The Congress’ decision to send Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P J Kurien, a non- Catholic, to represent the Centre at the inauguration of Pope Francis I in Vatican has raised a few eyebrows.
Why Kurien, a Marthomite, instead of other Catholic ministers, including Union Minister of State for Food and Consumer Affairs K V Thomas, is a question that baffles many.
“The CBCI has not registered any protests with the government as it is within its limit to decide whom to send and whom not to. But it is a fact that the Catholic establishment was a bit confused by the choice, especially when he is mired in a controversy,” said a priest with the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI).
According to him, there were so many “eligible Catholics” here. “It was only natural that one expects a Catholic to represent the country to meet the Pope,” he added. But the government may have its own political compulsions, the priest said.Kurien, alongwith his wife Susan, left for Rome on March 18 and the delegation included Kerala parliamentarians Anto Antony and Jose K Mani. He met the Pope on March 20.
Thomas, a Catholic, was expected to go to Rome but the official explanation was that he was busy with getting the Food Bill cleared in the Cabinet. “The Minister had requested that the Cabinet be postponed for a day so that he can go for the ceremony. But it was turned down in favour of Kurien,” said a government source.
With the Suryanelli rape case cloud over Kurien, it may be noted that the rape victim’s mother had urged Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy to ensure that Kurien does not represent the Union Government at the inauguration of Pope Francis I.
Meanwhile, a sessions court in Kerala had admitted a petition moved by the Suryanelli rape victim and ordered issue of notice to Kurien on March 27.
Both Kurien and Thomas were unavailable for comment on the issue.