The BJP government of Goa seems to have joined hands with Catholics to lobby with Vatican to get Pope Francis to visit Goa in the upcoming election year, for the exposition of Jesuit St Francis Xavier.
“We are coordinating with the Church to make it happen,’’ said a BJP leader belonging to the Catholic community who has been assigned the task of dealing with the church on the matter. “The visit may be take place after the 2014 elections but the very fact that pope is visiting a BJP-ruled State would send good vibes to the minority Christian community,’’ he added. It would also work in favour of BJP’s global image as the papal visit will hog international headlines.
When asked whether the Church is worried about the BJP extracting political mileage from the papal visit, the coordinating priest said it has an open policy towards all political parties.
Incidentally, this “openness” between Catholic Church and the BJP is not a standalone development but part of a strategy to work in tandem.
The BJP, it is learnt, has been consistently working on rebuilding its relationship with the Church and has even deputed a Kerala-based party sympathiser to arrange meetings with various Christian leaders. The party had a good rapport with the Church when it was in power at the Centre. But the church shifted its loyalties when the Sonia Gandhi-headed Congress party came to power. Now, the Church is again keen to revive its equation with the BJP.
“The Church has sensed that Congress’ time is over and that BJP’s chances are getting stronger,’’ said a BJP leader in Goa.
This revived bonhomie was evident when the Church invited Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to visit Rev. Moran Mar Baselios Cleemis Catholicos, the head of the Syro Malankara Catholic Church, when he had visited Kerala to take part in the Sivagiri Mutt’s silver jubilee celebrations amidst high voltage protests by the Left parties. The Cardinal, who was part of the conclave that elected Pope Francis, was said to be “keen’’ to meet Modi. The plan was that Modi would drive from the airport to the Church headquarters. Though the meeting had to cancelled last minute due to “other pre occupations’’ of the Gujarat CM, the BJP had been holding one to one meetings with Church leaders at various levels.
The fact that Modi was the chief guest at the National Consultation of the YMCA Brand Building held in Ahmedabad last month is also seen as pointer to the increased bonhomie between the Church and the BJP.