NEW DELHI:The Christians are cross with the BJP over thefts in Delhi churches and united to ensure the victory of AAP against BJP in the Delhi Assembly polls.
Barely a week later, the Catholic Church in India is split wide open over an invitation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to attend a religious function — the ‘National Seminar of Religious Witnessing’ in Delhi on February 17 to celebrate the sainthood of Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Mother Euphrasia. It was to be organised by the Catholic Bishop Conference of India (CBCI). But two of its sections — the Latin Church and the Syro Malankara Church — had opted out of the function over the invitation to Modi. It is now being organised solo by the Syro Malabar Church, considered the elitist of the three. Regardless of the controversy, the PM will be participating in the event to be held at Vigyan Bhavan. “He is keen to attend the event. He himself suggested the venue and time of the function and we agreed,” said an organiser, adding that Modi is eager to clear anti-BJP feelings among Christians.
The organiser pointed out that Modi immediately summoned Delhi Police Commissioner B S Bassi and directed him to take action on attacks on Christian institutions. “Prejudice against anyone is not going to help the church. Everyone should be given a chance to explain,’’ the organiser said.
A pastoral letter was read in all churches in 156 dioceses across India just two Sundays ago, criticising the government’s inaction on church incidents in Delhi. According to sources, CBCI head cardinal Cleemis, who had issued the letter, is “highly displeased” over the invitation to Modi. “He is likely to bring the matter to the Pope’s attention,” said a source.
Syro Malabar archbishop Mar Kuriakose Bharanikulangara said the seminar is a “golden opportunity for PM Modi to connect with Christian minds”. A CBCI insider, however, said a similar function, attended by political leaders, to celebrate the canonization was organised in Delhi on February 3. “The function is being organised by Modi for Modi. Otherwise what is the need to organise the same event twice?” asked a CBCI source.
Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P J Kurien is supposedly playing the mediator between the Catholic Church and the PM. Incidentally, the Modi government had sent Kurien to the Vatican as the country’s representative to the canonization ceremony, inviting the displeasure of Catholics.