Latin Catholic Church archdiocese's first-ever synod ends

Upset over the Centre's recent grant of licenses for deep-sea fishing to trawlers despite its direct request to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh not to encourage the same, the Thiruvananthapuram archdiocese of the Latin Catholic Church is contemplating the setting up of an independent fisheries board that will fight for fishermen's rights apart from aiming at the overall development of the sector.

The archdiocese, which has a large section of its 2.5lakh-strong laity comprising fishermen and coastal residents, had made requests to the Prime Minister and the Union government on various occasions to ensure protection of rights of fishermen, and recently, to ensure their safety in the background of the Italian ship controversy.

On Friday, Archbishop M. Susaipakiam did not mince words when he said that the Centre had “secretly” gone ahead and granted more licenses to deep-sea fishing trawlers and that several of the Centre's decisions and policies were against the interests of the fishermen, a downtrodden section on many aspects.

The archdiocese's first-ever synod, which concluded here on Friday, saw the Church's reaction to the Centre's approach, with the 105 delegates representing the laity and the clergy at the deliberative and legislative event agreeing unanimously for the setting up of an independent fisheries board, which would focus on bringing under one umbrella — an apolitical one — all those connected to the fisheries sector, including the fishermen, unorganised labourers, domestic helps, in coastal areas and even the unemployed. The board would also focus on the protection and conservation of marine resources while a research institute to study the same was being thought of, the Archbishop said.

The archdiocese, which recently submitted a report to the Central and State governments on the measures to be taken to ensure safety of fishermen in the background of the recent on-sea disasters, has also clarified that it would not take sides with any political party in the forthcoming Neyyattinkara by-poll in Thiruvananthapuram.

“We never issue directions that our people should vote for one particular party or person. But yes, we do caution them if a candidate is corrupt or one working against the interests of the Church,” the archbishop said. On those laity members who were into active politics, the Church's role was restricted to calling for value-based social work, he added.