithu Makkal Jananayaka Katchi (AJMK or All People’s Democratic Party) and Collation of Dalit Christians on February 6 protested to appoint Dalit Bishops at Gandhi Park, Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu.

They demand to appoint a Dalit bishop in the upcoming vacant diocese of Kumbakonam. While the Dalit Christians in the Archdiocese of Pondicherry–Cuddalore also demand a Dalit Archbishop for their Archdiocese.

The dioceses of Tiruchirappalli, Kuzhithurai, Salem, Sivagangai, Pondicherry–Cuddalore, and Vellore are without the Bishops. These dioceses are administered by the Apostolic and diocesan administrators.

The diocese of Kumbakonam will be vacant soon. In all the 18 dioceses of Tamil Nadu, the diocese of Chingleput alone is headed by a Dalit bishop.

The Dalit Christians in various dioceses expressed their demand to have Dalit bishops through protests, memoranda and petitions but their voice has not yet been heard. But they have not lost their faith.

The diocese of Kumbakonam was erected on September 1, 1899. The population of Dalit Catholics is 65% i.e., 1, 37,224. The Dalit priests have not been appointed in this diocese as Bishops. This shows the determined caste discrimination practiced for many decades.

Though there are more than 29 eligible priests who can be bishops have not been appointed till today. As per the Canon Law of the Catholic Church to be a suitable candidate for the episcopate, a person must be in strong faith, good morals, piety, and zeal for souls, wisdom, prudence and human virtues (Canon Law: 378: 1).

The names of the Dalit priests have not been sent to the Vatican in the past 14 years from any of the dioceses in Tamil Nadu. This is purely against the teachings of the Church.

“When there are no canonical obstacles to appoint the Dalit priests as bishops, why the Indian Church does not take the steps to promote the priests from the Dalit community? Why still the caste discrimination exists in the Church,” asks E. Yesu Doss, State Deputy Secretary-General of NCDC and AMJK.

The appointment of a Dalit Bishop for the diocese of Kumbakonam will help the people especially the Dalit Christians to live with dignity and equality. It will help to eradicate the caste discriminatory practices of the dual cemetery and dual hearse carts, said Doss.

“There are priests from the African countries as bishops and Cardinals but why then in India the Dalit priests are not appointed as Bishops,” Johnson Durai, a  Dalit leader.

It is in the same way the Diocese of Thanjavur also did not have a bishop from the Dalit community. The diocese has 1, 58,156 Dalit Catholics.

The protest was inaugurated by Kudanthai Arasan, President of Vidudalai Pulikal Katchi, a local political party in Tamil Nadu.

The eminent Dalit leaders like E.D Charles, General Secretary of NCDC, Advocate Franklin Caesar Thomas and Archbishop R. Thanraj insisted on appointing Dalit bishops for the dioceses of Kumbakonam and Thanjavur.

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