Theologians renew demand for Indian Dalit Rite

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By Robancy A Helen

Chennai, May 4, 2022: The demand for a Dalit Rite in the Catholic Church in India was reiterated at a conference of theologians, biblical scholars and canon law experts from the community.

Caste is a stark reality and caste-based discrimination is rampant in the Catholic Church’s hierarchy, parishes and institutions, bemoans Reverend Vincent Manoharan, a theologian, while introducing the April 28-29 conference at St. Thomas International Centre, Chennai.

Dalits, he pointed out, are totally neglected in the Church despite the Dalit Empowerment Policy of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India that demanding to set it right.

The bishops issued the policy on December 13, 2016, that acknowledged that “caste discrimination is a grave social sin” and committed to ensuring that the practice of untouchability will not be tolerated within the Church.

Reverend Manoharan also added that the Dalit representation is abominable in the Catholic Church and their voices are not heard adequately.

“While Dalit Christians struggle politically for their rights and space, it is essential to discern and reflect theologically, biblically, canonically, liturgically and ecclesiastically for an Indian Dalit Rite that alone will help those in hierarchy and all domains, to understand, recognize and accept the aspirations, history and culture of Dalits as a distinct community, the majority in the Church,” he asserted.

This round table conference called for collecting scholarly papers and presenting them to the hierarchy to justify the Dalit Rite in the Church.

Father Cosmon Arockiaraj, one of the organizers the moderator, in his opening remarks asserted that the demand is “a new Pentecost” for the Dalit Christians.

“We have a new mission to take the idea to the clergy and the people for our own Church, religiosity and spirituality. We definitely need to face the misinterpretations and misunderstandings of this demand by the vested interests,” he added.

However, Dalit Christians have to remind the people and those in power in the Church about their distinct identity, cultural specificity, practices and traditions, Father Arockiaraj said. “We need to go for a long way but we must be steady and strong, as ours is a genuine demand for our own Church where we will nourish our faith and practice,” he asserted.

The presentation from the participants began with noted Asian theologian Father Felix Wilfred’s paper that explained the demand for the Indian Dalit Rite.

The conference suggested the following plan of action:

• To organize another round table conference in Madurai, Tamil Nadu.
• Conduct similar intellectual workshops on Indian Dalit Rite at Bengaluru (Karnataka), Pune (Maharashtra), Kolkata (West Bengal) and New Delhi, the national capital.
• To compile papers presented in the first round table, to compile a document and share it within Tamil Nadu and in all regional meetings.
• Attempt at international lobbying in the Vatican
• Write homilies, reflections, cultural forms on Indian Dalit Rite and share them with people
• Maintain gender balance in the process for the Indian Dalit Rite

Courtesy: Matters India

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