India’s Dalit Christians protest installation of archbishop

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DCLM opposed to an upper-caste person being head of Pondicherry-Cuddalore Archdiocese

A group of Dalit Catholics in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu held a protest march against the installation of a non-Dalit archbishop of Pondicherry-Cuddalore Archdiocese.

The march was held on April 29 by the Dalit Christian Liberation Movement (DCLM), whose members held banners highlighting the injustice practiced in the appointment of bishops and priests.

Pope Francis on March 19 had appointed Bishop Francis Kalist of Meerut as the new metropolitan archbishop of Pondicherry-Cuddalore. The archdiocese was vacant since the resignation of the late Archbishop Antony Anandarayar on Jan. 27, 2021.

The group described the installation ceremony of Archbishop Francis Kalist as hypocrisy carried out in the name of Jesus in order to thwart the longstanding legitimate demands of Dalit Christians to appoint a Dalit archbishop.

“It is carried out against Dalit Christians who are being oppressed, denied their rights and marginalized in the Catholic Church,” DCLM president M. Mary John told UCA News.

John said the Church spoke out for the liberation, equality and rights of oppressed people but the installation ritual performed by upper-caste archbishops and bishops was quite the opposite.

“It is both unfortunate and pitiable that Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, the apostolic nuncio in India, has not understood the caste conspiracy of India’s Catholic hierarchy”

“It is a betrayal of not only the oppressed Dalit Christian people but also of Jesus, much the same way of the high priests, Pharisees and religious leaders of his time,” the Dalit leader said.

He said that “it is both unfortunate and pitiable that Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, the apostolic nuncio in India, has not understood the caste conspiracy of India’s Catholic hierarchy.

Dalit Christians will continue to protest not only because of the refusal to appoint a Dalit archbishop but also because of the continued anti-Dalit stance of the casteist bishops and archbishops, as seen from their failure and deliberate refusal to implement the Dalit empowerment policy of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) itself, John said.

The policy remains a public lie by the Catholic hierarchy, he added.

“We have lost confidence in the Catholic religious authority. So from now on we are going to raise the issues of casteism, untouchability and caste discrimination with the government and the constitutional authorities in the country. We have been restrained for decades in taking such action, but now it is only proving to be negative to our cause,” John said.

“The religious freedom and minority rights provided by the constitution are grossly misused by the Catholic Church and its institutions against its Dalit members, even though they comprise the majority. We will also write to the Supreme Court of India on this serious issue.”

At the end of the demonstration, the DCLM submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi through the governor of Puducherry appealing for the intervention of the government in the matter.

Some 60 percent of India’s 25 million Christians hail from disadvantaged Dalit and tribal backgrounds.

Courtesy: UCAN News

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