By DCD Reporter
The Dalit Christians demand the hierarchy of the Catholic Church to appoint a Dalit Archbishop in Pondicherry–Cuddalore.
“The appointment of the bishop should be sincere, if the church fails to fulfill our demands, we would not allow taking charge,” said Dr. Prof. Mary John, who heads the Dalit Christian Liberation Movement (NCLM) in Tamil Nadu.
He was speaking at a protest rallyat Villupuram demanding Dalit Archbishop for Pondicherry–Cuddalore.
The rally on February 13 started in front of Christ the King Church at Villupuram. The Dalit Christians in the Archdiocese of Pondicherry–Cuddalore are discriminated from the beginning of the diocese. They have been treated outcastes in education, employment, vocation to the priesthood, and in the appointment of Dalit bishops.
“We have been repeatedly representing to the Apostolic Nuncio to India during the past three decades on the caste discrimination and deprivation suffered by the Dalits within the Catholic Church and appealed to intervene to eradicate this,” said Mary John.
In recent years especially NCLM has written several letters to the Nuncio dated March 10, 2018, November 12, 2018, June 7, 2019, September 6, 2019, November 14, 2019, May 20, 2020, June 1, 2020, November 12, 2020, and also the recent letter to Msgr Robert D. Murphy, First Counsellor at the Apostolic Nuncio dated January 13, 2021, says Mary John.
“We, Dalit Christians, are gravely affected by the prolonged caste discrimination and marginalization within our Catholic Church which are amply explained in the above mentioned and other letters and memoranda over the years,” he said.
DCLM has explained enough and justified enough with historical backgrounds, with facts and figures about its legitimate claim for equality and rights, and in fact its reclamation within in the Catholic Church, Alice, the women’s secretary of DCLM.
They demand to combat the caste inequality suffered by them within the Church. It is in fact against caste division and domination. The CBCI policy of Dalit Empowerment in the Catholic Church itself affirms that “the term ‘Dalit’ does not indicate a caste identity.…. It is not only a matter of social and cultural category but a theological category as well”.
In the past 388 years of history of the Archdiocese Dalit Catholics has been suffering caste discrimination and untouchability in all forms and at all levels. Especially now, Dalit Catholics of the Pondicherry-Cuddalore Archdiocese and our DCLM have been taking up public struggles during the past few months with the demand to appoint a Dalit archbishop in the present vacancy in the archdiocese which needs to be done as a historical justice to the Dalit Catholic community. In particular, only non-Dalit archbishops have been appointed so far, even though Dalits are in majority from the early days and now they comprise about 75% of the Catholics in the Archdiocese adds Prof. Anand, Communication Secretary of DCLM.
Bishop Peter Abir is a junior bishop only for seven years and belongs to Kerala Bishops’ Council. Even the very senior Dalit bishop for 18 years in Tamil Nadu has been overlooked. “Our apprehension is all the more strong as bishop Peter Abir belongs to the same caste as archbishop Antony Anandarayar and Archbishop Antony Pappusamy, the president of TNBC, who are mainly responsible now for recommending the new archbishop to Pondicherry-Cuddalore and their caste affinity are well known to us.
Dalit Catholics are frustrated and agonized about the prolonging injustice and their exclusion till now. “We feel let down and disowned by the caste dominant Catholic Hierarchy. We have lost hopes completely in the bishops as we find them not trustworthy. So, if a Dalit archbishop is not appointed in Pondicherry-Cuddalore archdiocese this time also, the people are determined to take up other measures such as the following,”
· To take up the issue of untouchability and caste discrimination and deprivation of Dalits within the Catholic Church with the Government of India for its intervention.
· To raise these issues appropriately in the High Courts and Supreme Court of India, as these are very much against the constitution of India.
· To challenge the relevance and propriety of the Apostolic Nunciature in India as it is protecting and promoting caste domination within the Catholic Church and practicing discrimination against Dalits in the appointments of bishops, archbishops and cardinals in India.
· To organize hunger strikes in the State and at the national level to draw the attention of the Pope and publicly appeal to him to intervene to end the caste discrimination against Dalits within the Indian Catholic Church.
The Indian Catholic Hierarchy is squarely responsible for this situation and the victim Dalit Catholics are not to be blamed.
The letter was signed by Prof. Dr. Mary John, D. Daniel, Dalit C. Arokiadoss, Adv. Dr. P. Sandanadorai, M. Salethaiyan, M.S. Fernandez, M. Amalorpavadass, Prof. S. Anandaraj, E. Vallabadas, T. Susai, A. Alice and Regina Chinnaparaj.
Hundreds of Dalit Christians from 60 parishes participated in the protest.